Guest op-ed: Verizon fails to uphold contractual obligations to the City of New York

“You’re not using other options. You’re relying on ‘we can’t get access,’ I told Verizon VPs at last week’s oversight hearing concerning the Verizon FiOS franchise agreement with New York City. The contractual agreement became effective in July, 2008 and promised that every single household in the five boroughs would be equipped with Verizon FiOS service by 2014, if requested.

A little over seven years later, an audit by DoITT (Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications) has shown that Verizon has largely failed to live up to its end of the bargain and it has no answers for why, only excuses as to why not.

As the chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, I along with my co-chairs, Councilmembers James Vacca and Donovan Richards of the Committees on Technology and Zoning and Franchises, respectively, heard from several panels during the 4.5 hour marathon hearing including DoITT, Verizon, the Communication Workers of America and members of the public, who voiced their personal complaints and issues concerning acquiring FiOS in their homes.

The most common customer complaint was that Verizon has taken several months, if not years, to provide accessibility to FiOS service. According to DoITT, there are currently 100,000 potential customers in New York City that have filed formal requests, but are still waiting for the actual service to be connected.

Most of the requests refer to NSIs (Non Standard Installations). A standard installation defines a residence that can simply be connected to the FiOS network in a few days or less because the video connections and equipment are located in the surrounding area. NSIs differ in that they require additional steps for installation, such as gaining access to an apartment building to construct and create a network within the building.

My committee conducted an investigation that gave insight into what actual customers from all over our city are being told when they call Verizon and request FiOS service. One of the addresses included in the investigation was located in Bay Ridge. The Verizon representative responded that FiOS was unavailable at this location.

When asked how long it would be for FiOS to become available at this location, the representative stated that he had no idea and that it could be several years to put the necessary wires in the building. This response is despite the fact that Verizon, under the franchise agreement, must install NSIs within six months of the request with an additional six months granted for difficult cases.

To be included on the NSI request list, call Verizon’s customer service at 1-800-837-4966. If you are told that service is unavailable, remind the representative that you expect service within six to 12 months per their franchise agreement. Verizon has clearly learned a lesson: never overpromise and underdeliver to the city of New York.

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