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Yesterday, New York City filed a complaint alleging that Verizon breached its 2008 franchise agreement with the city. Reports indicate the city claims Verizon “has failed to make its service available to at least ‘tens of thousands’ of prospective customers and has refused to accept service requests from many others.”
The complaint argues that Verizon agreed to make its Fios service available to every household in the city by 2014. Verizon was to comply with this obligation by installing fiber underground or along utility poles on every street and avenue in the city. The Verge explains that Verizon’s Fios service is currently available to 2.2 million of approximately 3.1 million New York City households. Additionally, a 2015 audit by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications found that city blocks Verizon claims its network passes actually lack the equipment necessary to deliver service.
Public Knowledge believes that modernization of the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure should provide an upgrade for all Americans. If true, these allegations would mean that nearly a million households in New York City lack the service and competitive broadband choices residents were promised.
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“The allegations that Verizon has failed to build out to nearly a million New York City households it is obligated to serve are troubling. Although new broadband deployments are costly and time intensive, broadband providers have a responsibility to comply with their franchise agreements. Moreover, it is imperative that modernization of the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure provide an upgrade for all.
“While there is disagreement between New York City and Verizon regarding whether the company has met its deployment commitments, this dispute highlights the ongoing need for policymakers to clearly define what they mean when describing the availability of broadband service.
“There is widespread bipartisan support for promoting broadband deployment to unserved and underserved areas in any federal infrastructure legislation. Lawmakers should ensure that households and multi-dwelling unit buildings are actually able to subscribe to broadband services that are ‘available’ to them, and that ‘availability' includes service options that are affordable for even low-income consumers. It would be easier to achieve this affordability if, for instance, landlords didn’t prohibit the installation of competing service provider equipment in residences due to contracts with existing service providers. This practice harms consumers and competition by driving up costs and needlessly delaying the technology transitions.”