Verizon blasts CWA copper network claims, calling them a labor negotiation tactic

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) says that the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union's claims that the telco is abandoning its copper networks in various states is just a labor negotiation tactic.

The CWA has continued to blast Verizon for taking part in what is referred to as "de facto" copper retirement, a practice where a telco would let copper factilities degrade to the point where they would have no choice but to replace them with fiber.

In an FCC filing, Verizon said that the CWA's arguments are part of its own negotiation strategy for the wireline workers it represents.

The service provider and workers represented by the CWA have been operating without a contract since September.

"CWA's assertions here are straight out of its announced labor negotiation playbook, in which it calls on its members to "build political and regulatory pressure on the company" as a negotiation strategy," Verizon said in a FCC filing. "Indeed, CWA admits as much, acknowledging that its "survey" of technicians it relies on in its comments was conducted in connection with forming its strategy "for pending negotiations" with Verizon. Thus CWA's allegations should be reviewed in context with its efforts to further its own parochial interests in ongoing labor negotiations with Verizon."

Verizon maintains that has continued to enhance its last-mile network by performing necessary maintenance on its copper network while "currently passing approximately 20 million premises with fiber."

It has also continued to retire copper facilities where necessary. The service provider recently migrated a number of its POTS (plain old telephone service) customers from copper to fiber in its Falls Church, Va., market, for example.

Upon completion, it will provide voice services over the new FTTH network architecture, meaning that these customers won't notice any change to their service. Out of this central office it serves nearly 230 retail customers, the majority of whom purchase only voice services.

Verizon said that when it conducts these "copper-to-fiber migrations, customers' POTS telephone service is not discontinued: customers can choose to retain the same POTS service at the same price, terms, and conditions, over fiber as they had previously received over copper."

By moving customers from copper to fiber, Verizon maintains that the greater reliability of fiber provides a number of benefits to customers. Verizon said that Verizon it experienced 1.4 million fewer repair or troubleshooting dispatches than would have been required had these customers remained on copper facilities.

"In fact, far from being dissatisfied when they move to fiber, customers benefit in many ways," Verizon said. "For example, as a result of programs to encourage customers experiencing repeated service issues with copper to migrate to fiber, Verizon and its affiliates have experienced approximately 1.4 million fewer repair or troubleshooting dispatches than would have been required had these customers remained on copper facilities."

The CWA has been aggressively challenging Verizon's dedication to its copper facilities. It recently filed a letter with Maryland's Public Service Commission to investigate the quality of the telco's copper network. In its letter, the CWA said that it examined Verizon's network equipment in areas of Maryland where it has not built out FTTH FiOS service and only offers copper-based DSL and POTS voice services.

CWA has also petitioned the Pennsylvania Utility Commission to investigate what it claims are unsafe conditions at a number of the telco's outside plant facilities.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

Related articles:
Verizon transitions more New York City wireline customers from copper to fiber
Verizon sees value in transforming network to IP, fiber, but conversion challenges remain

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