After Ripping Off Cities, States For Years, Verizon Makes Some Familiar Broadband Promises To Boston
from the fool-me-sixteen-times,-shame-on-me dept
Fast forward to this year, when Verizon surprised everybody by announcing that it would finally deliver FiOS to Boston, one of more than a dozen cities Verizon left hanging when it stopped seriously upgrading its fixed-line network -- to apparently focus on gobbling up failed 90s internet empires. The announcement crows that the $300 million dollar deal will absolutely revolutionize the city of Boston's telecom infrastructure:
"Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced a new partnership with Verizon to make Boston one of the most technologically advanced cities in the country by replacing its copper-based infrastructure with a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network platform across the city. The new network will offer enormous bandwidth and speeds. Through an investment of more than $300 million from Verizon over six years, this change will bring increased competition and choice for broadband and entertainment services in Boston, and support the ongoing efforts to spur innovation and economic opportunity in all neighborhoods."This announcement was quickly translated by the press as "FiOS is coming to the entire city," though if you look more carefully at the language it becomes clear that Verizon isn't actually promising that:
"This will be a fiber platform across the entire city,” Verizon Wireline Network president Bob Mudge said at an event at the Bolling municipal building in Dudley Square Tuesday. “This is not just about a fiber investment — that’s important, and it’s a fuel. But the fire and the excitement will come from the applications.”If you study the release it's actually pretty ambiguous as to what Boston gets out of the deal. What's actually happening? Verizon struck a $300 million deal with the city that will deliver a combination of fiber, wireless service, fiber backhaul for wireless towers, and Verizon's internet of things technologies. Much of this is stuff Verizon already planned to spend money on (especially wireless backhaul), and a sizable chunk of it (especially on the IOT front) may or may not actually wind up actually benefiting anybody, as the mindlessly over-hyped IOT is wont to do.
How much actual last mile fiber is left utterly ambiguous. Learning lessons from failures of the past, Verizon isn't getting specific, though speaking on an earnings call this week Verizon made it pretty clear most of these connections will be fifth generation (5G) wireless:
"I think of 5G initially as, in effect, wireless fiber, which is wireless technology that can provide an enhanced broadband experience that could only previously be delivered with physical fiber to the customer," McAdam said. "With wireless fiber, the so-called last mile can be a virtual connection, dramatically changing our cost structure."And while 5G wireless should be faster with lower latency than existing 4G connections, it's not truly going to be a substitute for traditional fiber. The 5G standard itself hasn't even been agreed upon yet, and most analysts don't believe 5G will see serious deployment any time before 2020. There's also a matter of cost: while Verizon FiOS is uncapped, Verizon Wireless service is capped, metered, and among the most expensive in the country, and 5G will be no exception. It's a $300 million investment, yes, but what it's being invested into isn't really clear.
But good news! Whatever mish-mash of half-promises Verizon is delivering this time may be coming soon to your city, states the telco:
"We will create a single fiber optic platform that is capable of supporting wireless and wireline technologies and multiple products," McAdam said. "In particular, we believe the fiber deployment will create economic growth for Boston and we are talking to other cities about similar partnerships."Most reporters covering Verizon's plans can't be bothered to note Verizon's long history of not delivering what it promises, or the multiple hearings ongoing in several different states trying to hold Verizon accountable for that fact. Fast forward several years from now, and you'll likely find Boston (and any other cities excited to "partner" with Verizon without reading the fine print) complaining that Verizon delivered only a small fraction of what was actually promised. You'll also find a media incapable of tying all of these narrative threads together.
Still, on a positive note it's great to see Verizon spending anything at all on cities it has been neglecting for the better part of a decade, given this was the same company that claimed net neutrality would kill all telecom investment dead in the water.