Verizon transfers group of Falls Church, Va. copper customers to fiber

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has transitioned customers in its Falls Church, Va., market from copper to fiber, marking another step forward in its goal to retire more of its aging wireline facilities.

According to an FCC filing, Verizon is planning on replacing copper distribution and loop facilities with FTTH facilities at some locations in its Falls Church Central office.

When it completes this process, Verizon said it will provide services over the fiber network. Out of this CO it serves nearly 230 retail customers, the majority whom purchase POTS voice services.

Similar to other markets where it has retired copper, the service provider said that it is not providing its IP-based FiOS services, but rather will just provide traditional POTS services over the new FTTH network architecture.

"Following transition to fiber, Verizon will continue to offer these customers the same POTS service over fiber at the same or better price as they received on copper facilities, with no change in the underlying features and functionalities in their service," Verizon said in an FCC filing. "There are no wholesale customers at these locations at this time."

It added that if a wholesale provider wants to provide service at any of the locations affected by this transition, "they will continue to be able to buy services over the more reliable network as they do in other areas where we have retired copper and deployed fiber."

Verizon has made steady progress in reaching its copper-to-fiber migration goals for 2015. It set a goal to convert a total of 200,000 customers from copper to fiber by the end of the year.

Despite its potential to provide higher speed services like FiOS, Verizon's copper retirement efforts have been fraught with controversy. It has faced accusations from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which is in the process of negotiating a new contract for their wireline workforce that it has engaged in a practice known as de facto copper retirement where a telco would let its aging copper plant deteriorate to the point where it would become necessary to replace the copper with fiber. It asked the FCC to not include new requirements addressing the issue in its technology transition plans. 

The CWA 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.

Besides Maryland and Pennsylvania, the union asked that federal and state regulators in the 11 states where Verizon operates wireline networks investigate its claims that the telco is not performing necessary repairs and upkeep on its copper landline networks.

For its part, Verizon said that CWA's claims are nothing more than an "agenda-driven attempt by the union to try and divert attention from our on-going contract negotiations" and that it continues to make necessary investments to maintain its copper network facilities.

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

Related articles:
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Verizon sees value in transforming network to IP, fiber, but conversion challenges remain
Verizon's Stratton sees 'host' of opportunities to improve wireline, wireless operations

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