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October 10, 2015

Jim Kenney joins U.S. mayors in letter slamming Verizon

Mayors in Northeast U.S. say Verizon has not acted like a good corporate citizen; Verizon counters

Telecom Verizon
Jim Kenney Photo by @JimFKenney/Twitter

Councilman Jim Kenney

Philadelphia's mayoral frontrunner put his signature alongside 13 U.S. mayors this week criticizing telecom giant Verizon for allegedly failing to meet its contractual obligations and legislative deadlines in rolling out FiOS to additional service areas.

The letter, endorsed by the likes of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Pittsburgh's William Paduto and Paterson's Jose Torres, says that Verizon has not acted like a good corporate citizen with its lack of transparency and accountability.

Specifically, the mayors representing the Northeast U.S. charge Verizon with failing to create a competitive environment for consumers within "the core footprint of Verizon Communications."

Consistently and increasingly, our consumers have complained that FiOS service is not available to them. These are not isolated complaints - there are millions of residents in communities throughout the Northeast who have been left without service, and with no plan or promise of future resolution.

The impact of this limited service, the mayors argue, has been detrimental to local economic growth as consumers rely on Broadband service to search for employment, build home-based businesses and participate in civic activities. They also note that they have seen the workforce in the industry drop by a third over the last decade, making Verizon's commitment to job security questionable and further delaying the expansion of FiOS service.

The lack of service has become a particular problem for landline customers experiencing outages as Verizon abandons the copper network. The letter cites the New York Public Service Commission's recent Staff Assessment of Telecommunications in NY, which found that many in areas of New York City the legacy copper infrastructure is in such poor condition that weather conditions have caused prolonged outages that fail to meet quality standards.

The letter, addressed to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, calls for a renewed partnership with cities to address the mounting service concerns.

We want to partner with Verizon in the future so that all of our cities can thrive and grow in the digital economy of the 21st century. This includes clear steps to better serving consumers and resolving disputes with your workforce.

A spokesperson for Verizon, John Bonomo, said the company believes the letter is directly related to the ongoing union negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and that the allegations are unfounded. The company released the following statement. 

There is absolutely “no news” in this letter.

In all areas where Verizon has franchises and agreed to deploy FiOS, we have met or surpassed the deployment obligations.

Since Verizon started bargaining this year with the CWA, we’ve seen numerous half-baked and inaccurate letters and statements from Union leaders regarding Verizon’s FiOS commitments and more. It’s all nonsense. The reality is that all of these misguided PR stunts are an attempt by Union leaders to try and force the company to hire more union-represented employees which will, in turn, increase dues and revenues for the union. It won’t work.

If Union leaders truly want to positively represent their members, we suggest that they engage in constructive negotiations with the company with a goal of reaching a new contract that is reflective of today’s communications marketplace and is fair to our employees and our customers.

Philadelphia's representation in the letter echoes local criticism of Comcast, Verizon's biggest competitor in the region, for inadequate wi-fi in public places, customer dissatisfaction and a limited low-income program. Despite the letter to Verizon, the city is approaching a new franchise agreement to retain Comcast as the city's primary broadband service provider.