NYC Officials Grill Verizon About Incomplete FiOS Rollout

A few months back, the city of New York released a damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in the Big Apple. According to Verizon, they have met their obligation to bring service to New York as laid out in the franchise agreement. But according to New Yorkers, the telecom giant has a long, long way yet to go.

Officials held a hearing today for the city council, the city Department of Information Technology and Communications (DoITT), and Verizon representatives to hash out exactly what’s going on.

The sheer size of New York City, both in land and in population, makes the numbers huge. Verizon’s representatives stressed repeatedly that they have spent $3.5 billion on FiOS in New York so far, and that 2 million customers have gotten hooked up, “a testament to the hard work of all our employees.” But the number of consumers who have been left to sit and spin is also rather astronomical.

Representatives for DoITT specified during their panel, and Verizon later confirmed, that the number of outstanding requests that they know about includes over 49,000 building addresses, for a total of over 106,000 households that have requested FiOS service and as yet not been served by Verizon. Not only is that number potentially a drastic undercounting, they added, but over 75% of those would-be consumers have had their requests go unanswered for over a year.

The chair of the hearing pointed out that despite Verizon’s repeated insistence that it has “passed” 100% of the city’s residential blocks, New Yorkers — both those who had filed complaints, and also members of his own staff he had make calls to test the situation — are being told that service is unavailable at their address, full stop. When Verizon’s representatives tried to counter that callers may have been told that in years past, the chair rebutted that his staff had been told that as recently as half an hour earlier.

Verizon’s executive representatives chose to blame their hard-working workers for the discrepancy, saying, “There is no area in the city [where anybody] should be being told that. Having said that, we have 12,000 employees, a large employee body that we are constantly training and retraining. To the extent that they’ve told somebody that service is unavailable, that’s an indication we have more work to do.”

Verizon also repeatedly blamed the vast majority of the outstanding requests on building owners, saying “the number one problem is securing right-of-way access.” On top of that, though, Verizon sometimes just doesn’t ask.

So if a cable company (in many of the areas Verizon doesn’t serve, Cablevision) has an exclusive marketing agreement in a specific neighborhood like the Bronx’s Co-Op City, Verizon simply won’t go in. It wouldn’t be illegal for them to, as far as the executives testified, but for some reason it just won’t work.

As of publication, the hearing is still ongoing; the full proceeding is scheduled to hear from four panels of speakers, each of which also has a Q&A session following their prepared testimony. You can tune in here, or watch the archived video here, when available.

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