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Verizon Questions Our Accuracy: We Challenge Verizon to a Debate

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Here is a letter from Verizon to the Huffington Post editors, followed by my reply:

Ed McFadden, Verizon Communications:

I run media affairs for Verizon public policy, and was wondering which editor has some oversight of Bruce Kushnick. Who reviews his material before it is posted? In his latest, he makes several inaccurate statements, the facts for which were publicly available and where he appears to be making an effort to misdirect your readers.

  • He accuses Verizon of lying to regulators: "It is clear that Verizon simply didn't tell the truth" about the objections to our copper retirement. This is false.
  • He claims Verizon is working "to shut off the copper in areas that have been upgraded to FiOS and force customers onto FiOS." This is false. The areas he sites are areas where we are replacing copper lines with fiber (not "FiOS, which is a data and video service). In these areas, customers are being provided with phone services over fiber, including the same POTS service they had previously received, at the same price. Nothing more.
  • He claims we didn't "notify anyone." This is false. All affected customers, as well as local and state officials in the areas where we are deploying fiber, as well as the FCC were provided all notices of the planned copper retirement. We also provided notice to interconnecting carriers.

There are additional inaccuracies as well. How can we go about correcting the record? Or is this something that we must take up directly with the writer? Thanks in advance for your consideration.

_____

Verizon also sent along the following links:

My reply

Note: I take full and sole responsibility for the content of these articles. Huffington Post suggested I address Verizon's issues.

1) Here are the articles in question:

Verizon's "Cut the Copper" Stealth Plan: Thousands Were Held Hostage with No Phone Service for Months.

This article is an update to a previous story:

Verizon's Stealth Plan for 'Shutting Off the Copper' in New York City and Locations in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Has Started

The articles are based on a series of filings with the FCC by New Networks. We posted the related documents at: http://newnetworks.com/verizonquick/

2) Verizon has filed with the FCC to start shutting off the copper networks in areas that were upgraded to fiber optics using a procedure known as "Section 251." It is essentially a rubber stamp by the FCC to allow Verizon to make small network changes.

Instead, Verizon has decided it can use this under-the-radar procedure to shut off large areas. In Belle Harbor Queens, the shut-off area appears to cover the Rockaways, with a population of 50,000 people.

Verizon has filed in multiple locations including Belle Harbor Queens, New York City, as well as Ocean View Virginia, Lynnfield Massachusetts, (and two others filings in Hummelstown Pennsylvania and Farmingdale New Jersey that will be posted.)

This is a link to Verizon's filings and the locations. (Note: there are two filings for each area: one for the network change and other for the removal of the copper.)

3) In the Belle Harbor filing, you will see Verizon supplies no data, no analysis, no number of customers impacted by the change, not even a map of the location and coverage area. Nothing.

Verizon: Belle Harbor, Queens, New York filing.

4) New Networks filed to stop these proceedings as the only requirement Verizon has is to post the request on their site and then the FCC posts it to their site -- with 9 days of comments, but only for other competitive phone companies.

Here are the comments filed by New Networks and others.

Verizon:

"He claims we didn't "notify anyone." This is false. All affected customers, as well as local and state officials in the areas where we are deploying fiber, as well as the FCC were provided all notices of the planned copper retirement. We also provided notice to interconnecting carriers."

ANSWER: There is nothing in Verizon's filed Section 251 documents that shows that Verizon did anything beyond this rubber-stamp filing.

5) However, Verizon responded separately to some of the comments sent in by others during these proceedings. (Verizon did NOT mention New Networks by name but mentioned NASUCA, (National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates) and the AICC, one of the leading associations for the alarm industry.)

In this Verizon Response, which we quoted, Verizon claimed no one had complained; there was no conflict in either New York or Virginia.

"As of April of this year, fewer than forty of Verizon's customers in Ocean View, Virginia, and Belle Harbor, New York, remained on copper facilities. Customers in these two wire centers - which cover more than 15,000 homes - have already overwhelmingly made the decision to move to either Verizon's fiber-based services or to competitors. Completing the migration to Verizon's more advanced and reliable fiber facilities, and retiring the legacy copper loops and the switches in these wire centers, is not just a logical and efficient step, but it is also an incremental one. There has been no valid objection to the copper retirement filed by customers living or working in these areas or by providers serving them, and no request for an extension of time made."

They added elsewhere:

"Likewise, no residents of these areas raised concerns."

Based on what was filed at the FCC, there would be no way anyone would know that there was a place to file comments. It would be very embarrassing to think that Verizon is claiming that sticking a notice on its web site is proper notification of "customers living or working in these areas."

6) But were there really no comments or concerns of customers in Belle Harbor, New York?

No. As we showed, Verizon, in their response letter or their filing, never discussed that after the Sandy storm there were thousands of complaints as Verizon had failed to restore service to thousands of customers in a timely manner in New York, and the Rockaways in particular.

And it would appear that customers had 'raised concerns'.

First, we found a NY State Service 'Inquiry' Report showing major problems with service in Belle Harbor. And we found lots of articles outlining that Verizon had not restored service to lots of customers five months after the Sandy storm.

Customers didn't overwhelmingly make a 'decision' to go to fiber optics. They were out of service for 5 months or more and weren't given a choice, it would appear.

Councilman Calls on Verizon to Fix Phone Lines, WNYC, March 25, 2013

"Almost five months after Sandy, there's still no dial tone for hundreds of people living in the Rockaways. The city councilman representing the area is warning the phone outage is a dangerous situation that must be fixed quickly.

"More than four thousand people live in the Ocean Bay Apartments, and most of them have had no land line phone service, according to councilman Donovan Richards.... Richards said one elderly resident of the public housing complex waits for her niece to visit, so she can use the niece's cell phone to make important calls."

And yet, no Verizon document or filing explained that this process was filed with complaints and concerns. This failure to tell the 'full story' leaves out basic material facts.

Moreover, relying on a posting on the FCC and the Verizon web site as 'notification' for customer comments is not due process and is the very reason we requested this 'let's-see-what-we-can-get-away-with' charade be halted.

8) More importantly, this was a corporate decision to not fix the copper wires in New York City and other places and let customers hang for months -- as Verizon would make more money from FIOS.

Lowell McAdam, Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, speaking at the Citi Global Internet Media and Telecommunications Conference in January 2013, said that Verizon's new "mantra" is "Don't fix the copper wires":

"When we had the impact of Sandy, our mantra was you will not fix copper. So if copper got into any kind of a damaged situation and FiOS was in the vicinity, or we could run FiOS down an adjacent street and get into there, we would cut the copper out of service."

And why do it? Well, upselling -- that is, having the customers buy more products from the companies' own affiliates. McAdam continued,

"Now what is the reason we want to do that? Well, when a customer goes, even to FiOS digital voice, they very quickly see the difference on copper, and we have seen the ability to sell up."

9) Verizon writes:

"He claims Verizon is working 'to shut off the copper in areas that have been upgraded to FiOS and force customers onto FiOS.' This is false. The areas he sites are areas where we are replacing copper lines with fiber (not 'FiOS', which is a data and video service). In these areas, customers are being provided with phone services over fiber, including the same POTS service they had previously received, at the same price. Nothing more."

Also from the Verizon Response:

"To be clear: service received over fiber facilities is not the same thing as Verizon's FiOS service. Fiber refers to a physical medium: a network made up of fiber optic cables. FiOS refers to particular Verizon branded voice, video, and data services -FiOS Digital Voice, FiOS TV, and FiOS Internet - that Verizon provides on an optional basis to customers over fiber. While millions of customers have elected to switch to Verizon's best-in-class FiOS service - provisioned over fiber-optic cable... many others, including those who so choose in these two wire centers, receive the same traditional phone service, with the same features and at the same or better price, over Verizon's advanced fiber network."

Answer: I didn't know that Verizon had a sense of humor. Verizon is not putting in fiber for phone service. They could use the copper for that.

From Verizon's website, July 8th, 2014

"What Exactly is FiOS You Ask?

"Well, it's not cable. And it's definitely not copper wiring. FiOS replaces them by building a network of 100% fiber optics, making it an even FASTER way to transfer data for Internet, TV and Digital Voice--literally connecting you to all you love at the speed of light."

Where does it say that FiOS is NOT the 100% fiber optic network for TV?

10) Why is there a distinction between FiOS and the fiber optic networks?

If Verizon claims this upgrade was for FIOS they would have serious legal problems. As we noted in a previous article, Verizon uses the 'Title II', common carriage, telecommunications classification from the Telecommunications Act of 1934 for all of its 'FTTP' Fiber-to-the-Premises' services so it can charge basic rate phone customers for upgrades of the 'massive deployment of fiber optics' as well as use the utility rights-of-way. And in New York State they are bound by the 1896 law that allows them to offer 'telecommunications' services.

At the FCC, Verizon claims FiOS is an 'information service' and 'Title I' and a cable service, classified as 'Title VI' -- and because of this they has based the entire 'net neutrality' fight in the court and at the FCC. But, Verizon never bothered to tell the FCC or the courts that they classified the underlying networks as "Title II."

And it is an important question as it may not be legal to cross-subsidize local rates with an information or cable service in New York State.

11) We are not the only ones questioning Verizon's process -- NASUCA has filed a Petition for a 'stay' to stop the process.

And others have filed comments calling for investigations in other open FCC proceedings about customers being forced to move to fiber optics, even when it doesn't serve their needs.

"Public Knowledge, The Utility Reform Network, et al, write to the Federal Communications Commission today to express concern about reports that have surfaced across the country indicating carriers are forcing customers off of traditional copper-based phone service. Complaints often state that customers are being involuntarily moved to fiber or IP-based service (or some combination thereof), even if those new technologies fail to serve all of the user's needs or will be more expensive. Denying basic phone service to people who have relied on the network for decades violates the network compact that has successfully guided our communications policy for one hundred years."

"A Commission investigation of these complaints is necessary to ensure the continued vitality of the fundamental values that underlie our network, including universal service."


12) Basic Questions Verizon Never Answered.

Verizon has filed to shut off the copper in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts and we have no idea what these other locations are hiding.

  • How many customers are impacted?
  • How many are still using copper?
  • How many 'total lines' are in service?
  • How many small business alarm circuits, ATM machines, DSL lines, or special access lines are being 'shut off'?

But then we have the larger questions:

  • Are customers paying for this fiber optic wire? In New York, Verizon received rate increases on basic rate copper-based phone customers, which is paying for the construction.
  • Is this wire a replacement of the utility wire or does Verizon believe this is private property for private use?

Do you think Verizon should meet for a debate?