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Will New Jersey Be the First 'Fully Fibered' State?

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First in a Series

Part 1: The Promise

As of this writing, Oct. 25, 2013, the law in New Jersey requires Verizon to be able to supply every residential or business customer and every school and library -- 100 percent of the state -- with a fiber-optic service capable of 45 Mbps in both directions.

Starting in 1991, Verizon New Jersey (originally called New Jersey Bell, which was part of Bell Atlantic) claimed that if state laws were changed to give the company more profits, they would replace the aging copper utility wire (which was part of the Public Switched Telephone Networks, "PSTN") with a fiber optic wire -- to cover everyone, 100 percent of customers.

If you are in New Jersey and can't get your 45 Mbps service, click here.

Verizon claimed that New Jersey would be the "first fully fibered state." But don't take my word for it.

The New York Times, 1991, tracked the New Jersey story from the inception. They wrote:

"A $1 billion plan by New Jersey Bell to make New Jersey the first state to have fiber-optic communications available to virtually every household and business..."

"With fiber optics, New Jersey Bell officials say, they can create a vast network of high-speed audio, video and data services that will revolutionize the way residents and businesses in the state communicate."

"Mr. Bone, president of New Jersey Bell said a 'fully fibered network would provide consumers with unprecedented access to information and entertainment services and would encourage economic development as well'."

In 1992, the Times wrote: "State regulators today approved a $1.5 billion plan by New Jersey Bell to replace its entire network with fiber optics by the year 2010. The decision opens the way for New Jersey to become the first state with border-to-border fiber-optic telecommunications."

And another 1992 New York Times story added:

"The decision today 'puts New Jersey firmly in the lead,' said the chairman of the Board of Regulatory Commissioners, Edward H. Salmon, allowing the state 'to set the pace in the realization of economic and social benefits'."

"And in turn, New Jersey officials look forward to an unspecified increase in employment to set up the new system and hope that their state will be able to attract businesses because of the new services."

But this was news and it was a national story. The Los Angeles Times ran a Reuters piece in 1993. The title says it all: "Information Superhighway Revs Up in New Jersey: Technology: State Bell company plans to bring fiber-optic wonders to every resident and business. Project is the result of a deal that deregulates part of the phone company."

"TRENTON, N.J. -- The state where the television set was born is on track to be the first with a fiber-optic network giving every resident and business access to information-age wonders with the click of the TV remote.

"New Jersey Bell plans to bring fiber-optic cable--the high-speed lanes of the information superhighway--to the curb outside every home and office by the year 2010.

"This ambitious plan will phase in new technologies as glass fiber replaces 56.6 million miles of copper wires... The project, dubbed Opportunity New Jersey, is the result of a deal struck last year between the state and New Jersey Bell, the Bell Atlantic subsidiary that provides telephone service..." The state agreed to deregulate the competitive parts of New Jersey Bell's business in return for its pledge to accelerate the technological overhaul."

In 1995, after delays were popping up, the New York Times outlined that the copper wiring in the phone networks was going to be replaced with "fiber optic strands" and Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) was still committed to spending $11 billion. Moreover, cities including New York, Philly and Washington, D.C., were going get these services starting in 1997.

"The key change, Mr. Babbio said, is that Bell Atlantic will now replace the copper wires in its telephone network primarily with fiber optic strands, significantly increasing the network's carrying capacity ...Mr. Babbio said Bell Atlantic was still committed to spending roughly $11 billion to upgrade its network for video services in the next decade. He said the company would deploy fiber optic technology throughout its network by early 1997, one year later than called for in the earlier design... upgrade Bell Atlantic's telephone networks to provide video services in some of its largest metropolitan markets in the Middle Atlantic region, including New York, Philadelphia and Washington."

And yet, in 1995, the Times' headline reads, "Bell Atlantic Halts Video Service."

"The Bell Atlantic Corporation called an abrupt halt to its scramble into television yesterday. Saying it wanted to rethink its strategy for upgrading its telephone network, the company asked the Federal Communications Commission to suspend its application to offer video services to as many as three million telephone customers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, the District of Columbia, northern New Jersey and parts of Virginia."

Note that every city listed above is in a state or a district that, like New Jersey, had the laws changed to give the companies more money to build out these networks.

Undaunted by actual facts, Bell Atlantic came back in 1996 with a press release that stated that they would have 12 million homes completed by 2000 with fiber optics.

"The company plans to add digital video broadcast capabilities to this "fiber-to-the-curb", switched broadband network by the third quarter of 1997... Bell Atlantic plans to begin its network upgrade in Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania later this year. ... Ultimately, Bell Atlantic expects to serve most of the 12 million homes and small businesses across the mid-Atlantic region with switched Broadband networks."

And in 1997, the New York Times quoted The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate, which said: "inner cities and rural areas people have paid for the fiber optic lines through their monthly bills, she said, but they have not yet benefited."

The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate's report

"BA-NJ has over earned, underspent and inequitably deployed advanced telecommunications technology to business customers, while largely neglecting schools and libraries, low-income and residential ratepayers and consumers in UEZs as well as urban and rural areas."

But The New York Times' 1997 interview quoted the president of Bell Atlantic New Jersey: '''We're on track,'' said Len J. Lauer, the president of Bell Atlantic New Jersey. 'There is no other company committed to getting broadband to all its consumers by the year 2010'."

I leave you at Part 1 with Kushnick's law: "A regulated company will always renege on promises to provide public benefits tomorrow in exchange for regulatory and financial benefits today."

Note: In 1999 the author published The Unauthorized Bio of the Baby Bells and Info-scandal with foreword by Dr. Bob Metcalfe--now a free download. The "Info-Scandal" part tells the story of Opportunity New Jersey and the rest of the Bell companies' plans for our fiber optic future.

Part 2: The Broadband Battle for New Jersey Continues: Verizon NJ Ordered to Upgrade Stow Creek and Greenwich, Cumberland County, with Fiber Optics.

In 2012, I wrote a HuffPost blog outlining how two small towns had gotten the state commission to issue a show cause order asking Verizon New Jersey why the company had not fulfilled their obligations under Opportunity New Jersey. This is the update.