Updated with Verizon comment below
. Verizon has been taking a hammering of late for their decision to tell Sandy victims, nearly a year after the storm, that they will never see their POTS and DSL lines repaired
. Instead, Verizon foisted a wireless service called Voice Link upon those customers, a service that didn't include data, suffered from numerous feature shortcomings, and generally wasn't much of a replacement for DSL and POTS whatsoever.
After criticism from consumer advocates, the FCC (sort of
), New York's PSC
and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
for effectively hanging up on storm victims, Verizon appears to have made some concessions. The company today announced they'll be running FiOS to Fire Island's 600 users
"In today's competitive marketplace it's all about making sure you can take care of customers because if you don't they can go someplace else. Interestingly on Fire Island, there is no place else, so we listened to our customers," Maguire said. "It was pretty apparent that we wanted to do something beyond Voice Link and the wireless network, so we think that fiber is the best course."
Except it wasn't "pretty apparent"; Verizon had stated quite clearly they didn't think upgrading was worth it, which is why consumers were yelling and regulators were forced to action in the first place. The fines per line Verizon was facing for violating NY PSC rules are what changed Verizon's mind.
While great for these 600 users on Fire Island, there's no word on what's going to happen to the other Sandy victims across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania
who find themselves in the same boat (I've asked Verizon for comment). In many of those areas customers are similarly being given Voice Link as a supposed fixed-line alternative. Users that have a choice are fleeing to Comcast
, who has shown they actually want to keep customers in many storm-ravaged areas.
Many consumer advocates, regulators and reporters haven't quite
figured out yet that Sandy is being used primarily as cover to allow Verizon to walk away from markets they never wanted to keep or upgrade anyway. After signing a co-marketing arrangement with the cable industry
in late 2011, Verizon has been more than happy to nudge unwanted customers to the cable industry, who'll in turn sell them far-more profitable Verizon LTE services (would you like to bundle RedBox Instant by Verizon
with your $15 per gigabyte overages, sir?).
There's an ocean of consumer ramifications in Verizon ceding huge swaths of already marginally-competitive fixed-line broadband markets to the cable industry. In many Sandy areas, Verizon's simply hanging up the phone. In non-Sanday areas, Verizon's using price hikes and forced bundling
to drive unwanted customers to cable. While Verizon's treatment of Sandy victims thankfully appears to have gotten public attention, the full context of Verizon's larger plan is something that few seem to have really keyed in on just yet.Update
: Verizon got back to me with a comment on this story, published in its entirety below. The long and short of it is: Fire Island is going to be the exception, not the rule -- and things are not going to be changing for similarly-impacted areas up and down the East Coast. Says Verizon:
First, Fire Island presented us with a unique set of circumstances.
Our teams have spent hundreds of hours on Fire Island, meeting community leaders, and listening to our customers to understand how we could help the community be whole again after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the communications infrastructure serving the western part of the island.
Fire Island presented a unique set of circumstances unlike any we’ve ever encountered before. Verizon remains the sole provider of communications services. No other provider has been willing to invest in a network for the island. These unique circumstances led to Verizon’s decision to construct a fiber-optic network on Fire Island.
In doing so, Verizon will operate three networks on the Western portion of Fire Island – the functional remains of legacy copper network, a state of the art wireless network, and a futuristic fiber-optic network. This gives residents and vacationers options like no other provider has...
In other areas, (like Mantaloking), customers already have the option of receiving services from differing wired and wireless providers.