Bway.net, a New York Internet provider. “The
small guys have tried to fight this re-monopolization of the network
He and other smaller rivals contend the communications market is fast
becoming a two-player game between giant phone and cable companies –
diminishing consumer choice.
While AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. are also
retiring their copper networks, they’re not touching the so-called “last
mile” of copper wiring that runs from each customer’s dwelling to the
central office where other lines aggregate. Laying fiber, a robust
pipeline, through the last mile is much more expensive because each line
goes to a particular home or business.
Verizon is taking the pricey route because it believes fiber offers a
superior service that will lure customers away from cable operators, who
now offer telephone service in addition to television and high-speed
Besides limiting options down the road, the switch to FiOS can have
other implications. Unlike copper-connected phone service, FiOS doesn’t
work during power outages once a backup battery goes out – not even for
emergency calls. Home-alarms and certain other devices work best with
Rabe, the Verizon spokesman, said the company will restore copper to
homes if the customer insists, but Verizon would rather not reconnect
the copper and will try to convince the customer to agree. At any rate,
the phone giant provides ample warning, he said.
An example of what Rabe describes as adequate notice is the fine print
on Verizon’s FiOS policy, which is printed on its Web site. It says
“current Verizon Online DSL customers who move to FiOS Internet service
will have their Verizon Online DSL permanently disabled after their FiOS
Bill Kelm, a FiOS customer in suburban Dallas, filed a complaint with
the Federal Trade Commission last year because of Verizon’s
“inconspicuous” policy rules.
“It’s buried within these long terms of service that people never take
the time to read,” he said. “It needs to be more conspicuous.”
While Kelm has no quarrel with FiOS itself – he pays $145 a month for
TV, Internet and phone – he would like to have been told before he
signed up that Verizon would cut the copper. He was counting on
Verizon’s clearly advertised 30-day money back guarantee in case he
didn’t like the service and wanted to switch back.
“I blew a gasket,” Kelm said. “The 30-day money back guarantee was
worthless in my opinion.”
He’s also concerned that Verizon initially priced its current FiOS
service lower only to jack rates up once the subscriber is reeled in.
“Then, you’re stuck,” Kelm said.