The more choices a consumers has, the better. That’s why New York City has been pushing Verizon to finally make good on its promise to offer FiOS to all residents. Months after NYC warned Verizon it was in default of an agreement to do just that, the city is now following through on its threat to sue Verizon for breaking its promise.
In a lawsuit [PDF] filed today in a Manhattan court, the city says Verizon breached a franchise agreement [PDF] in which Verizon agreed to deploy its FiOS network throughout the city by “passing” every residential building by 2014.
The lawsuit says that “passing” means it required Verizon to install fiber optic cable — in underground conduit, along above-ground utility poles, or otherwise — in front of (or behind) each residential building.
“In other words, as stated by a Verizon representative, it required Verizon to ‘have fiber up and down each street and avenue in the entire city,'” the lawsuit reads.
In addition to allegedly failing to “pass” every residential building, the lawsuit accuses Verizon of failing in “many instances — believed to number at least in the tens of thousands — to timely complete installations as requested by potential subscribers, leaving such New Yorkers without the desired television service.”
To that end, Verizon has failed even to accept many New Yorkers’ requests for FiOS service, the lawsuit claims, in violation of the terms of the franchise agreement.
“Verizon must face the consequences for breaking the trust of 8.5 million New Yorkers,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Verizon promised that every household in the city would have access to its fiber-optic FiOS service by 2014. It’s 2017 and we’re done waiting. No corporation – no matter how large or powerful – can break a promise to New Yorkers and get away with it.”
Verizon disagrees, and believes it’s done exactly what it said it would: In response to a 2015 city audit that called Verizon out for failing to build out the network as promised, the company claimed that FiOS does “pass” all households, and that the city had made “incorrect interpretations of the Agreement.”
More precisely, the company said its obligation was to pass the fiberoptic lines throughout the entire city, not that it would have working fiberoptic facilities (meaning the rest of the construction required to actually make service available on a block) throughout the entire city.
“We indeed have met the requirement to install fiberoptics through all five boroughs,” the company said in 2015.
In response to the city’s lawsuit, Verizon said in a statement that it’s proposed investing almost $1 billion in fiber in the city over the next four years, and that in addition to its current 2.2 million NYC customers, it’s committed to continuing to expand FiOS availability to another one million households.
“At a time when communities across the country are seeking and encouraging broadband investments like these, the City is inexplicably turning its back on this investment and its residents by pursuing foolish litigation that will harm jobs, business growth and technology competition throughout all five boroughs,” a Verizon spokesman said in statement. “The De Blasio administration is disingenuously attempting to rewrite the terms of an agreement made with his predecessor and is acting in its own political self-interests that are completely at odds with what’s best for New Yorkers. We plan to vigorously fight the city’s allegations.”