Verizon’s conduct towards me with my recent outages and its plan to force me on to its fiber optic network in May appear to represent a violation of its copper network settlement agreement. And if it is happening to me, it has to be happening to other people.
The high level story is that on March 12, Verizon entered into an settlement resulting from an investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over Verizon’s failure to maintain its copper network. I am attaching the settlement at the end of this post.
Let me turn the mike over to Ars Technica for an overview:
Verizon has agreed to fix failing copper networks and boost fiber deployment in New York, two years after state officials began investigating the quality of Verizon landline phone and broadband service.
A settlement with Verizon “will require the company to repair 54 central offices across the state, replace bad cable, defective equipment, faulty back-up batteries, and to take down 64,000 double telephone poles,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said last week. “The agreement also includes increased broadband buildout to major apartment buildings in New York City and more than 30,000 homes across the state.”
Here is the only section relating to certain Manhattan apartment buildings (and you can check the settlement yourself):
Verizon will identify 100 copper-fed building locations in New York City with a high incidence of repair visits by technicians and will replace the existing copper facilities to those locations with fiber optics.
Verizon has told me I will lose my copper connection in May, although they try to present this as an upgrade. Mind you, this comes after they have been trying to get me to sign up for FIOS voluntarily. I believe that that represents a violation of their status as common carrier.
Their insistence raises the question of whether Verizon could have been making misrepresentations in connection with the settlement. I have confirmed with my building’s staff that Verizon has not been making visits for repairs. If their contention is that they are doing this to comply with the settlement, it would appear that they had to have falsely depicted at least some of the FIOS installation activity as copper repairs.
It seems like quite the coincidence that virtually as soon as Verizon inked its settlement deal that it had by far the most sustained outages in Manhattan than I have experienced in my entire history of having a DSL connection. I was in Verizon’s DSL trial, I believe in 1997. They have not had outages longer than at most 6 hours in many many years. Suddenly, they have serious service problems for what in my case has been five full days.
iThe problem started Wed morning at 5:00 AM. I never got a sustained lack of connectivity. Instead I had a connection that was barely working. I have been able to download e-mails pretty much all the time, although sending them (via a non-Verizon e-mail account) has been off and on. However, accessing sites is an entirely different matter; it varies but few sites load, the ones that do do so slowly, and the ones I can get versus not is not consistent (with Naked Capitalism being a prime example).
I didn’t even call the first two days because the recorded message said that Verizon was having extended customer hold times due to “severe weather in the Northeast”. Silly moi though this might means they’d had something happen to a customer call center. Mind you, the “weather” we had in Manhattan wasn’t bad and the Boston area had had vastly worse storms in the past two years without it creating Internet havoc.
When I finally called, the reps admitted to “outages” all over Manhattan and were giving me speeches about how terrible copper is, that rodents chew on the lines and I should have gotten a notice saying I would be having FIOS installed in May. I have thrown all FIOS letters out assuming they are yet more sales pitches, not being noodled like a goose.
Then I kept being given promises as to when the service would be back to normal that kept being missed: 12:00 AM, then 8:00 AM, then 5:00 PM. When I called at 8:00 PM, the rep said it would be “just a few minutes” and seemed to want me there for live feedback. After about a half hour of that, I decamped (again) to Starbucks.
When I came back after 11:00 AM, the service was as bad as before. Verizon had a new excuse. They had a second problem, which they said was a cable went out and they had to order new equipment. I got another set of rolling “this will be fixed” estimates, with the last being Saturday AM.
Even though things were better on Saturday, the connection was still very sluggish and a speed test showed it was not up to par. A Verizon rep said he “cleared congestion on the line,” which sounds like a bafflegab admission that they were throttling me even at my low speed. After that, my connection seemed normal.
By Sunday, we were back to square one. I was repeatedly unable to access Verizon’s own speed test site. When I did, the tests usually failed to complete. The one time it did finish, I got a speed in the “trouble” range.
In other words, this looks an awful lot like an engineered effort to force more conversions to FIOS, or at least an awfully convenient outbreak of bad luck and incompetence. And all the reps acted as if I have no ability to stay on copper, which sounds bogus legally, but it’s hard to fight a monopolist.
Normally I would firm this all up a bit more before going public, but you can see I have a reason to get the word out and see if readers know of similarly situated DSL users in New York City. I am also trying to get in contact with the general counsel’s office for the Communication Workers of America. Any help very much appreciated.
And if you must know why I am so insistent upon keeping old-fahioned copper:
1. I want a landline, as in voice over copper. I was in NYC during 9/11. The cell phone networks were unusable. The only way you could reach someone was via e-mail or landline. Similarly, when the Northeast had its power outage, landlines still worked. I’m 60 and on a moderately high floor of an apartment building. I want to have assured ability to reach emergency services
2. When it is working, which until last week was pretty much all the time, the effective speed I get with my supposedly antique DSL (as in how quickly pages download) with my computer connected by an Ethernet cable to a modem, is similar to or better than what I get in public WiFi hotspots. So the bandwidth is fine for my purposes
3. When I have had cable, and when I have used cable when traveling, the speeds are worse than I get with my copper DSL. So I don’t have great confidence about cable as an alternative. When I had it in NYC (many years ago) it was peppier than DSL, but the DSL speeds have gotten better since then. Moreover, cable is a shared pipe, so your speeds will vary, while DSL is a dedicated line.
4. Until last week, outages were rare and a few hours at most, usually in the middle of the night, which means they were almost certainly maintenance
5. I am curious to get current reports, but my impression is Verizon’s FIOS has as many, and the impression I have from customers is more, outages than my DSL
And finally, I have tried getting a 4G hotspot in my apartment as a backup. Guess what? I can’t get a signal (and yes, the device works elsewhere). So minimizing downtime is far more important to me than to most netizens.verizon-cwa-settlement