Views: 105 Author: Site Editor Publish Time: 2016-04-05 Origin: Site
A new battle is breaking out between Verizon and the state of New Jersey, over promises Verizon made nearly a decade ago. In 2006, Verizon signed an agreement with NJ to make high-speed FiOS available in the 70 largest cities in New Jersey, including the poorest areas of Newark and Jersey City. Bridging the so-called “digital divide” has been a priority for multiple governments and administrations across the country, and this agreement was seen as one way to ensure that NJ families would have better access to the Internet and its accompanying technologies.
Recent reports indicate the agreement has been discharged in some highly peculiar ways, and the mayors of Jersey City and Newark are calling a press conference to discuss whether or not Verizon is fulfilling its obligations to the state. At issue are loopholes in the franchise agreements that allow Verizon to skip wiring a building if the landlord demands payment in exchange for accessing a property. These waivers are designed to ensure that companies don’t incur ruinous expenses from landlords that might extort huge cash payments. Unfortunately, it looks as though the system may have been sabotaged by Verizon itself.
While these rules were designed with good intentions, they’ve been abused by companies that want to maintain a monopoly over a specific block or building. In the past, landlords have been caught receiving kickbacks in exchange for refusing access to competing telco services, ensuring that residents have access to just one provider. This is technically illegal, but there’s no central oversight or control or easy way to file a complaint. Since Verizon can’t force a landlord to allow them access to the property, any landlord that won’t let Verizon run fiber optic cable is granted a waiver from doing so.
Of course, this isn’t proof in and of itself. Maybe the citizens of Jersey City and Newark are avowed lovers of Comcast or AT&T. According to the Communication Workers of America union, Verizon has been engaging in some extremely shady practices, trying to get landlords to opt out of receiving fiber without even knowing that they’re doing it. Thus far, no proposed explanation fits the data — there’s no evidence, for example, that population distributions are causing an unusual spike in waivers, or that landlords are actually, knowingly waiving their right to Verizon FiOS.
The problem, however, shouldn’t be laid solely at Verizon’s feet. The Verge also reports that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has stonewalled the investigation, refused to share information on why various waivers were granted, and stands accused of performing very little oversight on the deployment process. Verizon, meanwhile, has repeatedly said that it will not build out FiOS once its legal obligations to the state are met. This is scarcely the first accusation of bad behavior to hit the company; Verizon has reportedly sabotaged its own copper infrastructure in a bid to force residents to use fiber optic connections that aren’t subject to guarantees of service.