New York City Threatens To Sue Verizon For Failure To Meet Fiber Deployment Promises
from the fool-me-twice dept
We’ve noted for years now how Verizon’s modus operandi is to promise uniform fiber deployment to a city or state in exchange for all manner of subsidies and tax breaks, then walk away giggling to itself with the job only partially complete. This story has played out time and time again thanks to city and state contracts struck behind closed doors without public transparency, allowing Verizon to bury numerous loopholes in the contract language. Other times, Verizon can lobby to weaken oversight so that there’s simply nobody left to hold Verizon accountable when it decides to laugh off the contract requirements.
In 2008, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg struck a closed-door deal with Verizon delivering all manner of tax breaks and incentives in exchange for what the city thought would be 100% deployment of Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic service by 2014. Fast forward to last year, when the new city administration realized that Verizon had absolutely no intention of seriously deploying fiber uniformly across the city. This week, the city released the results of a survey it conducted that found that fiber is unsurprisingly still hard to come by:
“The city recently sampled 52,000 addresses for Fios availability, and found that outer boroughs were more likely to have access than Manhattan. For instance, 90% of Staten Island residents could likely get Fios within seven days, while the same is true for just 19% of people in central Brooklyn and 11% in upper Manhattan. About two-thirds of the more than 300 public-housing developments, which are home to more than 400,000 people, have no access to Fios, the city says.
Meanwhile, a letter from the city to the telco (pdf) complains that Verizon is in violation of at least three parts of the original agreement, failed repeatedly to deliver documentation requested during an audit of Verizon’s progress, and cites at least 38,551 addresses where Verizon failed to deliver service despite order requests that are more than a year old.
Verizon, as it is wont to do, tries to spin the narrative on its head by claiming that New York City is being “adversarial”:
“It is unfortunate and disappointing that the City is taking an adversarial approach to the only company that has challenged New York City?s cable monopolies,? Mr. McConville said. “The City should be working with Verizon to make choice available to more residents, not discouraging competition.?
Except Cities have every right to be adversarial with a company that has shown repeatedly that it doesn’t deliver on its promises. Verizon has tried to claim that grumpy landlords are to blame for its failure to deliver FiOS evenly across the city. And while landlords can play a role in delaying some installations, reporters have subsequently discovered that the excuse just doesn’t hold water and Verizon’s simply not doing the work.
While it was a contract signed under a previous administration, New York City isn’t blameless. Reporters at the time pointed out that the city’s contract had ample loopholes and should have been negotiated in the full light of public transparency, but nobody listened. So while New York City says it’s mulling a lawsuit against Verizon, that suit may run repeatedly into contract caveats carefully crafted by a company that never had any intention of uniform fiber deployment. The contract reflected this had anybody actually bothered to read it.
The amusing (or annoying) thing is that cities keep making the same deals with the proverbial devil over and over again. Philadelphia recently complained that Verizon failed to meet its obligations there as well. And While Verizon’s overall FiOS deployment has been frozen, the city just struck a similar deal with Boston — with few if any in the press bothering to note the tail of frustration and broken promises trailing miles behind the telco and its lawyers.