If you’ve been frustrated with your Verizon FiOS service lately, take heart -- at least you’re in good company. More than a dozen U.S. mayors last week sent a scathing letter to Lowell McAdam, chairman and chief executive of Verizon Communications Inc., accusing the telecom giant of failing on multiple fronts to provide residents with adequate fiber optic cable service.
The letter, dated Oct. 1 and posted online the same day, states that millions of city dwellers are being left without FiOS service, either because Verizon has refused to build new fiber optic networks or because it has failed to meet contractual and legislative deadlines for new buildout. In the meantime, the mayors charge, Verizon has let its traditional copper network deteriorate, causing frequent service outages for customers that still rely on it. As an example, the letter cites a recent staff assessment of telecommunications infrastructure from the New York Public Service Commission, which found subpar copper networks are the norm in many areas.
“Based on irrefutable evidence of your company’s poor service record, lack of transparency and accountability, or demands for exclusive agreements with landlords throughout the region, we are deeply concerned that you have not acted like a good corporate citizen and that an incomplete FiOS rollout will result in decreased competition and the reduction of benefits to consumers throughout the Verizon footprint. As elected officials, it is our obligation and our responsibility to bring these complaints to your attention.”
In all, the letter was signed by 13 mayors, including Bill de Blasio of New York, William Peduto of Pittsburgh, Ras Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, Eric Jackson of Trenton, New Jersey, and mayors other prominent Northeast cities. James Kenney, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, also signed the letter, although the incumbent, Michael Nutter, did not. The cities are home to more than 12 million residents combined, the letter states.
The letter comes at a critical time for Verizon, whose FiOS service could face fortified competition from Cablevision, its key rival in many areas, which was recently acquired by the European telecom giant Altice.
In addition to criticizing Verizon’s service record, the mayors called out the company’s protracted labor dispute with the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Thousands of Verizon employees have been working without a contract as the two sides battle over pension and health benefits. Last month, Verizon workers erected a giant “fat pig” balloon and staged a protest outside a Lower Manhattan hotel where McAdam was giving a talk.
Rich Young, a Verizon spokesperson, characterized the letter from the mayors as a PR stunt possibly concocted by disgruntled union officials. In a statement to International Business Times, he said the letter contained “no news” and insisted Verizon has met or surpassed its obligations in all areas where it has franchises and agreed to deploy FiOS.
“Since Verizon started bargaining this year with the CWA, we’ve seen numerous half-baked and inaccurate letters and statements from Union leaders regarding Verizon’s FiOS commitments and more,” he said. “It’s all nonsense. The reality is that all of these misguided PR stunts are an attempt by Union leaders to try and force to company to hire more union-represented employees which will, in turn, increase dues and revenues for the union. It won’t work."
He added, “If Union leaders truly want to positively represent their members, we suggest that they engage in constructive negotiations with the company with a goal of reaching a new contract that reflective of today’s communications marketplace and is fair to our employees and our customers.”
The mayors concluded their letter by saying they “want to partner with Verizon in the future so that all of our cities can thrive and grow in the digital economy of the 21st century.”
“This includes clear steps to better serving consumers and resolving disputes with your workforce,” they wrote.
Read the full letter here.