Verizon Thinking About Maybe Expanding FiOS Again After All, Sort Of

Image courtesy of chrismar

Verizon has been very clear, repeatedly, that they are over this whole FiOS thing. They are happy with the service they provide and the footprint in which they provide it, and do not have expansion plans for the future. Oh, wait, though — except for that thing where now they actually totally do.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in 2013 that Verizon wasn’t interested in expanding FiOS, a sentiment echoed in 2014 by company CFO Fran Shammo. Later that year doubled down once more, with a spokesperson telling New York (state, not city) residents clamoring for the service, “It’s a simple no. I hate to be blunt, but the answer is no.”

And yet after refusing to expand into Boston since 2010, Verizon this spring changed its tune. In April, FiOS announced its first expansion in years — into Boston, which had been begging for more than half a decade.

The Boston shift isn’t just about bringing in new service; it’s part of a long-term project to remove old, “legacy” copper-wire systems and replace them with fiber for modern, IP-based communications. That’s something the FCC has okayed, but with certain consumer protections (like, “you must notify the customer”) built in. It’s going less well for some Verizon customers than for others, but it is an inevitable, if slow, change.

In the company’s recent earnings call, McAdam not only mentioned the “One Fiber” strategy for Boston, but also implied that it could come to other cities in the not-too-distant future. At the top of the list is the northeast corridor, since the BosWash Megalopolis is where Verizon has the biggest presence already (having not sold it to Frontier like their copper networks in much of the rest of the country) and would be most easily able to expand.

Speaking of expansion, Verizon’s bigger half, the wireless side, is also bragging today of its growth. And the two are more related than you’d think at first.

Verizon sent out a press release today bragging about their recent network investment. “The facts tell the story,” it proclaims. “Verizon invested another $5 billion in enhancing its network” during the first half of this year, adding up to more than any other wireless company’s spend.

Verizon also boasted about increasing the average connection speed for users on its LTE network, and explained that it has created thousands of small cell nodes and distributed antenna systems. The distributed systems help provide extra coverage in densely packed areas, like conventions. The small cells help with big crowds and also are probably the wave of the future as the wireless industry tries to figure out 5G.

And this is where the fiber expansion comes back in. The small-cell and DAS systems require fiber to connect to, or the wireless signals they transmit and receive are, well, useless. To keep expanding its wireless presence, and to make those networks faster and more reliable, Verizon will have to keep expanding the fiber network that the wireless network connects to.

And so it is.

Meanwhile, it’s just one more nail in the coffin of Verizon’s constant claim — already proven false — that net neutrality would wreck their business.