Verizon blamed for blocking competitors' access to underground fiber conduit

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is coming under fire again in New York City over claims that the service provider is preventing competitors' broadband data service from being delivered to their customers by blocking access to necessary fiber conduits.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, competitors say Verizon has been putting up roadblocks to prevent them from using conduits that are designed to allow any provider to lay their own fiber cables.

This latest issue comes amidst a report that said Verizon did not fulfill its agreement to deliver its FiOS fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service to any user in the city that wants it.

"We are disturbed by reports that the company and its subsidiary, Empire City Subway, may have engaged in practices that hamper access to key infrastructure by other operators," said Anne Roest, commissioner for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, reports WSJ.

Verizon gained control of the city's underground conduit when it purchased Empire City.

Brad Ickes, president of Optical Communications Group, said the company saw rates for conduit particularly in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island rise in 2006 when Verizon changed the rules on how to access the underground conduits. He said that these rules require competitors to pay Verizon technicians to check if the infrastructure has been damaged.

Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman, told WSJ its inspection prices are fair and are under city and New York State regulation.  

"If a company that does business, with us or Empire City, has a complaint, it should be brought directly to us," Young said, adding that the city is helping the company's two unions get an upper hand in the contract negotiation process that started earlier this week.

"It's very convenient to raise these allegations two days after the negotiations with the union began," he said.

Allegations against Verizon in New York City have been mounting as they move ahead with union negotiations. On Tuesday, Verizon proposed a new three-year contract with 38,000 union wireline employees represented by the CWA and the IBEW, one it says will offer wage increases during the period.

Right before the telco began contract negotiations with the unions, a report by New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications found that Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) failed to deliver on its promise to provide fiber-optic service for television and broadband to anyone who wants it by 2014. 

In addition, CWA accused the telco of not repairing its damaged copper lines in the Northeast and is instead driving customers to its wireless Voice Link home phone service.

Verizon dismissed the claims of the CWA and the report, saying that it has not been able to reach its commitment because it is struggling to get permission from landlords to access certain buildings in the city.

For more:
- WSJ has this article

Related articles:
Verizon union negotiations begin amidst charges of failing on copper, FiOS commitments
New York City audit says Verizon failed to deliver on FiOS promise
CWA accuses Verizon of abandoning broken wireline facilities in the Northeast
Verizon faces pressure from unions to expand FiOS into new markets

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