Verizon faces call to expand FiOS from 14 East Coast mayors

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is facing a call from 14 city mayors on the East Coast to expand its FiOS FTTH network into more areas that have limited access to high speed services.

This group asked Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdam in a letter to talk about ways the telco can more effectively serve its wireline customers and resolve disputes with the Verizon workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) who are in the midst of negotiating a new labor contract.

This letter was signed by the mayors of New York, Pittsburgh, Newark, N.J., Jersey City, N.J., Buffalo, N.Y., Worcester, Mass., Paterson, N.J., Syracuse, N.Y., Lowell, Mass., Albany, N.Y., Brockton, Mass., Trenton, N.J., and Revere, Mass., and the Democratic candidate for mayor in Philadelphia.

The mayors said in their joint letter that "our consumers have complained that FiOS service is not available to them" and that "there are millions of residents in communities throughout the Northeast who have been left without service, and with no plan or promise for future resolution."

In addition to FiOS, the mayors addressed growing complaints that traditional wireline consumers are facing downtime due to claims that the telco has not been conducting necessary maintenance on its copper network.

"At the same time, we are hearing concerns that both in cities covered by a FiOS franchise or in which FiOS is still completely unavailable, Verizon has been abandoning the copper network and traditional landline customers are experiencing frequent service outages, delays in repairs and installations, and forced migration to the inferior VoiceLink product," the mayors said. "As you know, the New York Public Service Commission stated in its recent Staff Assessment of Telecommunications in NY: "In many areas of New York City, the legacy copper infrastructure is in such poor condition that copper failures due to weather conditions can cause long delays for service restoration and Commission service quality standards are missed.'"

Arguments about its copper network have continued to rise. The Communications Workers of America filed letters in six states and Washington, D.C., asking them to investigate whether Verizon was neglecting its copper network.  

Verizon immediately refuted the CWA's claims. In an FCC filing, Verizon said that the CWA misinterpreted a statement it made in a July letter to the FCC about how much it invests on its copper network.

Verizon said that the "more than $200 million" investment it referenced in an earlier filing about its copper does not relate to all of the capital dollars the telco has made in maintaining its copper network.

Unlike its peers AT&T and CenturyLink, Verizon refused to take the proffered $568 million in funds from the second phase of the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF-II). Over a six year period, these funds could have been used to extend broadband to 270,000 locations in D.C., Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

In New York State, a series of hearings held by New York State, elected officials from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, the North Country, the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley called out how Verizon continues to refuse to bring FiOS to their communities.

Similar calls for FiOS have been made in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Mayors from Peabody and Salem, Mass., recently sent Verizon letters asking the telco to connect homes and businesses in their cities with fiber, for example.

Verizon challenged the letter saying it has already met or exceeded its build out commitments for FiOS FTTH service.  

"There is absolutely "no news" in this letter," said Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman, in an e-mail to FierceTelecom. "In all areas where Verizon has franchises and agreed to deploy FiOS, we have met or surpassed our deployment obligations."

Young said that the CWA, which is currently negotiating a new contract with Verizon, is painting the wrong picture of the FiOS roll outs and are nothing more than a way for it to get the company to bring more union employees into its workforce.

"Since Verizon started bargaining this year with the CWA, we've seen numerous half-baked and inaccurate letters and statements from Union leaders regarding Verizon's FiOS commitments and more," said. "It's all nonsense. The reality is that all of these misguided PR stunts are an attempt by Union leaders to try and force to company to hire more union-represented employees which will, in turn, increase dues and revenues for the union.  It won't work."

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Verizon's FiOS Internet growth slows in second-quarter 2015 despite uptick in 75 Mbps speed adoption
Verizon joins ILEC chorus against special access, saying Ethernet services should not be regulated
New York mayors chime in on Verizon-CWA union negotiations, FiOS rollouts
Verizon, CenturyLink say abandoning copper network is a "myth"
US Telecom says FCC's IP, copper retirement proposals will slow migration

This article was updated on Oct. 7 with additional information from Verizon. 

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