Is Verizon Violating Its Copper Network Settlement Already?

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.

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  1. Bkrasting

    Yves, Why fight progress? FIOS is 10 times better than copper. I have had for years. I have an old style home phone that worked just fine in the recent power outage. I had internet and tv when everyone with cable did not.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Bruce, while you may have had a great time on FIOS, you are an outlier. The review of the service have complaints about outages and unreliability that are much worse than anything I have experienced with DSL. The average time of outage is very long and it is impossible to reach a human to get any indication re status. My own building staff says they hear complaints about FIOS.

      1. Antony Baxter

        I’m another outlier. I live a little upstate from you in a heavily forested area. Both electricity and FiOS are delivered as overhead cables. In the last 3 weeks, thanks to the storms, I’ve been without mains power for 6 days, but have small generator for essentials, including the Verizon equipment. At no point did FiOS go out- miraculously the falling trees tended to only knock out the power lines. In the 3 years I’ve been there, I can’t recall a single FiOS outage. Of course, YMMV, but right now I’m a satisfied customer.

        Of course, the fact that I *have* to have a cable package as well annoys me. The cable box is still in its original packaging in the basement.

    2. Patrick

      I’d add that internet backbone has been fiber optic for decades. It is only the “last mile” that is still copper. If email kept working during 9/11, then that means you were sending your email over fiber, even if you did the last mile over DSL.

  2. Norello

    Your current experience with Verizon’s refusal to repair copper landlines sounds exactly like my experience with them about a year ago out on Long Island. My grandfather who is over 100 years old and living alone had his copper landline stop working. They gave us similar excuses why they could not and would not repair it. He needed phone service immediately for obvious reasons so we had no choice but to ditch the copper line.

    After they completed the new installation the people doing it told us the problem with the copper line was in the house and could have easily been fixed. Unfortunately another family member was the one there at the time and didn’t demand on the spot they repair the old line so that was that.

    The reliability of modern phone lines and cellphones is unacceptable. Around here, after hurricane Sandy power was out for a week causing home phone lines to be out of service quickly. What most people didn’t expect was that most cellphone carriers had widespread outages as well. The only person I knew with a working home phone or cellphone was my grandfather with his copper landline.

    These people have no decency, I don’t know how they sleep at night. The current phone system fails during severe emergencies, exactly when it is needed most. It’s hard to fathom how this was allowed to happen.

  3. djrichard

    “Verizon has told me I will lose my copper connection in May”. My understanding is that forced conversions like this fall under TDM to IP rule making by the FCC. And last time I looked, the NPRM by FCC said that carriers that did TDM to IP conversions had to offer like-for-like pricing. That is, no forced upsells.

    In the mean time, I can imagine Verizon will do everything in their power to “encourage” you to upgrade of your own volition to the higher pricing of FIOS. Which includes playing games with their service quality for their DSL service to you.

    It’s interesting that the settlement is a 4-party settlement. The other parties besides the CWA may provide better outreach/inreach – don’t know.

    The forums at might be a good place for you to start a conversation on this thread. They also have a good chart summary of reviews of FIOS and DSL: . Verizon DSL grades poorly compared to FIOS.

    Otherwise, given you have cable as an alternative, maybe consider that as a stop-gap to bridge your time until FIOS is available. The problem with migrating back and forth though is you may not be able to get the same service level and pricing that you have now. Or simply subscribe to both and treat the cable ISP as a backup until FIOS is up and running?

    “cable is a shared pipe, so your speeds will vary, while DSL is a dedicated line.” Once DSL aggregates at the head-end it becomes a shared service at that point. It basically comes down to how the last-milers want to over-engineer vs over-subscribe their services. “the effective speed I get with my supposedly antique DSL … is similar to or better than what I get in public WiFi hotspots.” In comparison to public WiFi hotspots, I wouldn’t worry about Cable-based ISPs.

    I want a landline, as in voice over copper. This may not be an option if they’re going to do a forced conversion of your building to FIOS. FIOS will have a local battery supply for your phone in case of power outages. That said, don’t believe that would last as long as a generator at the central office to power a landline during power outage.

    “a 4G hotspot in my apartment as a backup … can’t get a signal”. Take a look at your location on . Another 4G provider could provide better coverage for you.

    Good luck!

    1. djrichard

      P.S. the copper plant to your building may not be decommissioned by Verizon. Instead it may be sold off to another last-miler, so that they can offer DSL service to your building. I believe the FCC had proposed rule making on this as well (that the plant had to be sold off), but can’t remember. or other sites might have info on whether Verizon is doing that for forced conversions.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for the tips, but DSL reports gives grades based on speed v. cost and speed of installation. None of these are criteria I care about.

      I don’t need or want a super fast connection. What I want is minimum downtime, period. Based on what I have experienced with cable when traveling is that it is worse on downtime. The fact that I’ve experienced outages at relatives’ and friends’ homes and/or network problems that made the connection appallingly slow, is pretty telling given that these were short stays. I would not have expected to have a problem over a similar time period at my base.

      1. djrichard

        You can do a search of reviews just for your zipcode. If you click on a review you’ll see a scale to the right which also includes a scale on connection reliability.

        See Enter your zipcode and then just click on the first “go” button, after the “Tech” dropdown – you don’t even need to select anything in that dropdown unless you want to filter the results even more. The results are limited to recent reviews; so you’re not getting reviews that go far back in time.

        I had forgotten about this feature and had to go look to remember.

  4. diptherio

    A friend in Westchester Co. got forced to “upgrade” to fiber recently. IIRC, she’d been fighting Verizon for some time to keep the copper line, until one day they just said “It ain’t up to you” and just went ahead and did it. So now, her phone won’t work when the power goes out. Progress!

    1. The Rev Kev

      You got that right about the phones not working when you lose your internet connection. At least the copper lines let you make phone calls. Have experienced the same in Oz and when our net went down managed to get onto the telecommunications mob with a mobile. No humans of course and after following a rabbit holes of menu options and buttons to press, it lands you at the option saying that to “reconnect your internet, simply go to www-dot…” Arghhh!!


    I gave up fighting to keep my copper phone line. The frequency of outages kept increasing over the years. But in my case, living in the wilderness ten miles south of Albany, there are no FIOS or cable alternatives. Since I already had satellite intenet, I opted for VOIP. The slight time lag is annoying but it works most of the time. So much for deregulation unleashing the magic of the free market!

  6. John

    I live 65 miles outside the imperial capital on the Va/WVa border. Same deteriorating copper, no fios. Fios will never happen here until full democratic socialism decides high connectivity is the more important value. My full war with Verizon was about 15 years ago and after several complaints to the Va state corporation commission, they replaced a then highly degraded line. I got a call from corporate Verizon begging me to call them first in the future…rather than complaining to the Va SCC. I would go back to pre 1980s regulation or outright nationalization…same for grid and transportstion. Nothing could be worse than Mr. Market.

  7. landline

    I have a similar circumstance in San Francisco, although AT&T has not yet forced us to switch from copper to fiber. My primary concern is keeping the POTS landline, especially because we are proudly a cell phone free household. AT&T provides fiber to intermediate boxes which intersect with the existing multi strand copper cables to premises, so its customers can often keep a POTS landline while getting fiber speed internet connections, depending on the architecture. Verizon FIOS probably differs.

    Cable is out for us. We aren’t going to pay for TV, and I don’t want to deal with more companies than I must. So we are stuck with AT&T, which is our only option for provider powered POTS.

    Other than its portability, which is of course a big deal, cell phones are inferior to traditional landlines. I’d say about half the time I try to talk with someone on a cell phone, I can’t hear them clearly. Maybe that’s why most of the cell only folks are relying so much on text messages.

    Moving backwards, but, of course, more profits for the providers.

  8. Econ

    Interesting. I am just about to end my Verizon DSL service after about 20 years. I just got Spectrum (Time Warner) put in. I had many outages with the DSL. The last was with a storm on March 2. The Verizon guy who came to the building said he tried to do a patch but if it didn’t work, I should try “an alternative.” I said, “You mean Time Warner?” He said, “Yes.” The patch didn’t work.

    Verizon also recently tried raising the price 31% over 13 months. I got them to back down on the second rise.

    I was basically the only person in my building not on cable. It’s not wired for Fios and they have no reason to wire it. The guy said the copper system in the building was basically falling apart and anyone with a landline would soon lose that service.

    1. Discouraged in WI

      Just talked last week to two people (out of six of us) who had signed on with Spectrum. They were not happy. One had tried to call and complain, but apparently it is impossible to reach them by phone, so you have to go to the office and talk to someone there. She did; and after she waited two hours, talked to someone, and they said they would send a repair person out later that week. Person didn’t show up. She now has to go back to the office and sit around to try again.

  9. Brooklin Bridge

    A couple of years ago, Verizon was ramping up their effort to get us to convert. Instead of brochures explaining how happy we would be with fiber, they started to send pamphlets on Massachusetts recent law(s) which – translated – said the consumer can go suck on eggs; Verizon can do what ever it’s slimy little heart desires.

    So I thought loss of the copper line was immanent and for the hell of it, mentioned to my wife, out loud and right next to the phone, that it would probably be a good idea to drop the land line altogether if they forced us to go with fiber since that land line’s greatest value to us is for emergencies. I didn’t fail to mention our nearly 100 year old family member living with us and how I would sue Verizon’s pants off should something happen because the land line was unavailable. And lo and behold, we heard nothing more about fiber. All the brochures ceased, as did the implicit threats about Verizon’s ‘right’ to do what ever they want to their clients victims.

    For a while I mused half seriously that my threat in front of the phone had actually had an effect. Given that it’s Verizon, I just assumed they gather what ever we say within range, though technically I’m not sure how that would work with 30+ year old phone lines. Now, however, I suspect that was just my tin foil hat doing its job of keeping me on my toes and that it’s far more likely the timing simply coincided with a temporary change in policy.

    We still haven’t heard anything more about fiber but who knows how long that will last. I really don’t look forward to that final decision to go without a land line when they force the issue. There is something sort of ‘realty bursting in’ about such an event or perhaps ‘another leak in the boat’ would be more apropos. When it happens, I may try and set up something with the neighbors to provide some sort of mechanism to deal with emergencies.

  10. Michael Hudson

    Dear Yves,
    I’m sure you’ve thought of what I’ve always done with similar problems with Verizon: Call the Public Service Commission. This involves a large hassle with them, and also starts (and confirms) a paper trail that will not be “lost,” as happens with private companies.
    I also have only a land line, as I have difficulty hearing cell phones clearly, and I do many phone interviews that are clearer on a land line than with Skype or other electronic links. I want to keep it. By the way, NOBODY in my Forest Hills neighborhood has been able to get FIOS (not that I have any desire to do so). I don’t even understand why they advertise.

  11. Jean

    “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…”

    Apparently Verizon’s board of directors are ‘with the terrorists’ who want to destroy our way of life and cut communications in America and sell us out for a few more cents of dividends per share.

    1. Arizona Slim

      On 9/11/01, I watched the WTC towers collapse. I remember saying this to the TV:

      “There go the telecommunications for southern New York.”

  12. nervos belli

    1. I want a landline, as in voice over copper.

    And I want a buggy with a pony before it. That’s about the same. Every Telco in the world is removing all their equipment for POTS or in our case ISDN. The equipment is decades old, expensive to maintain and use, when it breaks there are no replacement parts to be had except scrounging old parts from other sites for reuse.

    The old phone system where the phone company powers your phones with 48V, the reason why it works with power outages and the like, is dead.

    Even if you don’t like new FIOS or don’t want cable, in the end you will have pretty much the same tech for your phones. “Phone” is now simply a service running on top of your internet connection. So if you lack Internet or the power is out, so is the phone. Buy a UPS for your router and a mobile if you want a backup, all you can do. Everyone in the world by now uses VoIP, without any exceptions. Even if the phone companies wanted to, they cannot make the old networks run forever without parts, and of course they don’t really want to either: costs. So it very well might have been actually old hardware that broke in your case.

    However, this new VoIP stuff is cheaper to run, so they should give you a discount. OK, fat chance with Verizon, but still.

    1. landline

      “Everyone in the world by now uses VoIP, without any exceptions.” Other commenters and I don’t use VOIP. I never thought of myself as exceptional. Thanks.

        1. landline

          I don’t think so. My CO hasn’t converted. My landline still works even when AT&T has an internet outage. Of course, it still works if I turn off the DSL gateway or lose power to my apartment. I am almost positive I still have old school POTS, not VOIP imitating POTS.

      1. nervos belli

        The next time your telco needs to work on your local exchange it will be digitized and converted to VoIP. Sure, as long as it runs, they will let it run, but on the next occasion, it’s gone.
        They manufacturers simply don’t make any new kit that is compatible any more.

        1. djrichard

          They manufacturers simply don’t make any new kit that is compatible any more.

          I don’t believe that’s true. Vendors bundle TDM-to-IP gateways with their new IP-based kits, both for the legacy trunk-side TDM interfaces as well as the legacy line-side TDM.

      2. Mark P.

        Other commenters and I don’t use VOIP.

        Seriously: Yes, you do and have done for approximately the last twenty-plus years. You just don’t know it.

        Everything — voice, internet, video, whatever — travels 99 percent of the way in Internet packet mode as photons via the fiberoptic backbone and just gets converted to electrons over copper — or not if you have FIOS — for the last few miles. That’s why: —

        [1] NSA and similar surveillance agencies — as Snowden revealed to you — have to first mirror the whole stream through cable, then filter down and translate individual communications. “Wiretapping” as a technological reality started disappearing in the 1980s, not that long after J. Edgar Hoover died and the Church Commission did its thing forty-some years ago. TPTB only talked about “warrantless wiretapping” to keep you confused;

        [2] Ajit Pai and the current FCC’s claims re. the ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, etcetera are laughable. Large segments of the fiberoptic backbone — most of it — are not owned by the ISPs.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is irrelevant for this discussion. The issue is that POTS works during power outages. All of the discussion that it is packetized downstream is irrelevant. It is analogue for the last mile to the home, from the home to the central office switch.

    2. Carolinian

      You are stating the phone company’s case and it has some merit. Since so many people now preferentially go with cell or cable or fiber it may be unreasonable to expect the phone providers to keep maintaining those copper lines which were once used by everyone. However by that same logic of practicality the phone companies should also not be able to gouge customers with fictitiously high prices for their services, forced bundling etc. They should also supply systems with battery backups good enough to ensure emergency service. It appears that Verizon et al want to have their cake–get rid of copper–and eat it too (not provide equivalent service and pricing).

      Sounds like a job for government regulation. If only….

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      And I want a buggy with a pony before it So you are saying something that works in an emergency is old fashioned and clunky whereas something that works by battery only for a few hours is the new hi tech and we have to just ‘Get with the program of progress?”

      This is progress for who?

    4. flora

      If only it were a just matter of technology. However, it is not. Phone service over copper line is a govt regulated utility. Phone service over internet service provider IP network line is not.

      This Verizon episode reminds me of Enron in California (*****ing over Grandma Millie) with orchestrated energy outages.*

      With the end of Network Neutrality I’m guessing this Verizon episode is just the start of more craptastic service at ever higher costs across multiple platforms. Too cynical?


      1. Carolinian

        Well, Congress could fix that if only they would. Perhaps we should be mad at them. Not that that will help Yves…..

    5. cyclist

      Since most people consider phone and internet an essential service and, because the digital fiber networks are inevitable, shouldn’t the providers be required to provide adequate DC voltage to insure the routers will function in case of power outage? After all, they could do this for the old copper POTS network.

      People in my area are generally happy with FIOS performance, until the price increases start to kick in. I have 50 Mbps IA via my cable company (with no cable TV) and use a very cheap VoIP service from a third party for my landline. It is pretty reliable but it will go out after my UPS unit on the modem and router runs down (about 8 hours last storm). So it is not entirely acceptable.

      1. nervos belli

        They should run an additional two cables together with the fibre so they can power your router for you?

        With copper, it was basically a byproduct how it all works, the phone company had the better generators a hundred years ago, etc. That is not the case anymore, the tech happens to be different. You have fast Internet and a very cheap phone. This phone can only be so cheap due to the way it all works: those 48V from the phone company were not cheap, far from it.

        As for the other commenter who asked “progress for whom?”, customers want fast and faster internet. I’m sure many many people liked their horses much better than the stinking unreliable automobiles, but here we are.
        It is actual progress, even if not everyone’s demand is met, phones hundred years ago certainly didn’t meet everyone’s either.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You are spouting phone company PR. Their efforts to get people to dump copper have NOTHING to do with maintaining the copper. We have subways running on 100 year old switching equipment. I was astonished how fast they got it back after Sandy. I was convinced the water (which I thought have enough nasties in it to corrode the switches) would leave some lines out for month.

          It is to escape being regulated as a common carrier. Among other things, they have minimum service standards and can’t play the anti-net neutrality games.

          Although the tech is not the same, the general principle is the same. In addition, there are technologies (I was reading about them ~2005) that can drive a lot more data through a copper line as long as you haven’t split it (which was done all the time in Australia but pretty much never in the US). So it wouldn’t be fiber speed, but you could get a lot higher date rates through copper without as much effort as all the whinging would have you believe.

          1. nowhere

            Maintaining equipment for a limited number of rail lines is problematic enough.

            “Hardt oversees the maintenance of the BART fleet, and he says that one of the most challenging aspects of his job is finding the antiquated parts for the fleet — many of which are no longer manufactured. When these old parts are no longer available from suppliers, Hardt often looks to eBay. But most of the time BART technicians are forced to buy newer parts and adapt them to be compatible with the old systems.”

            Maintaining hundreds of thousands of miles of copper wire, and the associated switching equipment is orders of magnitude more difficult. It’s probably part of why there aren’t any telegraph or telex or any other number of hardware/protocols from the not so distant past.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Not comparable. Rail lines are exposed to the elements and have stresses of trains running on them. While I see your point with wires running on telephone pole, that is not the environment in Manhattan. Telephone wiring is less exposed to the elements than the machinery in the much older and much more subject to the weather and wear and tear subway system.

              And since when is any system maintenance free? You posit an absurd standard as if it were a reasonable baseline. I’ve been in towns in Europe where irrigation systems from the Roman days are still important parts of the municipal infrastructure.

              1. dimmsdale

                Yves, I humbly thank you for this thread for a couple of reasons. For one, I’ve been figuratively beating Safari about the head & shoulders with an umbrella for days, trying to get it to load pages without hanging up; resetting caches and all the hoo-ha the internet suggests about chronic Safari slowness. Now it turns out it’s Verizon’s fault, and today Safari is humming like a bee.

                Also for your insistence on maintaining your copper line, for reasons that I heartily agree with. I’ve stashed 2 copper-line handsets (both over 30 years old) for power-off use. I used them during 9/11 and during Sandy. I was able to field phone calls from out-of-town friends to check on their loved ones near Ground Zero as a result.

                I loathe the skips, delays, and poor voice quality of non-wireline phone calls. I’m bookmarking this thread for when I need to know about things like getting the PSC involved. There ought to be a Users Group for wireline holdouts; you’re exceptionally proactive at this and I appreciate your sharing your experience more than I can say.

              2. nowhere

                My apologies – it wasn’t meant to be absurd. I was simply pointing to the fact that while, yes, maintenance is required (I have worked in heavy industry seems to forget that fact), the forward motion of existing systems toward new systems that require less material and human resources is the general flow of history.

                Also, water flowing downhill isn’t really comparable to to even 19th century telegraph systems, much less copper phone systems.

                I’d much rather discuss the benefits of municipal broadband ownership, than the reasons maintaining copper phone lines is a rear guard action, at best. I’m all for spending vast sums on infrastructure, but I don’t see any large value in maintaining copper phone lines.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  I appreciate the apology but this is still frustrating. You don’t appear to understand the basic premise here. We also still use and maintain electrical lines that are of the same vintage, more or less, as copper phone connections.

                  And the reason for having copper is safety. You must be lucky enough never to have been in a place with an serious electrical outage. Remember Sandy? At least there was power sort of nearby. Most people were having to walk, often long distances, to get to a Starbucks or fast food joint to get their phones charged. What happens to people who are mobility restricted or have an injury? What about, more specifically, people trapped in their apartments because they can’t take steps and the elevators aren’t working? You are willing to see them die if they fall and break something or have a heart attack because copper offends you as too old?

                  I’ve been in places where the power has been down for 48, even 72 hours. Copper connections are vital.

                  This is really an appalling attitude since the phone companies are perfectly capable of charging enough to make it profitable for them to keep having POTS and related services for those who want to pay enough for them. You act as if you are being made to bear costs when you aren’t.

          2. ChrisPacific

            How on earth are they not a common carrier if they are laying fibre? The company that’s doing it here was split off as a regulated utility, just as the US once did with its carriers.

            Is it that the language is written in such a way as to include copper but exclude fibre, and the telcos are taking it as an opportunity to re-bundle? If fibre-based infrastructure is subject to different regulations from copper when they are clearly intended for the same purpose, then that would seem to be the key issue here.

            1. djrichard

              They concoct their reasoning around their services being IP-based rather than TDM based. Take a look at the FCC rule making on TDM to IP migration to see how much the FCC has bought into that concoction.

              1. ChrisPacific

                Thanks – that provides a little more context. So it looks like this is ultimately a question about the tension between operating to maximize profits and operating to provide a public service, and the extent to which corporations have been allowed to use one as a proxy for the other.

          3. Mark P.

            Yves to Nervos Belli: You are spouting phone company PR.

            Yves —

            No. Nervos Belli could put it more diplomatically than “you want a horse and buggy.’ But no, he/she is not just spouting phone company PR; they’re telling it like it is.

            Over the last thirty years almost all signals and telephony — voice, video, etc. — has been moved to fiberoptic networks where it travels as photons 99 percent of the way in Internet packet mode, then gets converted to electrons traveling over copper wire in classical telephony-style for the last mile. (Though satellite-relayed telephony is starting to make a comeback.)

            Fiberoptic is massively more bandwidth and practically instantaneous. Remember back in the day when you’d make an intercontinental call and there’d be a lag? Well, the last few decades there’s no lag and that’s why.

            And now it’s 2018 and they’re coming to take out that last mile of copper.

            You write —

            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.

            Come on. This is America where TPTB never leave any money on the table for the mopes. They want to do a forced upsell to get more money out of you for something that will happen anyway.

            cable is a shared pipe, so your speeds will vary, while DSL is a dedicated line.

            No. Fiberoptic is so massively more bandwidth it shouldn’t matter that it’s shared. The only reason you could get slower speeds is either deliberate throttling or incompetent/cheap engineering.

            If you travel overseas, you’ll soon notice that the USA pretty much has the worst, slowest Internet in the developed world, despite the fact that the Internet was developed there. In the places where it’s better, one of the reasons is that they’re further ahead with the transition to fiber.

            1. djrichard

              And now it’s 2018 and they’re coming to take out that last mile of copper.

              I remember creating a model (on my own) of Verizon’s business case for FTTH/Fios. It was a 13 year payback. Which is well outside the 3 to 5 year max payback period that Telco’s are wont to deal with. Which is why Verizon redlined neighborhoods where they didn’t think they would get the penetration and feature-rich subscription levels that would make their investment worthwhile.

              So what we’re seeing now is Verizon (and now AT&T) going after remaining low hanging fruit. They have no desire to put fiber into places where they’re still stuck with poor payback risk. That’s why they’re looking at wireless substitution in the rural space per the article that Flora linked to. And that’s why they’ll still continue to redline poor neighborhoods in metro areas and leave them on copper. Unless and until they can get more money out of those poor subscribers.

              To put in perspective, ISPs in general make 90% profit margin and above on high-speed data service. That’s on existing plant. Why should they rip and replace that just to capture the same revenue stream? The only reason to rip and replace that is to capture a higher revenue stream. And to do that, they need to upsell. But how do you upsell to somebody who is happy with their current subscription levels? What if you convince them that there is no alternative, but to move to higher rate plan on the new technology?

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              You are being obfuscatory. The issue is NOT what happens upstream.

              And you are also misrepresenting the real issue. Despite Verizon’s whinging about oh how hard it is to maintain copper (not, given my building staff reports on this matter), the real issue is that for copper, they are subject to being regulated as a common carrier and at least in NYC and perhaps in NY state, the workers are unionized. I’m not ever sure it’s the cost that sticks in Verizon’s craw, but what they perceive as the nuisance of dealing with

              What happens on the backbone isn’t very relevant to the consumer experience. What matters to a significant degree in the consumer experience is what is referred colloquially to the last mile to the home (things like upstream v. downstream capacity, shared pipe or not, latency, although you can sometimes have latency issues further upstream) and the server infrastructure.

              You can go on all you want about the US having terrible broadband. I agree but you are COMPLETELY missing my point. I have used faster connections in terms of download speeds. For my uses, all of that supposedly great extra speed makes just about nada difference in how fast pages of the sites I access load.

              And all of the ratings and discussion on the supposed quality of broadband leave out of the picture my most important criterion: uptime. My experience based on use here v. my use of cable and fiber when traveling is that the DSL I have at home has less downtime. I have had some total horrors on the road that (prior to Verizon going rogue in the last week) that are utterly outside anything I had on my DSL connection.

              It may be that I have a better DSL installation than most by virtue of being in Verizon’s DSL trial (as in a guinea pig, I got free service which they bizarrely forgot to reverse for years, as well as a fixed IP address for IIRC 7 years), that they somehow over-engineered what I have compared to later standard installations (they pulled a new line in rather than run it on my existing landline; I have no idea if that is normal or not).

  13. Anarcissie

    A long time ago, I made a lowball (underpriced, underserved) contract with Verizon for DSL and voice on copper, which I still have; the deal states that the price will never be raised. In recent years I have been periodically harassed with junk mail and even phone calls advertising FIOS. The sales campaigns have often been accompanied by poor service which seems to go away when the campaigns are in remission. I told Verizon I would accept FIOS on the same terms and at the same price as my present service, which their representatives laughed off. However, I am hoping the FIOS continues to be mythical, because a friend of mine has it and it fails rather often. I’d be interested in any joint legal action around these issues.

    1. GF

      Try Small Claims Court as an harassment technique. An NC link last week to an Inc. mag article about a fellow who took Equifax to small claims court for the breach that resulted in his information being hacked resulted in a $5,200 payout and much consternation from the big corporate law firm trying to defend against him. Amounts vary by jurisdiction that can be sued for and some don’t allow lawyers at all. May be worth a try.

  14. Altandmain

    I have been increasingly convinced that there must be a publicly owned Crown corporation that provides internet and other telecommunications services to the public

    The abuses of Verizon, Time Warner cable, Comcast, AT&T, etc have forced this necessity. They have repeatedly abused their position and act like local monopolies, which they are. The same could be said about Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Shaw in Canada.

  15. HopeLB

    We received a letter from IDT, our copper landline phone company, that copper will no longer be supported and that we must switch to fiber. We live in Pttsburgh, PA. I’ll see if I can find out from our City Council members if this is true. We have many elderly homeowners in the neighborhood with only copper wired phones for communication.

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    Solve the emergency problem when power is down, or continue to support (and manufacture what ever is needed to do so) copper. Period.

  17. Adrienne

    As nervos belli mentions above, copper lines are at end-of-life. IIRC it’s the switches that are the problem, not the wires so much. DSL runs thru cabinets that have limited connections, which local telcos have been overstuffing for years. The whole legacy phone system is going to rot and VOIP is really going to be the only way to get a ‘landline’ phone going forward. Get a battery backup and a cheap cell phone plan, if you don’t already have them.

    1. JBird

      The whole is system is “going to rot” because they refuse to maintain it. Any infrastructure requires maintenance. Just think of bridges, trains, sewers, roads and freeways. They all require it.

      This is just another way to steal, and if we did drop the previously very solid, but allowed to rot copper lines and switch to fios, in a few years that would be allowed to decay and some fabulous new communications system costing even more would be offered.

      This is like allow a bridge to collapse then offering new, improved, and very expensive ferry rides. The bridge collapsed? Well it is too expensive to rebuild. Here, try this wonderful ferry. It has Starbucks and a bar, easy chairs and Wi-Fi!! Oh it cost $150 each way. So sorry!

      Bleep that.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Should we also get two tin cans and a very long piece of string while we are at it? Maybe it is time that NC punches another article out on crapification to remind a few people that if the new gear performs worse than what it is replacing, that is by no measure “progress”.

  18. steelhead

    I empathize with you. Century Link did the same thing with me. Extreme outages, no technical or customer service until I finally got directly in contact with the VP in charge in Louisiana and he assigned an Idaho contact. After a complete overhaul of the infrastructure (7Mbs) and a significant service credits,up selling and numerous deceptions I cannot access the copper wire for exclusive landline service. My technical skills are good but not perfect. Good luck with the fight. If there is some more background that I can convey to you. please let me know.

  19. XXYY

    There are a number of issues here (general reliability and bandwidth), but the one that keeps jumping out in the discussion above is functionality during power outages.

    In the Good Old Days, the phone system worked by running a single twisted pair of wires from the nearest phone company switching center to your house. Your phone received 48V power over the wires (and also carried bidirectional voice, ring, and off-hook signals, a neat piece of 19th century engineering). Switching centers had huge banks of 48V batteries and could continue to run for a time after utility power was lost. (It said also possible that power could be off at your house and on at the switching center, depending on the scope of the outage.) So this arrangement had some resilience if local utility power went down, limited by the backup power at the switch.

    Of course, the situation is much more complex now. Using a miles-long pair of copper wires to carry the voice traffic for one household is extremely wasteful, since the bandwidth is so low and it’s not in use most of the time. Phone companies have tried to increase the return on their wires by things like DSL, which allow data and voice service to be run in the same point-to-point fashion between the switching office and the customer premises on the same pair of wires. However, this does not reduce the number of wires needed, just increases the revenue per wire pair. It does still provide the user some independence from local power outages, depending on the details of the backup power for the digital equipment at the switch.

    Obviously all this old technology is very much at odds with current communications approaches, where the emphasis is to use a single high speed medium (fiber, microwave radio, etc.) and share it amongst as many users as possible. Modern communications technologies (cable, internet backbone, cell phones) all use this latter approach. This approach requires signal processing nodes that need power at almost every step, so the system has more opportunities for something to stop working if the power goes down somewhere along the line. I don’t know if this is exactly bad; the US transportation system used to run on hay when the 2-wire phone system was invented, and now it runs on oil and gas. We’re now vulnerable to gas shortages in a way we weren’t in 1890 (hay shortages are no problem, though). I don’t see many people reverting to horses despite this vulnerability.

    I agree our communications system needs to be more resilient when we lose power. Cell phone towers typically only have battery power to last a few hours, so cellular (even when normally available) becomes useless in short order if the power is off for long, as we saw after hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. One approach would be a satellite phone or sat data system, which doesn’t require local infrastructure at all and would be usable after pretty much any local disaster, as long as you can get a view of the sky. There are also emergency transmitters meant for lost hikers that send a distress signal over a sat channel. These are fairly expensive and don’t have much capacity, though might give peace of mind to people who are really worried about it. Seems like cities should take the lead here in providing disaster communications for their inhabitants. I don’t think this would be the hardest problem in the world if it were considered important.

  20. bob

    In most areas of NYS Verizon is half owner of the utility poles it shares with the electric utility. If it doesn’t share, it owns the whole pole.

    Double wood poles are a big, and getting bigger problem that they show no willingness to fix. They’ve been leaving giant hairballs of cable hanging off poles.

    Double wood-

    Whereby the electric utility replaces the existing rotting pole with a new one. They place the new pole next to the existing one, transfer the electric lines at the top of the pole to the new pole, and cut the top off of the existing pole. Verizon is supposed to follow and move their line to the new pole, and get rid of what is left of the old pole.

    There are areas of NYS where every pole is double wood. It’s usually left up to the municipality to threaten the franchise agreement to get them to get rid of the old poles.

    It seems they’re trying to have it both ways. They want access and ownership of the poles, to run FIOS, but they don’t want any of the costs, and they don’t want the customers to have any rights under common carrier laws that apply to POTS lines.

  21. Grebo

    The big city in my neck of the woods had to replace much of its copper with fibre a few years ago when the price of copper was high. Not because it wanted to, the local scallies kept nicking the cable.

  22. Dave_in_Austin

    1) Send a register letter to the office-of-record pointing out your need for a pots because of age, health and location on the upper floors and pointing out the potential liability to the corporation;
    2) File the written complaint with the public utility commission immediately and attach a copy of the registered letter;
    3) File the ADA complaint with the feds;
    4) ask your users who are on the inside to send you copies of documents and descriptions of how the system really works- and have them sent via the post office TO YOUR POB ONLY. Ask them to provide a pseudonym so you can publicly respond. Then scan the docs at low resolution and destroy the originals- no fingerprint/DNA trail. Them post the docs on the website.

  23. Brian

    in small town (32K) Spectrum has 60gbs, about $60 a month solo. Outage time, near zero. Century broadband, slower by half, nearly the same price. customer service from Century has never approached adequate. customer service from Spectrum has always been good to better.
    Problem is, small town US v. Big Town US.

  24. blennylips

    Nobody does headlines like the!

    Real world example of one of your points:

    ‘Apparently we don’t deserve mobile phone coverage’: Furious homeowners had NO IDEA a ‘hellish firestorm’ was heading their way after a phone tower collapsed – as ABC Radio ‘played a footy game instead of news alerts’

    (found via today’s – 20th – jumping jackflash hypothesis on

  25. Keenan


    Sometime 2 April late PM & early AM 3 April I’ve no dialtone but DSL works here in suburban Pittsburgh. Calling to report the problem from a neighbor’s phone I simply left my gripe of the recorded line as the wait was predicted to be 1.5 -2 hrs to speak with an agent..due to the “unusually large volume of calls”. Tells me the problem is widespread affecting lots of subscribers.

    Later the neighbor said a verizon agent called back saying that the company was discontinuing copper and the rest of the spiel you had about a box, scheduling an appt to make the change etc. Also said the company had sent out a notice of this in the phone bill.

    Well, the copper is still there & functioning since DSL works fine. And since I get bills on line, I searched back through their images of the paper bills & there’s nothing in them referencing any sort of drop dead date on copper or any request to switch to Fios.

    Seems to me either the agents are just making up stories and providing typically crapified verizon service.

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