Bruce Kushnick: The Great Verizon FiOS Ripoff:
Whatever amount Verizon did spend on FiOS — and obviously it was a not insignificant amount — would therefore appear to have come out of the standard construction budgets that were supposed to be used to upgrade the lines that most Americans are still using for their phone service: the Public Switched Telephone Networks, or PSTN. It would seem that customers, including seniors, low income families, minorities and municipalities have been funding the construction of a cable service through the hefty monthly fees they pay for a dialtone and ancillary services. In some states this is actually illegal.
If Verizon did actually spend $23 billion, then it appears to have come at the expense of the traditional maintenance and upgrades of the utility plant — and the PSTN got totally hosed. At the very least, prices for basic phone service should have been in steep decline as one of the major costs, construction, was dramatically lowered.
Instead, Verizon was also getting rate increases specifically to pay for FiOS. For instance, Verizon persuaded New York officials to increase rates for “fiber optic investments,” where the only service that could use the fiber optic service was Verizon’s FiOS.
For instance, when New York State Department of Public Service Commission Chairman Garry Brown announced the approval of a $1.95 a month rate hike for residential phone lines in 2009, he said “there are certain increases in Verizon’s costs that have to be recognized.” He explained: “This is especially important given the magnitude of the company’s capital investment program, including its massive deployment of fiber optics in New York. We encourage Verizon to make appropriate investments in New York, and these minor rate increases will allow those investments to continue.”
Of course the states weren’t told that everyone would be charged extra for a service that only some people were going to get. In New Jersey, for instance, Verizon made a firm commitment to rewire the entire state with fiber optics — capable of 45 Mbps in both directions. It was supposed to be 100 percent completed by 2010. Instead, Verizon claims to have “passed” 1.9 million homes, representing 57 percent of the households in its territories — but “passed” may or may not mean that they can actually get service.