By Bruce Kushnick, Managing Director, IRREGULATORS, Nov 26, 2020
Was it the IRREGULATORS Letters to Mayor deBlasio?
The Verizon franchise agreement required 100% of the City upgraded to fiber optics for FIOS by 2014. Verizon did not deliver the goods.
In September, 2020 — 3.5 years after NYC sued Verizon over renegging on its franchise agreement — Verizon’s NYC cable FiOS franchise actually expired. So, the IRREGULATORS wrote two letters to the Mayor — to use this as leverage to get ALL of the City wired.
We also pointed out that the distribution of those who had not been upgraded to FiOS were primarily the low income areas — direct ‘redlining’ — and that violated the franchise agreement.
Contents of Letter 1:
Sept 23, 2020 Medium article : "Verizon’s NY City FiOS franchise has expired. Do not renew it until 100% has been upgraded to fiber optics . . ."
Verizon’s NY City FiOS franchise has expired. Do not renew it until 100% has been upgraded to fiber optics
This settlement that took years and the focus is — fiber to the home for the ½ million not served, starting in the low income areas.
The settlement brings competition to areas where the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), Verizon, didn’t honor its commitments.
This 1/2 million houshold fiber optic line installation will proceed in low income areas in the City, where Verizon was only offering, at best, copper-based DSL.
Verizon’s intention has been to substitute inferior 4G/5G wireless (with data caps). Fiber optic service currently doesn’t have data caps, it has a great deal more speed, is more reliable and is capable of handling a family stuck at home and spending a lot of time online.
At the core, however, Verizon’s inflated prices still need to be addressed, as competition is not lowering prices with just a duopoly.
Contents of Letter 2:
Sept 28, 2020 Medium article — "New York City Must Call for a Halt to the Billion+ Dollars of Cross-Subsidies and Overcharging by Verizon NY, the State Public Telecom Utility (SPTU)."
This letter laid out that the City should get Verizon to fulfill the commitment on the books. 100% of residences in New York City with fiber to the premises and offer FIOS, an internet and cable service. However, this will only be an expensive duopoly if there are cable companies in these areas.
The next step has to be audit the books and halt the cross-subsidies (from regulated Wireline service ot unregulated Wireless Service and Corporate Operating Expenses), which are evident in the Verizon NY Annual Reports. Doing so will lower prices.
Finally, our letter suggested getting the money for the penalties and fines that should have been enacted
– penalties for not giving services to those who were entitled to it and give these low income households serious discounts/ free services — for a period of time.
The IRREGULATORS worked on this franchise from the inception (before 2008) as this deal left out all requirements to serve small businesses. In 2012, we worked with deBlasio’s staffers about surveying the city to find out the extent of the deployment and in 2015 we suggested the City take Verizon to court, and to not let wireless act as a substitute for fiber optic connections.
NYC Lawsuit Against Verizon Pays Off in Fiber
NYC gets Verizon to Expand Fios Fiber Optic Broadband to 500K More Households
By Nolan Hicks and Natalie Musumeci, Nov 24, 2020 | Original NY Post article here.
The city has reached a settlement with Verizon, ensuring that the communications giant expands its broadband Fios service to 500,000 additional Big Apple households, including at NYCHA buildings, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. The agreement secured by the de Blasio administration forces the telecom giant to expand access to its high-tech fiber-optic network in more than two dozen working and middle-class neighborhoods across the city — including wiring the public housing complexes in those communities for broadband.
Mayor de Blasio said during a City Hall press briefing.
“We’ve had a digital divide. We’ve had a huge disparity of who gets access to internet and who doesn’t, who gets reliable, fast broadband service, who doesn’t, who can afford it, who can’t. More and more, we understand that we have to create a society in which everyone has equal access.”
The settlement comes after the de Blasio administration sued Verizon in 2017 for “breaking the trust” of millions of New Yorkers by failing to bring its Fios cable and internet service into every household in the city as required.
The Manhattan Supreme Court suit claimed that the TV, phone and internet company reneged on a 12-year agreement signed in 2008, under the Bloomberg administration, to make its fiber-optic cable network available to everyone by 2014. De Blasio’s office said that many of the neighborhoods that have the most to gain from the settlement are within community districts hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis and low-income households.
The settlement Tuesday requires that 125,000 of Verizon’s new hookups be located in 10 different community districts that cover more than two dozen neighborhoods: the Bronx’s Hunts Point, Inwood, Fordham, Morris Heights, Mount Hope, University Heights, Bedford Park, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge Heights, and Norwood; Brooklyn’s Brownsville, Ocean Hill, Borough Park, Kensington, Ocean Parkway, Midwood, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts-Gardens, and Wingate; Queens’ South Jamaica; and Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, Morningside Heights, Inwood, and Washington Heights.
The phone company also agreed to wire NYCHA developments that still need broadband hookups by April 2023. Those installations will count towards the 125,000 apartment mandate if the complexes are located in the priority neighborhoods, officials said.
Verizon will also be required to file regular reports with city officials about its progress towards meeting the goals.
New York City Press Release
Nov 24, 2020 | Original press release here.
Mayor de Blasio Holds Verizon Accoubtable to Connect Half a Million New York City Households to Broadband
Under the terms of the agreement, Verizon will build out Fios connectivity for New Yorkers, prioritizing the least-connected communities and NYCHA residential buildings.
NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced an advancement in tackling the digital divide in New York City by ensuring that Verizon builds out its FiOS footprint to 500,000 additional households, making high-speed fiber broadband available to more New Yorkers.
The agreement secured by Mayor de Blasio addresses disparities faced by low-income and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) families across the city. Due to the corporation’s previous failure to connect many buildings, large portions of New York City neighborhoods are under an effective monopoly, with only one cable and broadband provider, risking lower speeds and higher costs. Under the settlement, Verizon is compelled to prioritize the least-connected Community Districts and ensure connectivity for every NYCHA residential building. The City began proceedings against Verizon due to the telecom’s failure to meet the terms of its cable franchise agreement, inked under the Bloomberg administration, to build out its Fios network.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said:
“Internet access is an economic right in New York City, no matter your ZIP code. Tech giants will not stand in our way to deliver high-quality broadband to New Yorkers – they must be a part of the solutio. COVID-19 has further exposed the inequalities in internet access while changing the way New Yorkers work, learn, and live. We will continue to hold any corporation that fails to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers accountable.”
As New York City charts a path to recovery, broadband is no longer a luxury, but an essential service to maintain health, receive an education, and access employment. In addition to ensuring Verizon will build out its network, the City continues to accelerate the NYC Internet Master Plan to systematically close the digital divide.
Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin said:
“As we plan an equitable recovery for New York City, closing the digital divide remains more urgent than ever. The Internet has the power to connect New Yorkers to social services, jobs, school and more. This settlement and the Internet Master Plan will ensure New Yorkers of all walks of life can access quality broadband.”
“This settlement will make sure that Verizon builds out its fiber footprint more equitably throughout New York City — especially in low-income communities that have historically been underserved by internet service providers,” said DoITT Commissioner and Citywide CIO Jessica Tisch. “This agreement attacks that unfair imbalance, and recognizes that high-quality internet is a necessity, not a luxury.”
"The New York City Internet Master Plan makes clear the need for more options in parts of the five boroughs that have been historically underserved by industry. This settlement will lead to more choice for New Yorkers, particularly those most vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," said John Paul Farmer, New York City Chief Technology Officer. "With a focus on COVID-priority neighborhoods and an eye on racial equity, the City is working in unprecedented ways with large companies, small startups, and community-based organizations to increase choice, lower costs, and put New York City on the path to universal broadband."
Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson said:
“If you are a child who needs access to an online class or a senior who wants to see a loved one, you know better than most how vital internet access is to daily life. We resolved this case so that more New Yorkers will have access to a vital tool. The pandemic has underscored this critical need. This resolution could not be more timely.”
Many of the neighborhoods that have the most to gain from this settlement are Community Districts that are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic; with low median household incomes; and fewest options, if any for affordable broadband, including:
- Bronx 2 (Hunts Point, Inwood)
- Bronx 5 (Fordham/Morris Heights, Mount Hope, University Heights)
- Bronx 7 (Bedford Park, Fordham, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge Heights, Norwood, University Heights)
- Brooklyn 4 (Bushwick)
- Brooklyn 9 (Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Wingate)
- Brooklyn 12 (Borough Park, Kensington, Ocean Parkway, Midwood)
- Brooklyn 16 (Brownsville, Ocean Hill)
- Manhattan 3 (Alphabet City, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Two Bridges, Chinatown)
- Manhattan 9 (Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, Morningside Heights)
- Manhattan 12 (Inwood, Washington Heights)
- Queens 12 (South Jamaica)
At a minimum, Verizon will make connections available to 125,000 additional households in these Community Districts, which means that if a resident requests paid FiOS service, Verizon will be required to make it available generally within seven days. Many New Yorkers lack internet connections at home and others have only limited broadband service.
The lawsuit and its settlement highlight the City’s commitment to holding franchisees accountable to meet their commitments to the public. The City’s franchise team will be closely monitoring Verizon’s performance for any slippage from the terms of this agreement and is prepared to ensure serious consequences for failure to perform. The settlement is subject to approval from the NYC Franchise and Review Commission and the Public Service Commission.
Today’s settlement will ensure that 500,000 households that previously lacked Verizon broadband access because of a corporate failure to invest in the necessary infrastructure will have the option of fiber broadband, and create critical cost competition in areas where today only one provider exists.
The terms of the settlement call for Verizon to report quarterly on their progress, and the City will make public the list of newly eligible households that were previously ineligible for FiOS or broadband service.
This settlement is complementary to other City-led efforts underway to achieve the goal of universal broadband, including the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity’s efforts announced in July to extend new low cost internet service options to 600,000 underserved New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents, over the next 18 months.
New Yorkers need more from the companies that serve them – they need affordable service options. At a time when nearly a third of New Yorkers do not have home broadband, New York City’s Internet Master Plan has made the single largest capital investment by any municipality in the country to end the digital divide. The City will soon be releasing a solicitation for new open-access infrastructure and will engage new and existing broadband companies in serving New Yorkers with high-quality, affordable internet service options. It is critical that the private sector partners with the City to ensure New Yorkers are affordably connected to the internet.