Verizon Expands Fiber Offering in New York

A deal developed through the New NY Broadband Program will extend fiber-optic Internet service to 50,000 residents.

by Larry Rulison, Times Union, Albany, N.Y. / July 17, 2018
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(TNS) — Verizon is planning to bring high-speed fiber-optic Internet service to nearly 50,000 customers across the state in the coming years after agreeing to a deal with state regulators to improve its network.

Verizon has traditionally used copper-wiring for its network, but fiber-optic lines can carry more data at much faster speeds, enabling Internet service at 100 megabits per second and higher that copper wires cannot achieve.

The deal announced Thursday by the state Public Service Commission builds on a $106 million plan Verizon has developed through the state's New NY Broadband Program to bring fiber service to 15,515 customers across upstate. The state is providing in $70 million in assistance on that project, which includes Capital Region neighborhoods.

As part of Thursday's agreement, Verizon would build its fiber network to an additional 20,500 customers "within or near the census blocks for which the broadband grants have been awarded," more than doubling the size of its original upstate expansion, which also includes parts of the Southern Tier, Syracuse and the North Country.

Verizon also agreed to add another 10,000 to 12,000 fiber lines on Long Island.

The agreement does not require Verizon to expand its FiOS cable TV service to the communities where it installs fiber cable. Years ago Verizon stopped expanding its FiOS TV network, which requires that it get cable TV franchise agreements with every town it offers the service. It does still offer FiOS TV service in areas where it secured franchise agreements years ago.

"We have no plans for additional FiOS franchises at this point," Verizon spokesman Ray McConville said.

Since Verizon first introduced FiOS years ago the market for pay-for-TV service has dramatically changed. With a high-speed Internet connection, households now have many low-cost streaming TV options like Sling and Hulu that have destroyed the cable TV monopoly that led to the franchise system.

It is unclear how much Verizon would spend on the 32,000 fiber installations in the agreement with the PSC, although the installations being done through the state's broadband program come to about $6,800 per customer.

Using that same math, Verizon would be spending about $217 million on the expansion agreed to with the PSC.

The $70 million state grant Verizon received in January was part of $209 million the state awarded to 18 companies as part of the third and final round of broadband grants designed to ensure that all people in the state have access to high-speed Internet, a major policy objective of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The administration claims that since 2015 the grants have brought high-speed Internet upgrades to 2.42 million addresses that previously had access to slow or inadequate service.

The PSC previous had secured a promise from Charter Communications to make a similar expansion of its high-speed Internet network to 145,000 addresses statewide, although the PSC has fined Charter million of dollars for allegedly not meeting its expansion goals, which were a requirement of the company's 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Charter has disputed the PSC's findings.

The Verizon expansion agreement has the backing of the Communications Workers of America as well as the Public Utility Law Project, a consumer watchdog group in Albany and stems from complaints by the two groups and others that Verizon was not maintaining its copper-based network in the face of competition from wireless providers.

©2018 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.