Unions Want Verizon Investigated For Neglecting Taxpayer-Funded Broadband Networks, But Nobody Cares

from the ill-communication dept

Labor unions would like it very much if somebody would investigate Verizon for its neglect of the company's aging DSL lines. As we've noted previously, both AT&T and Verizon are busy trying to walk away from aging DSL lines they no longer want to focus instead on profitable (read: usage capped) wireless. The problem historically has been that both companies have received billions in tax breaks and subsidies to not only build and support DSL, but to upgrade those lines to fiber. Instead, in case after case, we've shown how Verizon simply took the money and then convinced state lawmakers to forget about the obligation.

Last week, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) wrote letters to six state regulatory agencies and the FCC, urging somebody to launch an investigation into Verizon's "neglect" of its DSL customers. According to the CWA, Verizon's own filings suggest the telco spent "just" $200 million to maintain its copper network in eleven states and DC over the last seven years. Basically, argues the union, Verizon DSL customers pay an arm and a leg for barely-adequate service Verizon can't be bothered to maintain (or repair very quickly when it breaks) because they no longer care about these users:
"Across the Verizon landline footprint, residential and single-line business customers pay between $300 and $370 a year for basic voice service and about $400 a year for DSL service. Even using our conservative calculations, Verizon spends less than one percent of the rate it charges for basic voice service and less than half a percent of the rate it charges for a voice/DSL bundled service on the upkeep of its copper network."
And while the CWA is only looking after its own interests here (it's currently negotiating a new contract and is using community angst for leverage), the union is absolutely correct. For years, Verizon has been literally trying to drive these paying customers away with the clever one-two punch of apathy and rate hikes. Elsewhere, Verizon employees have been complaining for years that they aren't given the tools necessary to do their jobs in these unwanted areas. Classier still, Verizon has consistently been using natural disasters like Sandy as cover, simply refusing to repair storm-damaged customers, telling them wireless service (usually very expensive if it's even available) will have to be good enough.

Basically, Verizon's letting millions of DSL users rot on the vine. If these users don't flee on their own accord, Verizon ultimately sells them to a rotating crop of sucker smaller telcos with disproportional appetites and negligible talent for acquisitions, who (usually thanks to complicated Reverse Morris Trust deals) take on so much debt in the transactions that they won't be able to upgrade these lines for years to come (and in several instances have stumbled into bankruptcy).

Here's the thing the CWA doesn't get: nobody in state or federal government cares about any of this. Nobody cares that Verizon promised both Pennslyvania and New Jersey symmetrical fiber for all in exchange for subsidies and tax cuts, then walked away from the promises. Nobody in state or federal government cares that Verizon promised to deploy fiber to all of New York City in exchange for a lucrative franchise agreement, only to balk at the obligation. Sure, local communities care that Verizon has a long, rich history of ripping off taxpayers and leaving work unfinished, but both the federal and state governments have shown repeatedly, consistently and indisputably that they really couldn't care less about Verizon's penchant for fraud.

And here's the rub: even if you were to see a significant audit and investigation of Verizon, in many instances you'd technically find that the telco adhered to the law. And that's quite often because companies like AT&T and Verizon have so much political power they're literally able to change the law after the fact (much like they did when their role in wholesale NSA spying was revealed). Verizon convinced both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to simply look the other way when Verizon took state taxpayers for a ride, and now Verizon's kindly asking many states to look the other way while it neglects millions of taxpayer-subsidized DSL lines. And, loyal to the last, state and federal government are happy to oblige.

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  • identicon
    andy, 10 Sep 2015 @ 3:51am

    Fraud

    Surely if the Unions had to sue the politicians directly for negligent and illegal activities where verizon is concerned something would be done, I would not be surprised if the politicians ensured that verizon immediately started spending billions on providing what they had agreed to in writing to supply, no not the way they read the agreements but the real agreement to ensure dsl improves and spreads as much as possible.

    Saying that, if they sell all of their dsl networks to a big broadband supplier with money , someone like google, it would be much cheaper and easier for google to install fibre.And with 1gb fibre to the house i am sure everyone would be more than happy to allow 2mb or even 50 mb to be used for wireless cover in their area.

    Just imagine that Google could cover not only wired but also wireless and take all of that profit from wireless away from the likes of verizon and allow customers to get complete coverage vial google wireless customers everywhere they are.

    As google spreads across the country they could really take everything from the likes of verizon and comcast, ensuring people have unlimited fast wireless free of charge or for just sharing a very small part of their broadband connection.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 5:10am

    If Verizon had the same influence w/ the US DoJ that AT&T does, Karl would be facing federal drug-porn-treason charges.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 5:28am

    From Verizon's 2015 SEC filing
    in 2014 compared to 2013 ... capital expenditures declined at Wireline as a result of decreased legacy spending requirements.

    ...in 2013 compared to 2012 ... capital expenditures declined at Wireline as a result of decreased legacy spending requirements and a decline in spending on our FiOS network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 5:37am

    Enough - stop all corporate welfare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TDR, 10 Sep 2015 @ 5:54am

    And this is why corporation and state need to be separated. Forcibly, if need be. And corporations not allowed to grow beyond a certain size before automatic breakup.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      NoahVail (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 6:25am

      Re:

      Corporations are The State.
      They're wholly a Gov creation and exist only because a Gov says they can.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 6:30am

      Re:

      THAT I wholly agree with. But then GOP types would start crying and shouting Socialist! Like it's derogatory.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 7:43am

      Re:

      I disagree. Some really big good corporations exist. UPS freight, Costco, Google. It's just the bad ones that ruin it for everyone. The MPAA/RIAA and their members, the cableco monopolists, etc... Heck, tech is bigger than the MPAA members yet the MPAA has historically had a lot more negative control of our laws. Size isn't everything. Willingness to bribe politicians with revolving door favors and whatnot also means a lot. Politicians and regulators are very susceptible to job offers once they leave office. Doesn't matter if it's a multi-billion dollar corporation or a relatively small multi-million dollar one. They will regulate based on those conflicts of interest if it gets them something in return. Do you honestly think the current state of IP is a result of honest regulation?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re:

        and I think the fact that Donald Trump has been as successful as he has been in these elections is strong evidence of the influence of money on politics. Lawrence Lessig doesn't stand a chance in politics because he doesn't have money. Those that stand a chance either receive large corporate donations or they have a lot of their own money. Trump is a joke of a candidate but because he has a lot of money he can buy so much of his campaign success (also much of the reason he's done so well is because his opponents that can receive the necessary funding were jokes as well but what election year did we not have a bunch of jokes run as candidates that had any chance of winning).

        While I'm not a democrat the only good thing about Trump, that I may look forward to if he does happen to win, is that at least he has money and so can't easily be bought and paid for. He can base his decisions on what he wants to do (which sounds bad) and not based on what his corporate sponsors want. Because elections are so expensive for him to really want to become president and be willing to spend so much of his own money on the matter he is, in all likelihood, much better off financially if he hadn't run for election to begin with because corporations aren't going to give him an ROI that's equal to what he needs to spend to win elections (or an ROI that he cares about). What, are they going to persuade him with a few million dollars? Lol. This is often an argument that people make for why wealthy people should be in office. They're already wealthy, they're hard to bribe. Not that I think it's necessarily a good argument.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Donald Trump is successful because of his stance on the illegal immigration issue.

          EU is facing the very problem they created now with migrants. People are already rushing into the USA at crazy rates...

          We just simply are NOT going to survive it and he is the only candidate taking a big stand against it.

          No nation on earth can ever or will ever survive a migrate influx of this magnitude and the EU is proving it already, all of these people will only bring in greater economic strain, criminal and civil unrest.

          The idea that a nation unwilling to take on the people as wrong is stupid on its face, its like saying a Nations own children are worth less to itself than those of another. We must secure unto OURSELVES our OWN PROSPERITY, we should not AND cannot do it for others, it is just not possible ever!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 8:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No nation on earth can ever or will ever survive a migrate influx of this magnitude and the EU is proving it already, all of these people will only bring in greater economic strain, criminal and civil unrest.

            BS! They're people fleeing tyranny and war, trying to find peace where they can live in peace and raise their children as productive citizens.

            You're a fearmongering xenophobe.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 9:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So you are actually saying that Civilized nations have some responsibility to take on these people but NOT do anything about the terror that they flee from?

              You are MORE EVIL THAN THE EVIL THEY FLEE FROM!!!

              If you are so concerned about the plight of these people then trot your smarmy ass down there and do something about it, NOT sit back and the comfort of your privileged ass berating others!

              If they will not take a stand to resolve the problems in their own country then they are directly attempting to bring their problems to mine!

              Calling this xenophobic is pure intellectual dishonesty and EVIL AS HELL!

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                tqk (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 12:23pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                So you are actually saying that Civilized nations have some responsibility to take on these people but NOT do anything about the terror that they flee from?

                Where did I say that? Are you listening to voices inside your head? I can't hear them from where I am you know?

                Many nations are (in theory) fighting that terror, while others (including the USA) are fomenting that terror. ISIS was created by the USA, Saudis, and Israel, all in a proxy war attempt to destabilize Iran and Assad's Syria. If I had my way, we'd blockade Syria and starve the terrorists. Damned right we should be taking in refugees!
                If they will not take a stand to resolve the problems in their own country then they are directly attempting to bring their problems to mine!

                Not everyone's a trained warrior or is free to abandon their families to take on bad guys, nor should they have to! No one wins in war. The winner only loses less than the loser.
                Calling this xenophobic is pure intellectual dishonesty and EVIL AS HELL!

                Back at ya! Would you prefer racist or escapist or NIMBY or just hiding your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich? Leaving civilians in the crosshairs of fanatics doesn't speak well of you. Nor does building walls to keep out the hordes of refugees. Would you prefer those children grow up in the hands of ISIS, or that they should learn civilized behavior instead?

                You need to re-think this hate mongering you're into. It won't bring anything positive to anyone. There are *good* things that could be done instead.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 9:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No nation on earth can ever or will ever survive a migrate influx of this magnitude

            The native Americans might agree with you, but the US state was built by immigrants and nobody but immigrants.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 9:50am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Another ignorant remark.

              We did not give those migrants a bunch of safety nets and welfare, the were welcomed in as long as they made their own way!

              I would not have a problem with open borders either if we got rid of the welfare state. The two simply cannot coexist and its not a great mystery why either!

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 10:13am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Actually, no, migrants in North America were welcomed in because the nation needed cheap, exploitable labour that all the people "making their own way" found to be beneath them. That's how the rails were built, how farms were worked, how buildings were made.

                And that's not even counting the slaves brought into the US.

                The lie of immigrants stealing jobs or needing to pull their own weight is an endless joke. People born here are all taught that they're better than low end jobs, and the only people willing to fill them are the migrants who just want work.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 10:53am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Sure that stuff happen too, did not mean to imply otherwise. Businesses have always operated to the detriment of society, the problem is that we cannot achieve balance.

                  Slavery is an entirely different issue, already illegal, and not on par with the scope of this argument, despite the very little attention that human trafficking does get which is shameful. We would rather focus on punishing a down-loader than rights violator.

                  And is it not an endless joke, it is just reality. Refuse to see it at your own peril but do not expect me to except such foolishness. The system is rife for abuse and no one is batting a fucking eye all the while saying we need to import more of the abusers.

                  These people want what is best for their family and as long as it is easier to lie cheat and steal from society than it is to work and earn from it you bet the problem remains. This is human nature, you like so many other foolishly think that your one very limited view of humanity is what exists. Some of these people have been raped, seen family murdered, lived in the actual dirt, and suffered inhumanly, yet you think they would just show up and be salt of the earth good folk following the laws they just willing broke to enter and not look at all the people they cannot even converse with as an enemy?

                  Dood, please!

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  tqk (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 12:57pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  ... and the only people willing to fill them are the migrants who just want work.

                  Imagine what would happen to the US' agriculture industry if it couldn't rely on cheap Chicano labour. Millionaires would be lining up at food banks, or more likely emigrating elsewhere.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                tqk (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 12:49pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I would not have a problem with open borders either if we got rid of the welfare state.

                Absolutely! Those banksters getting trillion dollar bailouts from taxpayers to save their greedy asses from their stupidity riles me to no end! Think of all the poor children we could put through college if those parasites weren't bleeding us dry.

                Or, did you mean something else? You should cut down on the koolaid they've been feeding you. That stuff rots your brain and your teeth.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 2:34pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Ignorant: I don't think that word means what you think it means.

                Migrants: it's generally not the migrants that take advantage of safety nets and welfare; they've already fought hard to get to a new country -- do you think they're going to suddenly stop and live at a near-poverty level when they have the opportunity to make it big? Most migrants I've known (and I've known a number from all over the world) are workaholics who start off as taxi drivers, gas station attendants and janitors while getting re-accredited during night school because the degrees they held in their original countries aren't worth squat here. So you've got lawyers, engineers, doctors, teachers, etc. working minimum wage in Subway so that at least their children might have the chance of living the kind of life they were aiming for in there homeland before they were forced to leave. Their CHILDREN on the other hand, sometimes end up in the welfare system.

                Open Borders/Socialism: Look at the rest of the world; most of the developed world has a developed social safety net and much looser immigration policy than the US -- and they're generally doing OK.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 12:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No nation on earth can ever or will ever survive a migrate influx of this magnitude

            What magnitude, the 12 million people in the US? Or do you mean the immigration that has been slowing down for the last few years?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 9:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          ...(Donald Trump) can base his decisions on what he wants to do (which sounds bad) and not based on what his corporate sponsors want...

          Which might include attempting to revive Atlantic City and slapping Nevada around (last time I checked Nevada would not give him a gaming license).

          Yeah that sounds bad.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 6:29am

    There's a lot of old politics here in the NE, reminiscent of the mafia itself everyone has their hands in the pot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 8:09am

    Unions have no standing to sue Verizon over its broadband networks. If this were an issue about union busting or even about unfair pay, then that would give them standing. But, it's like the union suing phone companies over failure to support landlines.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      They're not suing, they're requesting an investigation that will never happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      The Union is suing because they want to protect the jobs which maintain and support the older infrastructure. It has nothing to do with protecting consumers, or keeping a more reliable technology around, etc.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 2:40pm

        Re: Re:

        The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course they're trying to protect their jobs. They're a union. They could, at the same time, be just as outraged as others seeing their employer fleecing taxpayers for work not done and services not provided & etc. They're taxpayers too you know.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2015 @ 8:12am

    Not only that but I think this is just retaliation by the unions over the lawsuit that Verizon filed against unions in 2011:

    http://www.dailytech.com/Verizon+Sues+Union+in+5+US+States+Over+Strike+Offers+Reward+to+Combat+ Vandalism/article22423.htm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Sep 2015 @ 1:04pm

    Perhaps it would be of benefit to look at how much the telcos are contributing (read paying) to these legislators to get such sweetheart deals.
    They make deals, give them cash and then no one makes them uphold their end of the bargain. If regular people cut deals like this, we'd be accused of money laundering. Contracts left unfulfilled, yet no attempt to enforce it or get back the money.

    Given the history we've seen it doesn't seem to take much to get legislators to give millions away for a few silver coins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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