Verizon Knows You're A Sucker: Takes Taxpayer Subsidies For Broadband, Doesn't Deliver, Lobbies To Drop Requirements
from the haven't-we-heard-this-story-before? dept
Ten years ago (!?!) we wrote about how Verizon conned Pennsylvania taxpayers out of billions of dollars. Verizon predecessor Bell Atlantic had cut a deal with the state to wire up every home in the state with symmetrical fiber. That didn’t happen. And while Verizon’s former CEO Ivan Seidenberg did, in fact, make a big bet on fiber with FiOS, Wall Street hated it and kept punishing the company for daring to do something so stupid as investing in the future. This is a quarter-to-quarter world, and spending on capital improvements that would bulk up the entire economy over the long haul is not a bet that Wall Street folks want to make, since it doesn’t pay off in a few months. So, it was no surprise that once Seidenberg was out of the picture, it basically dropped all plans to expand FiOS — and then started looking to push its DSL users to cable providers, so it could focus on the wireless business instead.
A few months ago, we wrote about the same basic story happening in New York City. Verizon made a deal with the city to get all sorts of subsidies and benefits, in exchange for wiring up the entire city with FiOS. That didn’t happen. Verizon weasled out of the deal by saying the legalese in the contract didn’t actually mean that every home had to get fiber, but just that they had to “pass all households.” As in look outside and wave at all that broadbandy goodness passing you by without stopping.
The latest is that Verizon has been able to wiggle out of similar promises in New Jersey. The New Jersey promise was just like the Pennsylvania one, coming back in the early 90s with a promise to wire up the entire state with symmetrical fiber by 2010. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: that didn’t happen. Instead, Verizon flooded the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities with bogus astroturf comments, which it pushed its own employees to send, arguing that the NJBPU should drop that fiber requirement — and the NJBPU dutifully complied, ridiculously claiming that Verizon’s limited, capped, expensive slow wireless LTE service (which comes nowhere near the fiber promises it made) qualifies for meeting the contract terms.
The NJBPU claims that this “settlement,” which doesn’t appear to involve Verizon paying back any of the rebates, subsidies or fees it received, is a good thing since it will “avoid what could have been years of litigation over enforcement of Verizon’s broadband agreement.” In other words, Verizon gets to take your money, deliver not very much, and keep it all, because, gee, it would be a real pain to take them to court.
Remember all this as we continue to discuss this new “anti-net neutrality” offering today. Because the telcos have a long history of insisting that if you just give them the regulatory regime they want (which always involves giving them ways to get a lot more money), then they’ll deliver the kind of broadband found throughout the rest of the world. Then, they never deliver. Though, they do keep the money.