Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
fiber, philadelphia, promises

Companies:
verizon



Add Philadelphia To The Long List Of Cities That Think Verizon Ripped Them Off On Fiber Promises

from the rinse,-wash-repeat dept

Verizon's modus operandi has been fairly well established by now: convince state or local leaders to dole out millions in tax breaks and subsidies -- in exchange for fiber that's either only partially delivered, or not delivered at all. Given this story has repeated itself in New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York City and countless other locations, there's now a parade of communities asking somebody, anybody, to actually hold Verizon's feet to the fire. Given Verizon's political power (especially on the state level) those calls go unheeded, with Verizon lawyers consistently able to wiggle around attempts to hold the telco to account.

In Pennsylvania, the story is much the same as elsewhere. Verizon was able to convince state leaders in the '90s to dole out billions in handouts for state-wide symmetrical 45 Mbps fiber broadband. But a decade later when people finally noticed fiber was nowhere to be found, Verizon managed to convince state leaders to effectively forget about the obligation entirely. Fast forward another decade and, after striking a 2009 franchise deal with the city of Philadelphia (again promising full city deployment of its FiOS fiber broadband service) you'll be shocked to discover what happened:
"Philadelphia government officials are investigating whether Verizon has met an obligation to bring FiOS service to all residents of the city. Verizon obtained a cable franchise agreement from the city in February 2009, and the deadline to wire up all of Philadelphia passed on February 26 of this year...Philadelphia seems skeptical about whether Verizon actually met its obligation, but it is still looking for proof. The city set up a webpage asking residents to fill out a form to "tell us whether you have tried to order Verizon service but have been told by the company that service is not yet available in your neighborhood."
Traditionally, ISPs can get away with this not only because they effectively own state legislatures, but because nobody in any part of government actually bothers to audit company deployment promises. What passes as an audit generally involves the ISP submitting its own claims that regulators fail to fact check. That's why Philadelphia leaders are being forced to crowdsource whether or not Verizon met its promises. Meanwhile, Verizon tells Philly city council leaders that they're unable to offer statistics right now on their FiOS deployment because, uh, unions:
"Philadelphia should learn from New York's experience, Philadelphia City Council member Bobby Henon said during a hearing two weeks ago. “We do not want this to happen in Philadelphia,” Henon said, according to an article published by Technical.ly Philly. Henon wanted good data, but Verizon said it couldn't provide it yet because of the ongoing Verizon workers' strike. Verizon also said, “Any claims made at the hearing that we haven’t completed our obligations of our franchise agreement are untrue," according to the article."
At this point there's plenty of blame to go around for the fact that history just keeps repeating itself without getting fixed. For one thing, just like in New York City, city leaders keep signing sweetheart deals with endless loopholes designed by Verizon lawyers, then acting shocked when Verizon actually uses those loopholes. For example, several city agreements let Verizon simply pass a set total of homes with fiber (anywhere up to several blocks away), instead of technically "serving" them. Other contracts contain language letting Verizon dodge or buy their way out of deployment obligations if certain TV uptake metrics aren't met.

These are clauses cities have been warned repeatedly about but choose to ignore. Bad deals are struck behind closed doors by one administration, with subsequent city leaders left holding the bag. By that point Verizon can successfully argue that they technically met the terms of such deals, because the terms of such deals were designed to be malleable. Granted that doesn't excuse Verizon's proclivity for ripping off taxpayers on an industrial scale, but this dance of dysfunction wouldn't be quite so embarrassingly uncoordinated if cities would stop signing deals that promise the moon, but deliver stinky cheese.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 9:40am

    you can add as many cities to the list as you like, if they dont do anything, like complain sincerely to the FCC over and over again and make their opinions public, nothing will change!! it's the old USA story, no one has the balls to take on any of the major industry players (Communications, Movies, Music, Transport etc) or at least threaten their political representative(s) with withholding votes and funding until something truthful and positive is done! as it is, things are just same old, same old!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      The cities should simply abolish right of way exclusivity and allow competitors to enter the markets. Or they could considering building their own competing community broadband services. If the cities would simply man up and impose sanctions on these companies for their misdeeds the FCC wouldn't need to get involved. The only reason there is a need for the FCC to get involved is because the cities are often in cahoots with broadband providers and they are the ones responsible for enabling their predatory practices.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 19 May 2016 @ 2:38am

        Re: Re:

        Have you SEEN the amount of undignified whingeing that goes on when anyone does try to organise resistance to corporate skullduggery? The word "Socialist" is often deployed, then there's some nonsense about:
        1) the "free" market
        2) big government
        3) regulations strangulating commerce

        As long as people are stupid enough to accept these excuses this will continue.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      Philadelphia would have the strongest backer behind some curtains though. That's Comcast's home turf, for all we know this could be the start of a proxy war between those two using our tax dollars to fund the whole thing.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 9:51am

    Add Philadelphia to the long list of cities that finally admit way too late, when they knew all along (in fact, way before deals were anywhere near done) that Verizon ripped them off on fiber promises and a lot of other stuff.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 9:53am

    " Verizon was able to convince state leaders in the '90s to dole out billions in handouts for state-wide symmetrical 45 Mbps fiber broadband."

    Oh man, the 90s sure were a crazy time where anyone could say anything.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 9:56am

    we get what we deserve when we elect who we elect.

    nobody owes anything to people as stupid as we are.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Will you stand for office, or only complain that people elect the least worse option from a pool of candidates?

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

  • icon
    Todd Shore (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 10:26am

    What does a strike have to do with anything? At all? If Verizon can not effectively staff their business then that sounds like a personal problem to me.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 10:27am

    So let me get this straight. A strike that started earlier this year has prevented Verizon from making good on its obligations for two decades now?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 10:33am

    Re: Verizon said it couldn't provide it yet because of the ongoing Verizon workers' strike.

    While Verizon may not be deploying networks right now, one thing I expect they are deploying is big fucking document shredders.

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

  • identicon
    Dingledore the Flabberghaster, 17 May 2016 @ 10:42am

    But if the cable companies were made to pay money back

    wouldn't the state/local leaders have to pay back the "benefits" they got from the cable companies?

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 10:50am

    Add Philadelphia To The Long List Of Cities That Think Verizon Ripped Them Off On Fiber Promises
    Why? I've already done so, as well as every other city in the US.

    No reason to repeat them.

    Oh, wait. I see what you did there. You added "think".

    My list is "Long List Of Cities That Verizon Ripped Off On Fiber Promises".

    Sorry about that.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      Philly politician: Verizon kept their deal - I got a super deal on a fiber connection, a secret phone number for real tech support, and thousands in "campaign contributions"!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 12:31pm

    How about... "Sure we will give you tax benefits on the sales generated from you deployment of services" That way it is an after the fact deal.... Oh Wait. I was thinking. Shouldn't be doing that. Now I cant't get elected. Damm shot myself in the foot there.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 17 May 2016 @ 9:31pm

    When I read about things like this I wonder if in their meetings (for example with their lawyers) the executives actually say things like "make sure you write the contract so we won't have to actually deploy any fiber but they'll think we're going to" or if they somehow phrase it so they can convince themselves they're not intentionally screwing over millions of people.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:39am

      Re:

      While I doubt they're that blatant, even to themselves, I have no doubt whatsoever that they go into the 'deals' knowing ahead of time that they are not going to fulfill what the other side thinks they are, and deliberately word the contracts such that they can get away with the absolute minimum possible.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 10:56am

        Re: Re:

        I once knew a shady businessman who behaved in an analogous manner with his own deals. He'd always find a way to get out of responsibilities he contractually agreed to.

        I found him interesting because I knew him fairly well and am certain that he never entered a deal with the intention of screwing people over. Yet that was what always happened to one degree or another.

        I think that he entered deals with honorable intentions, but lacked the intestinal fortitude needed when his agreements became more than slightly burdensome to him, so he would change color.

        I think there's a word for that sort of person: weasel. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the dominant dynamic in these companies as well.

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


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