New York City lawmakers questioned executives from Verizon and their commitment to follow through with an existing agreement to offer high-speed broadband throughout all the boroughs.
Council members, joined by Public Advocate Letitia James, were flummoxed by why so many New York City residents can’t access Verizon FiOS service, while the company’s executives argued its systems pass through all city households and that the most significant hold up falls on lack of cooperation from landlords and property managers.
The deal, inked and signed by the Bloomberg administration in 2005, expected to pass fiber optic cables through all residential households by June 30, 2014.
Verizon argued it met the requirement by installing the arteriesfor service and that the disconnect is in being unable to connect the service, which they they was not part of the agreement.
“It’s nice that the Bloomberg administration whitewashed your agreement on compliance,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander, who said he tried to get FiOS service but was told by customer service that service was unavailable.
When Kevin Service, a vice president for Verizon’s network operations, began to say he shared Lander’s desire to offer its services to more New Yorkers, Lander interrupted.
“It’s not a desire,” Lander said. “It’s a contractual obligation.”
The de Blasio administration levied criticism against Verizon in June when its technology and telecommunications agency released a scathing audit finding that company failed to meet the agreement.
Leecia Eve, a vice president for state government affairs at Verizon, told the council the company has been a willing, transparent partner, fending off criticism that they were not committed to meeting its agreement with the city.
“We have participated in good faith negations,” she said as some audience members erupted in protest. “We have 2 million households than can request FiOS today and get installed tomorrow.”
Council members pushed back on the executives’ position that many of the homes that currently don’t have access to fiber optic service lack it because of a lack of access to properties by either landlords or property managers who either refuse or are unresponsive.
Eve said the company is resolute in its commitment to the city, and that it has spent $3.5 billion dollars on the initiative.
“We believe addressing our challenges and talking about a path forward…is the right thing and the smart thing to do in the best interest of our customers,” Eve said.
Nonetheless, Queens Councilman Donovan Richards warned Verizon that their agreement is up for renewal in 2017.
“We will hold you accountable if you do not do your due diligence,” he said.