New York City sues Verizon for not completing citywide fiber network

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New York City has slapped Verizon with a lawsuit that claims the telecommunications conglomerate broke a 2008 contract to provide citywide fiber coverage, depriving residents of competitively priced options for better television and internet service.

In a statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Verizon must face the consequences for breaking the trust of 8.5 million New Yorkers. Verizon promised that every household in the city would have access to its fiber-optic FiOS service by 2014. It’s 2017 and we’re done waiting. No corporation — no matter how large or powerful — can break a promise to New Yorkers and get away with it.”

Verizon claims it is already capable of providing FiOS service to 2.2 million households in New York City. According to Ars Technica, however, this means that almost one million New York City households still do not have access to Verizon’s fiber network, as it has 3.1 million households.

In its complaint, which was filed in New York Supreme Court on Monday, New York City says that the agreement called for Verizon “to install fiber optic cable — in underground conduit, along above-group utility poles, or otherwise — in front of (or behind) each residential building” by 2014.

The city alleges that Verizon not only did not fulfill that agreement, but also “failed in many instances — believed to number at least in the tens of thousands — to timely complete installations as requested by potential subscribers, leaving such New Yorkers without the desired television service. Indeed, Verizon has failed even to accept many New Yorkers’ requests for FiOS service, although [its agreement with the city] requires it to do so.”

Not only does this inconvenience consumers, but Verizon “undermined one of the central goals of making FiOS available to every resident in the City: to expand New Yorkers’ options for receiving cable television service and thereby to create competition that would constrain prices and enhance quality,” the complaint continued.

In a letter to Anne Roest, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Verizon hit back. The company said it had understood the agreement to mean that it would lay its fiber-optic network along the same route previously used for its copper line, and that the city’s interpretation was impractical.

“Digging up City streets and sidewalks on the scale that you are demanding would cause enormous and unnecessary disruptions to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and would impose immeasurable inconvenience and hardship on countless residents and businesses,” claimed Craig Silliman, Verizon’s executive vice president of public policy and general counsel.

In an email, a Verizon spokesman told TechCrunch, “Mayor De Blasio should read our agreement with the city. Then he could clearly conclude – as others have before him – that we have lived up to our obligation 100 percent. We’d appreciate his support in getting access to buildings where landlords resist allowing us to build fiber to people’s homes.”

The dispute dates back to 2015, when New York City released an audit of Verizon’s fiber coverage.

Disclosure: TechCrunch is a property of AOL, a Verizon company.

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