Verizon Massachusetts Fiber Optic Failure, 1994-2020
1994: Verizon Massachusetts files with the Mass Department of Public Utilities to have fiber optic services, to replace the existing copper wires. The included colleges and universities, hospitals, as well as 330,000 residence and businesses.
1994: This same plan was also filed with the FCC known as “Video Dialtone”, and claimed the majority of the entire state would be finished by 2010.
“NYNEX proposes to deploy hybrid fiber optic and coaxial (HFC) broadband networks that will provide advanced voice, data, and video services, including interactive video entertainment, multimedia education and health care services… “NYNEX plans to deploy this type of network to the majority of its customers by the year 2010.”
1995: Verizon filed and was granted “alternative regulations”, which gave the company
1999: In New Networks institute filed a complaint in Massachusetts outlining how Verizon (then New England Telephone) convinced regulators that they would rewire the state starting in 1995 if the company got massive financial incentives – Deregulation — the removal of regulation that examined and limited their profits. The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, never acted on our complaint.
2005: Verizon announces FiOS and gets some municipality franchises for cable TV
2007: We presented testimony in front of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy.
2010: Verizon announces it is halting the fiber optic deployments in all states.
2016: Bait and Switch: Verizon announced it would be upgrading 100% of Boston and spend $300 million dollars. Instead, most of this has been a bait and switch to use the fiber optic wires that should go to homes to instead roll out wireless, and 5G Wireless.
We documented the story in articles in Huff Post and Medium.
- Verizon’s FiOS Deployment in Boston Is Fiber-To-The-B.S.
- Billions in Cross-Subsidies Could Bring Fiber Optic Broadband to Massachusetts Cities—But Remain Unchallenged, 2017
- Verizon’s Boston FiOS Fiber to the Home Plan Needs Investigating—Now.
- Verizon’s Boston FiOS Fiber-Wireless Bait-N-Switch
- Verizon, Fiber, Boston, Wireless: History Repeats Itself, Yet Again., 2016
- Verizon’s Boston Faux-FiOS, “One Fiber” Strategy Exposed
- More Exposed: Verizon’s FiOS-Wireless Bait & Switch in Boston
- Verizon’s $300 Million Shell Game in Boston and Cross-Subsidizing Wireless
- Verizon, Boston, Bernie, Fiber and the Facts
- Verizon Wireless’s 5G Deployment is a 1 Gig Fairy Tale.
- Verizon’s Massive East Coast FiOS Scandal: 41 Percent Coverage Using ‘Weasel Room’ Math 2015
Bruce Kushnick, Managing Director bruce at New Networks dot com
Scott McCollough, Esq. Counsel wsmc at dotlaw dot biz
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IRREGULATORS BIG WIN: We Freed the States to Get the Money Back from AT&T, Verizon & CenturyLink
(This is similar to the DC Circuit decision that freed Net Neutrality from the FCC’s control to become a state issue.)
- We got the decision that we wanted—billions of dollars per state can now be freed to solve the Digital Divide, lower prices and bring in competition.
- All wireless cross-subsidies can be stopped — 5G is no longer profitable.
IRREGULATORS v FCC: DC Court of Appeals Opinion, March 13th, 2020
WE CAN NOW TAKE THE NEXT STEPS
WHAT WE NEEDED TO FIX: Unknown to most, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink control America’s telecommunications utilities, and over the last decade they have used the FCC’s accounting rules and formulas to charge the majority of all company-wide expenses to the local wired state-based telecommunications utilities, while the other services that are also using the same wired copper and fiber utility facilities, like broadband, internet and wireless, do not pay their fair share.
This financial shell game has made the entire state-based utility infrastructure appear unprofitable and they have relied on these distorted financial results to argue that they cannot upgrade rural areas or even inner cities, and it has been used to justify local rate increases multiple times, as well as save billions in taxes. More importantly, it is also the excuse to “shut off” the wired networks and go wireless with 5G.
Over the last five years we filed more than 18 separate pleadings and reports to stop the continuing use of these obsolete and now deformed rules. The FCC refused to take action, claiming that the rules didn’t apply, even though the companies still use them and the state commissions still accept them to the detriment of utility customers.
We brought this case to expose one of the largest accounting scandals in American history and to get a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit—and we won. The Court made clear that the FCC does not have control over the state accounting and the states are free to adopt new regulations. This also allows the states to go after the billions in cross-subsidies and overcharging that has been costing America an estimated $50-60 billion annually.
This is one of the largest victories for consumers in recent years. The states now clearly have the authority to pick up the mantle and act to narrow the Digital Divide, promote Digital Inclusion, lower prices, bring in competition and end the cross subsidization of 5G by the public utility. And it provides a national broadband plan which is not funded by government subsidies but by dismantling this financial shell game.
This is a partial list of what this decision means going forward:
- IRREGULATOR Treasure Map: Billions for Broadband in Your State and Refunds on Your Communications Bills.
- We help to take down the billions in Corporate Operations overcharging: In NY, Verizon Local Service was overcharged an estimated $1.5 billion dollars a year for the corporate jets, the executive pay, and the lawyers and lobbyists pushing anti-customer agendas. Now a state can now stop the billions of dollars in unrelated expenses that has been put into local service and caused rate increases.
- We help to take down billions in tax losses: Today, the state utility pays the majority of expenses, even if it has nothing to do with Local Service. In NY, Verizon has been showing artificial losses of $2 billion annually. The states can stop the cross-subsidies and let these companies pay their fair share of taxes.
- All subsidies to wireless can now be stopped by the states: The states are free to stop the cross subsidies where the fiber optic networks are being built for the benefit of the wireless company, instead of properly upgrading cities and towns, especially in more rural areas.
- 5G Is Not Profitable Once We Do This.
- We take down the 75-25% rule with this decision: Today, 75% of the costs of the wired network expenses (even for wireless, broadband and internet) are dumped into ‘local service’; wireless and these other services got a free ride — Not anymore. The states can come up with their own allocation factors.
- We just lowered prices billions of dollars if the state decides to go after the money: After all of this shell game is exposed and removed, a state can make the price be ‘incremental’ — and it can decide that local service and the wired networks should only be based on the actual costs, and not made up expenses.
- We now present billions in new found cash to solve the Digital Divide: Removing this long standing shell game means billions can now be properly allocated to build out the wired state-utility infrastructure for broadband to EVERYONE in the state.
- Cities can now build out their networks. NYC’s Master Internet Plan to solve the Digital Divide requires government funds and never held Verizon NY accountable. The City of New York, like all cities across America trying to get a digital future for every citizen, should have examined the financial cross-subsidies that were exposed in this case and the bait-and-switch funding for wireless. Now, NYC can go after the money and provide a fiber optic future to everyone.
NOTE: We lost this DC Court decision on standing: Since the rules don’t apply, we can’t be harmed. We now have clarity about these cost accounting rules. The states are free to do what they want. Our strategy in bringing this case was to secure a definitive answer about the rights of states vs the control by the FCC over the financial accounting. The Court made it clear that the states are independent from the FCC and from the application of the federal accounting formulas known as “Part 36”.
“This means that any injuries the petitioners suffer through the application of outmoded Part 36 rules to price-cap carriers are traceable not to the Commission’s freeze order but to the states’ voluntary and independent decisions to use the rules of Part 36 for their own purposes.” (PAGE 9)
“Price Caps” Need Investigation and Repair: AT&T et al. and the states may say: “We are under price caps and the utility expenses are no longer examined.”
ANSWER: The States can now go back, do the audits, and stop the financial shell game. “Price caps” is a form of regulation that was supposed to keep prices capped and reasonable, which never worked. This was to increase the companies’ profits, which were supposed to be used to replace the existing copper wires with fiber optics—and that never happened. Instead, using the FCC’s corrupted formulas, it allowed for this massive overcharging. Prices are no longer ‘just and reasonable’ when you can charge local phone customers to build the wireless networks or pay for the corporate jets.
DEEP DIVE ARCHIVE:
Huffington Post/Medium articles about AT&T and California
- The Trump-FCC-AT&T-Et Al. Plan: The Insidious “Wheel of Mis-Fortune”.
- The Corporate Takeover of the Trump-FCC Is in Full Attack Mode.
- Open Letter to California about SB-649: You’re being Played by ALEC & AT&T Et Al.
- The Copper-Wire World of AT&T: The Reason to Investigate AT&T, Now
- Solve Net Neutrality, Privacy, & Bring Back Competition: Break Up AT&T and Verizon… Again.
- Expose: AT&T California Fiber Optic Scandal: Billions Charged for Broadband that Never Showed Up.
- Californians Paid Billions Extra: The State Assembly Should Investigate AT&T’s Cross-Subsidies.
- IRREGULATORS: Stop the FCC and Investigate AT&T, Verizon, Et Al.
- Brendan Carr Omitted Critical Facts in His Testimony to Congress: He Worked for AT&T, Verizon, Et Al.
- Regulatory Capture of the FCC: Stacking the Deck with the New Proposed Republican Commissioner
- Verizon and AT&T Should be Required to Deliver FTTP, Fiber to the Home – Finally.
- California Wireless Legislation: Paid for by AT&T Et Al.
- AT&T, ALEC, FCC. The FCC’s plans are based on AT&T’s Petition, which is from ALEC Model Legislation.
- AT&T’s IP Transition Trials Lost 32% of “Legacy” Customers, yet the Overhyped Con Continues.
- AT&T’s 1000 Foot Violation of AT&T-DirecTV Merger Conditions?
- AT&T and Verizon’s Wireline and Wireless Cross-Subsidies Harm Competition and Every Communications Service You Use
- Corporate Greed vs Critical Infrastructure: Greed Won. America Lost.
- R.”I.P.” Rest in Peace, AT&T IP Transition Trials.
- Will the FCC Stop Verizon & AT&T’s Manipulation of Financial Accounting & Special Access (BDS) Overcharges?
- AT&T & Verizon, With the FCC, Blocked My Access to Critical Broadband Data
- Have You Received a Disconnect Notice From Verizon or AT&T Yet?
- AT&T’s IP Transition Trials Are a Superhyped, Yet Unsuccessful, Con
- The Age of Noise, Clutter and Spying on Us
- AT&T Slams AT&T. AT&T & Verizon File to Block Kushnick from the FCC’s “Special Access” Data… Again.
- AT&T’s Fiber Optic Construction Last Six Years — $140 Billion, or One Slice of Pizza and “FiberHype”?
- AT&T to FCC: Stop Kushnick From Examining the Special Access Data
- AT&T’s ‘IP Transition’ Trials Appear to Be a Total Bomb
- The FCC and AT&T Don’t Care About Rural Areas and They Can Just Make Crap Up
- Are the FCC and AT&T Harming the Children of Rural Communities?
- MobTel: Some of America’s Most Hated ISPs, Cable TV and Wireless Companies Have Their Associations Suing the FCC Over Net Neutrality
- I Do It For My Aunt Ethel
- Verizon & AT&T’s Wireless Broadband: $1,125.00 for One Month of Cable TV; $375.00 to Watch Netflix — and that’s Not Even ‘HD’.
- Stop the AT&T-DirecTV Merger or History Will Slap Us in the Face
- Will the FCC Ignore Our Complaint? Did AT&T Commit Perjury, Claiming it had Covered 100 Percent of 21 States With Broadband?
- Did AT&T Commit Perjury? Does AT&T have 100 Percent Broadband Coverage in 21 States?
- Did AT&T, Verizon, Et al., Garner Over $17 Billion in ‘Very Small Business’ Spectrum Licenses?
- Telecom Sleaze: ALEC and Its Communication’s Funders — AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink, Comcast and Time Warner Cable
BACK IN THE STACKS: 2002-2010
- FREE REPORT on Telecom Charges. Phone, Broadband, Wireless, Internet & Cable Charges in San Diego, California.
- With the removal of AT&T as a competitor, the prices of service increased and there was a clear harm to customers in terms of choice of service, Also, it is clear that this impacted previous AT&T customers adversely, especially low volume or low income families. — Based on survey of actual phone bills in San Diego CA working with UCAN, on a grant from the CA Consumer Protection Fund, done originally in 2004 then repeated in 2008.
- Teletruth Files Two Comments about AT&T-BellSouth Merger:
- Competition: FCC Can’t Create Enforceable Merger Conditions.FCC/Bells Harmed Competition — 43% Drop in Wholesale Lines. The Mergers Eliminated Competitors.
- Teletruth Sends Letter to Judge Sullivan Regarding the Bell-AT&T-MCI Merger Review.
- The Bell Mergers Harmed Broadband Deployment, Competition and the Economy.
- The AT&T and MCI Deals Added New Harms to the Public Interest – New Neutrality Concerns
- Wireless Spectrum Fraud by AT&T, Verizon, Cingular — Are they Very Small Businesses?
- Very Large Phone Companies have been able to create ‘fake fronts’ to bid on wireless spectrum as Very Small Businesses? Is this fraud?
- FTC Complaint for Commercial Speech, Deceptive Practices in Mergers,
- Teletruth files this Complaint with the FTC, claiming that the previous Bell mergers were based on a massive, 10-year pattern of misrepresentation, untruthful and outright fraudulent statements made to customers. How many misleading, deceptive or fraudulent statements does it take to become a case of fraud?
- TO READ THE RELEASE
- To Read this Complaint
- To Read the MINI-REPORT on SBC’s Mergers (PDF)
- TO TAKE ACTION AND READ MORE
- Break Up SBC, Break Up Verizon
- Teletruth Requests Congress Start Immediate Investigations into the Previous Bell Mergers.
- Do Not Let 2 Companies Control America’s Digital Future! — More Materials.26 States Lost Fiber Optic Broadband After each merger, SBC and Verizon cut fiber optic deployments. It impacted 26 states, over 200 million people.
- The AT&T-SBC, Verizon-MCI Mergers. Death to Competition. Investigate and Break Up SBC, Break Up Verizon.
- Comments: FCC in WC Docket 05-65, May 10th, 2005 TeleTruth Asks Senator Hollings for Hearings to Break Up SBC-Ameritech and Pay $1.2 Billion in Penalties. By April 2002 SBC was supposed to be competing in 30 cities outside their region. The commitments were set because SBC merged with Ameritech, another Bell company. According to the agreement, the FCC can “Divest” SBC of Ameritech and it is required to pay $1.2 billion in penalties. Therefore, TeleTruth (with New Networks Institute) is calling on Congressional hearings. This failure has raised the rates of every local subscriber because competition did not come into the markets to lower prices.
- For more information about the SBC Ameritech Merger
- To read the letter to Senator Hollings
- For a list of the cities SBC was supposed to compete
- To Take Action
IRREGULATORS Take the FCC to Court Based on Verizon New York 2017 Annual Report. Billions Revealed in Cross-Subsidies Caused by the FCC’s Manipulated Accounting Rules. This is Happening Nationwide.
On June 3rd, 2019, the IRREGULATORS won Round 1, the right to take the FCC to court over their cost accounting rules. However, the case relies on the Verizon New York financial annual reports, the latest published May 30th, 2019. It is one of the largest accounting scandals in American history and it impacts all telecommunications in the United States – and all FCC decisions and proceedings, and almost all state decisions that relied on the FCC’s work.
PRESS: We created a by-the-numbers walk-through of the official Verizon New York 2017 Annual Report to spotlight some of the specific harms.
The FCC’s rules were supposed to divide up the expenses that are to be paid by the different lines of business, such as Verizon Wireless or Verizon Online, for the use of the infrastructure and services of the state telecommunications utility – Verizon New York.
Unfortunately, the rules became corrupted and the expenses to be paid are set, “frozen”, to reflect the year 2000, 19 years ago. Using the Verizon New York annual reports, we prove that the rules are still in use and they now divert the majority of all expenses into Local Service, the basic POTS, phone service category. This has caused billions of dollars annually to be misallocated by charging phone customers excessive Corporate Operations expenses, everything from the corporate jets and golf tournaments to executive pay. It also diverted the construction budgets to pay for the wireless deployments. And Verizon was able to create losses that were used not only for rate increases, but to avoid paying billions in taxes. Ultimately, Verizon claims it is not profitable to upgrade rural or low income areas and is now planning a bait-and-switch, claiming 5G wireless will fix everything.
How crazy does it get?
- Verizon NY 2017 Local Service was charged $1.8 billion, 61%, of Corporate Operations expense, making it unprofitable. Local Service had revenues of $1.1 billion. (“61%” is based entirely on the FCC’s FREEZE and it has been this way for 2 decades.)
- Taxes: The Verizon NY 2017 Annual Report showed losses of $2.6 billion and a tax benefit of over $900 million. Verizon NY has shown losses of over $2 billion a year for almost the last decade, (with caveats).
- Construction: Local Service paid the majority, $1.2 billion, in construction and maintenance, but only an estimated hundred million was attributed to the copper wires.
- The NY Attorney General’s Office in 2012 found 75% of the utility construction budgets were being diverted to wireless or FiOS video services. This is instead of upgrading the NYC and NY State infrastructure.
- Rates Increases of Over 100%: Since 2005, every wireline customer paid over $3,000 a line based on increases granted using artificial losses, through 2018.
- It Created the Digital Divide by claiming areas of the state utility were unprofitable, when, in reality, there was enough money to have been doing continuous upgrades. In fact, rates should have been in steep decline.
- This happened in every state because the FCC rules are federal. The last available data in 2007 matched in every state-based utility.
- Customer overcharging, nationwide, is estimated to be $50-60 billion annually, based on what is happening in New York.
IRREGULATORS v FCC — In December, 2018, the FCC decided to extend the FREEZE rules for 6 more years. We could not let this stand and get worse. We have the actual financial books as well as the expertise to figure out what happened, but it has taken almost a decade of investigation to understand this accounting puzzle. No other state we know of still publishes financial reports; the FCC stopped publishing the financials in 2007. We filed 18 separate reports and comments in this proceeding (Docket 80-286) to document our claims since 2015, which the FCC has mostly ignored. http://irregulators.org/our-work-reports-filings/
Settlement with Verizon NY and the NY Public Service Commission, July 2018: Our analysis and methodology was used in an investigation of Verizon New York that started in 2015 and was settled in July 2018. Estimated at $300-$500 million, 32,000 lines of fiber optics will be deployed in unserved areas and the existing networks will be maintained. But this settlement did not go far enough to fix the existing problems or deal with the FCC’s corrupted accounting. https://bit.ly/2O25OqQ
The Bottom Line: No one knows or understands that the FCC’s rules have become corrupted over the last 2 decades, that they actually control the state-utility accounting and that they are still in use, nationwide. Stopping the Corporate Operations expenses, the cross-subsidies of the other Verizon lines of business with the state telecommunications utility, especially wireless, and making them pay market prices, will immediately lower rates on all services – not just basic phone service, and could bring billions back to do full upgrades of the telecommunication wired infrastructure. Cleaning up this long standing financial shell game also solves some of the Digital Divide concerns and could even create financial support as part of any settlement.
5G is not profitable once the cross-subsidies for wireless are removed. 5G is nothing more than another technology promise-them-anything bait-and-switch to get rid of state and federal regulations at the FCC and in state legislatures. (This is on top of the health concerns of putting a microwave antenna, always on, on a lamppost directly outside someone’s bedroom window.)
Nationwide Problem: These are federal rules that have been manipulated by the FCC, either by negligence or design. Thus, all states, not only in the Verizon service area, but in the AT&T and CenturyLink territories, have the same financial issues that need to be fixed immediately. Taking the FCC to court is the first step in this direction.
IRREGULATORS is an independent consortium of retired and semi-retired senior telecom experts, analysts, forensic auditors, and lawyers who are former staffers from the FCC, state advocate and Attorneys General Office, as well as telecom auditors and consultants.
Click for the FCC Numbers-Only Version of this Exhibit.
As I stare at the various pie charts and exhibits in the FCC’s latest report on broadband in America, “Internet Access Services: Status as of June 30, 2017”, published November 2018, only one thing comes to mind: Congress needs to investigate how this smoke and mirrors data is being used to create harmful public policies.
Back in March, 2011, I wrote about the FCC’s highly inaccurate National Broadband Map Database, where the companies listed did not offer service at my address or at the speeds listed.
Seven years later, and trying to reverse-engineer the number of broadband services, especially the accounting of the “Fiber to the Premises”, FTTP, here are a few startling long-term issues and new discoveries. In the industry, these are some of the dirty, little secrets.
Quoting the FCC, there are various caveats.
· “All facilities-based broadband providers are required to file data with the FCC twice a year (Form 477) on where they offer Internet access service at speeds exceeding 200 kbps in at least one direction.
· “Fixed providers file lists of census blocks in which they can or do offer service to at least one location, with additional information about the service.
Please notice the words and phrases: “census blocks”, “200Kbps in at least one direction”, “they can” and “at least one location”. We will address them in a moment.
How Big Is One Census Block?
A census block is sort of like the area of a postal zip code. And it is directly tied to a specific geography with people living and working at specific locations. Sounds obvious until you examine how they count these locations.
According to Current 360
“Block groups generally contain between 600 and 3,000 people, with an optimum size of 1,500 people… Each census tract contains at least one block group, and block groups are uniquely numbered within the census tract. A block group is the smallest geographical unit for which the census publishes sample data.”
Smoke & Mirror Competition
The FCC and phone companies claim that there is competition and yet, this next FCC caveat about this data tells us that while the database may show a competitor, you, the customer, may never be able to get service from them.
The FCC writes:
(PART 2: DRAINING THE TOXIC SWAMP)
Some of the most hated companies in America are the ISPs, wireless and cable companies, which include AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter (Spectrum). However, in 2018 America also has the distinction of having the most expensive, excessive wireless gigabyte prices in the world.
In fact, with the made-up fees and surcharges (that are revenues to the companies or taxes on the companies that are passed through to you) the price of almost all communications services in America continues to rise, even though the FCC claims that there is competition.
At the same time, a new study by the US Census shows that there are large areas of the US, both rural areas as well as inner cities, that have not been properly counted and they don’t have basic broadband-internet services at reasonable rates, creating a much larger amount of people and businesses impacted. Known as the “Digital Divide”, the FCC’s own broadband internet data has been proven to inflate the speed and coverage, covering up the extent of the harms.
This is because the FCC, the Agency that is supposed to be protecting our interests, has been captured by AT&T and Verizon. The Chairman, Ajit Pai, is a former senior Verizon attorney.
Does anyone think that this situation is going to get better under this buffoon’s co-opted guidance? He is aided and abetted by his former staffer and now Commissioner Brendan Carr. While at Wiley Rein, Carr worked as an attorney for Verizon, AT&T, as well as the CTIA, the wireless association. In fact, he was part of the legal team that sued the City of San Francisco over wireless issues — as a first amendment right of the wireless carriers; AT&T and Verizon control the wireless association.
It gets worse. In 2018, Carr introduced the FCC’s new 5G wireless regulations, claiming it would fix the Digital Divide, but all it does is to preempt the cities and states’ rights over wireless deployment in their own towns. These regulations appear to be a copy of ‘model legislation’ created by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council (which was most likely funded by AT&T and Verizon) — Carr’s conflicts and ties to his former clients needs immediate investigations. Read More….
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 17th, 2018
New Networks Institute (NNI) & the IRREGULATORS— just helped to get Verizon to install 10,000 fiber optic lines in Verizon New York’s unserved areas as well as get the needed repairs for the copper networks. — We estimate this to be about $300 million to $1/2 billion dollars over time.
Our research and calls for an investigation started in 2010, and our reports, filings and analytical approach helped to initiate and was used in the investigation.
We are mentioned in the decision and will be taking next steps on this as we filed to block this settlement agreement —it left out billions in cross-subsidies and customer overcharging.
- Our filings and work: https://newnetworks.com/ny-related-filings/
- About the issues and our involvement. https://bit.ly/2JCdQne
We congratulate Communications Workers of America (CWA) and PULP, Public Utility Law Project, for their dogged persistence and putting our research and analysis to good use.
Press release -- https://on.ny.gov/2L1NccN "PSC Approves Verizon Service Quality Improvement Plan — Telecommunications Company Agrees to Expand Broadband Service to 32,000 Customers, Helping to Fulfill Governor Cuomo’s Goal to Expand Broadband Service in New York; Make Much-Needed Repairs to Existing Copper Service; Remove Unused Telephone Poles to Improve Safety —
Settlement -- https://on.ny.gov/2mnE8QY "The Commission declines to follow New Networks Institute’s recommendations to reject the JP, continue investigating Verizon’s financial practices, and require that wireline customers be reimbursed for the alleged improper cross-subsidization of Verizon’s wireless affiliates. The Commission’s primary objectives in this proceeding were to investigate and evaluate the quality of service Verizon is providing to its customers (Core and non-Core). More particularly, this proceeding was commenced when changing circumstances called into question the Commission’s premise for continuing Verizon’s service quality focus on Core customers. The Commission was concerned by Verizon’s announced plans to stop expanding its fiber network beyond areas currently served. The Commission also pointed to data indicating fewer customers were leaving Verizon’s networks. Given these indications, and the fact that more than 2 million of Verizon’s current customers remain reliant on an aging copper network, the Commission decided to examine whether changes to Verizon’s service quality oversight are necessary. The Commission recognized that this investigation would inherently include an examination as to the state of the copper system and whether Verizon’s investment in its network has been sufficient to provide adequate levels of service to consumers on regulated services. But, the Commission did not state any intention to revisit rate-of-return regulation. The Commission did recognize an expectation that the Company will continue to invest in its New York regulated operations as the Public Service Law unequivocally requires Verizon to provide adequate service. The Commission also made it clear that it would take the necessary action under the Public Service Law to address shortcomings if the market fails to provide Verizon an appropriate incentive to meet its statutory obligations. That said, the Commission has broad authority under the Public Service Law to initiate further investigations if the circumstances so warrant. The Commission focus has long been on ensuring compliance with minimum standards of service quality for customers lacking competitive choice. The Commission has previously investigated claims that Verizon has not been adequately investing in its copper network. In that context, the Commission has acknowledged that, in response to technological advances, the telecommunications landscape has changed dramatically. The Commission has also recognized that, in evaluating Verizon’s performance, it must consider the extent to which investment in the legacy copper network would be cost effective when that network is becoming competitively and technologically obsolete. The terms of the JP will implement specific improvements in Verizon’s system that will directly improve the service quality deficiencies that led to the commencement of this proceeding. In light of all this, we disagree with New Network’s recommendation to reject the Joint Proposal. The terms of the JP should result in service quality improvements that promote the public interest. Moreover, with regard to other commenters’ complaints about Verizon’s maintenance of its copper network and being forced onto more expensive wireless and fiber networks, the Commission notes that Verizon is required to offer its tariff services and tariffed-based rates regardless of the type of network delivering the telephone call. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Commission has long recognized the benefits and resiliency of the fiber network over the older vintage copper network a nd we note here that the JP will further that goal. Finally, in the Commission’s Initiating Order, we raised the question of whether “Verizon’s service quality processes and programs pertaining to all the Company’s regulated customers” are sufficient “to determine if modification of Verizon’s revised SQIP is warranted.” In light of the JP’s terms and conditions being approved herein, the Commission does not believe any changes are required at this time. However, as
AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter Got $58.8 Billion in Tax Benefits: We Want Lower Rates — Now!
Here is a chart you might want to start screaming about. Prices are no longer just and reasonable. There is no effort being made to lower prices, even though just these four companies, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter (Spectrum) garnered $58.8 billion in tax benefits.
The “2016” and “2017” columns supply the “net income” as of the end of December 2017 and they include the “earnings per share”, “EPS”. The next columns are the increases from 2016 to 2017 and the “tax benefit” column is what the companies are reporting. For example, AT&T’s 4th Quarter result had the net income rise from $2.4 billion to $19 billion, and the total tax benefit was $20 billion while the diluted earnings per share went from $.39 to $3.08, increases of about 690%.
NOTE: We still have to wait for the companies to put out their annual reports as there can be differences. And some companies, like Centurylink, (the incumbent phone company for western states like Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota, still hadn’t posted their 4th quarter results as of this writing.) Also, the earnings per share and other factors will vary based on the number of available stock shares, number of shareholders, etc.)
Historically, when an incumbent telecommunications company had a major financial windfall, the regulators would make sure that prices would be lowered, especially when there is little competition to lower them. In fact, in New York, Verizon was granted major rate increases of basic phone service starting in 2005, in part because the company was reporting major losses.
But there are no plans to ‘lower rates’ here. The FCC, of course, doesn’t care to lower cable TV, broadband, internet, or phone prices on their friends, the phone and cable companies — commonly called “ISPS”.
Yet, based on the companies’ financials, the changes in the tax laws for just these 4 companies helped to deliver a mind-boggling tax benefit of $58.8 billion dollars. Maybe if this new found cash was to be used for something useful, like building out infrastructure or bringing in serious competition to lower prices, then these windfall profits could be justified.
But this is not the case. The money appears to be going mostly to shareholders with massive earnings per share benefits — i.e.; take the money and run. And wouldn’t you know it, those who benefit the most are the largest shareholders — the management of Verizon, AT&T, et al.
AT&T Claims 2017 has been a Remarkable Year because of the “Major Policy Achievements”.
America’s consumers and businesses are under attack, not only from outrageous tax breaks to already rich corporations, commonly known as the so-called ISPs, but they are being doubly assisted by the FCC.
And AT&T et al. are, of course, laughing all the way to the bank due to the current Trump and FCC tax and regulatory policies.
Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO, told investors in the company’s 4th Quarter 2017 earnings presentation — it’s a remarkable year because of the “major policy achievements”.
“I just want to take a moment and reflect on 2017 because by any measure, 2017 was a remarkable year. It’s remarkable for our country, for our industry where we operate, and for AT&T. And it’s been a long time since we’ve seen so many, what I would call, major public policy achievements compressed into a single year like we saw last year. And we’re calling these achievements because the combined impact from these is going to be growth. It’s going to be growth in U. S. investment and jobs and in wages. And all of this began early in 2017, as regulations across all industries were being rationalized.”
“We need a long-term predictability on the rules of the Internet and on customer privacy. So, we’re calling for an Internet Bill of Rights and you can expect us to take a leadership role on this as the discussion progresses.”
As we pointed out, in a single year, the FCC decided to make massive changes, which are part of a wish list created by AT&T.
§ Get rid of Net Neutrality
§ Get rid of basic privacy laws
§ Help to kill off competition
§ Help to close down the existing copper infrastructure, even in areas where there are no substitutes.
§ Force-march customers onto wireless service
§ Privatize publicly funded infrastructure.
We call this litany of regulatory mayhem “The Wheel of Misfortune”. And the idea that AT&T wants an “Internet Bill of Rights” is ludicrous. One has to remember that the FCC named the removal of Net Neutrality the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”.
In fact, Trump has decided to make the FCC a toxic waste dump by having telco and cable company consultants lead the transition team. Trump then appointed former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai to be chairman, and Brendan Carr was made a commissioner; he is a former lawyer at Wiley Rein, who worked for Verizon, AT&T, and the wireless association, CTIA and the phone association, USTA, for years.
Verizon Benefits from All of this are Also Worth Noting.
Talk about financial gifts, Verizon writes that it had a $16.8 billion dollar, one-time earnings increase — and instead of actually building out areas with fiber optics that were neglected, the company has decided to give the money to the shareholders, with an additional $4.10 per share.
“As Verizon noted in an 8-K filing on Jan. 17, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also resulted in a one-time, after-tax increase to earnings provisionally estimated to be approximately $16.8 billion, or $4.10 per share. This is primarily related to the re-measurement of the company’s net deferred tax liabilities at the new corporate income tax rate.
“The cumulative net impact from these items, after tax, was approximately $15.2 billion, or $3.71 per share, in fourth-quarter 2017.
I note that elsewhere, according to Verizon, this increase was $4.56 in earnings per share (EPS), compared with $1.10 in 4Q 2016–315% more.
Verizon is also adding $100 million to the Verizon Foundation, from the current $200 million to $300 million over the next two years — which, as we documented, has been used as a slush fund to give to politicians in their districts for pet projects.
But who is the largest beneficiary of this largesse? Well, Chairman Lowell McAdam who had 1.5 million shares of stock in 2016 (the last published accounting) so this tax benefit per share will make him an additional $6.1 million. Who knows what else is in the convoluted executive pay schemes which will be listed in the Verizon 2017 annual proxy statements.
The Net Neutrality Decision Claims that “Title II Harms Investment”. This Conclusion is Based on Manipulated Data
These year-end financial reports also highlight something else: The FCC has been manipulating the story that Title II harms investment.
This is Comcast’s capital expenditures for 2015–2017.
Our most significant recurring investing activity has been capital expenditures in our Cable Communications segment, and we expect that this will continue in the future. The table below summarizes the capital expenditures we incurred in our Cable Communications segment in 2017, 2016 and 2015.”
This shows that there were only increases in the total from 2015 through 2017, from $7 billion to $7.9 billion. Where’s the ‘impact’ of Title II?
And this is Verizon’s overall capital expenditures. The numbers are going up, not down as well.
These ‘overall’ numbers directly contradict the FCC’s claims. The FCC quotes multiple garbage-pail analyses, such as Hal Singer’s Broadband survey, which takes the entire holding companies’ capital expenditures of Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, then calls all of these “ISP” investments.
“91. Comparisons of ISP investment before and after the Title II Order suggest that reclassification has discouraged investment. Performing such a comparison, economist Hal Singer concluded that ISP investment by major ISPs fell by 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2016.
“Singer attempted to account for a few significant factors unrelated to Title II that might affect investment, by subtracting some investments that are clearly not affected by the regulatory change (such as the accounting treatment of Sprint’s telephone handsets, AT&T’s investments in Mexico, and DirecTV investments following its acquisition by AT&T in the middle of this period).”
The problem with this approach, as we mentioned elsewhere, is that these numbers are ‘loaded’ as they represent the entire Verizon holding company. Verizon had investments of 5% or more in 471 companies in 2016 and no break outs of the use in these garbage pail numbers that include ‘capitalized software’.
And Singer manipulates the details of AT&T’s numbers as well, which gooses the entire calculation to show a larger decline. As we just showed, Comcast had increases every year and Verizon’s overall capx also increased.
But, as we pointed out elsewhere, using the base holding companies’ capx total are useless — and there are better data, which we presented, based on state broadband expenditures that the FCC ignored.
We bring this up because what we have is an out of control FCC that is helping to feed the telco-cable gluttony by manipulating the basic data about construction expenditures to create harmful public policies, like getting rid of Net Neutrality.
Next Step: Lower Prices Immediately.
Then we have Charter, which includes Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable.
Let’s examine why America should be getting rate reductions immediately.
Charter had a $9.3 billion tax benefit gift, and its net income increased 2048% from $454 million to $9.6 billion and the earnings per share went up 2247%.
But this will have no impact on lowering rates.
Here’s what Charter writes about its taxes, fees and charges:
“A special note regarding phone taxes: Government agencies have found phone bills to be an effective way to assess and collect taxes because most people receive one. Those taxes may subsidize various services at the federal, state and local levels (e.g., emergency services, telecommunications services for schools, libraries, health care facilities, etc.). Charter and other companies offering phone service collect the required taxes as part of the total phone bill and send the appropriate amounts back to the taxing agency.
Unfortunately, most of this is deceptive. The charges below, like the “Broadcast TV Surcharge” or the “Business License Fee” are NOT government agency taxes, but made up fees or are charges on the company that they pass through.
Fees / Surcharges
- Broadcast TV Surcharge “Federal law allows local U.S. broadcast television stations (i.e. affiliates of networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc.) to negotiate with cable and satellite providers in order to obtain “consent” to carry their broadcast signals (Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992).
- Business License Fee “This is a fee or tax assessed on Charter for doing business in your state or locality”.
And some of these are downright despicable and should be removed immediately, regardless of anything else — Secure Connection Fee? Really?
“Secure Connection Fee
“Charter devotes considerable resources to the development and implementation of measures designed to ensure that the connection between a Spectrum receiver (or any other authorized device) and the Spectrum network is secure and that subscribers receive through the connection all of the services they are lawfully authorized to receive.”
REFUNDS AND LOWER PRICES DEMANDED — $20-$40 PER MONTH.
If Charter got an additional $9.3 billion in tax benefit, how come this nickel, dime and quartering of customers with questionable charges is not on the table to be removed, or have these tax benefits used to lower the overall costs to customers for all services?
Here’s What We Suggest:
Charter had about 25.6 million residential customers who get cable, internet, broadband or voice and some combination.
This comes to $363 dollars extra per customer in this benefit, with caveats.
Why shouldn’t we split the difference and get $181.50 back in lower rates — isn’t that reasonable? With an average of $107.00 per month (as different customers have different services and bundles), then there should be a $15.00 decrease, about 14% across the board.
But these per month revenues does not appear to include all of these extra charges, many bogus, and thus this average quoted in the 4th Quarter 2017 report has little reflection on the total bill.
“Monthly residential revenue per residential customer is calculated as total residential video, Internet and voice annual revenue divided by twelve divided by average residential customer relationships during the respective year.”
NOTE: Thus, there is an additional $10.00-$25.00 a month that may also need to be eliminated. Charter never discloses the total actual average charges on bills that a customer pays per month.
Thus, adding the made up fees and surcharges, of the $117-$132.00 a month, we should have a drop of $25-$40.00 a month — not counting the reduction in actual taxes being applied to all of these costs.
And this is just Charter. Comcast, Verizon and AT&T should also be lowering rates 15%-30% and getting rid of all of these made up fees.
Where’s the FCC’s analysis to lower rates? Where’s the FCC’s discussion of bringing in direct competition to lower rates?
Here’s a list of Charter Fees/Surcharges (if charged) — from their web site.
- Broadcast TV Surcharge
- Business License Fee
- California Advanced Services Fund Surcharge (California only)
- California High Cost Fund-A Surcharge (California only)
- California High Cost Fund B Surcharge (California only)
- CA Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund Surcharge (California only)
- California Teleconnect Fund Surcharge (California only)
- E911 Charge (9–1–1 Fee)
- E911 Equalization Surcharge (9–1–1 equalization fee — Texas only)
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Fee
- Federal Universal Service Fund (USF) Surcharge
- Line Access Fee
- Franchise Fee
- Police and Fire Protection Fee (Wisconsin only)
- Public Education and Government Channels (PEG) Fee
- Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Fee
- Regulatory Cost Fee
- Returned Check Fee
- Secure Connection Fee
- State Access Restructure Fund (Michigan only)
- State Regulatory Fee
- State Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Charge
- State Universal Service Fund Charge
- Telecommunications Access Fund (TAM — Minnesota only) Surcharge
- Telecommunications Infrastructure Maintenance Fee (Illinois only)
- Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP — Minnesota only) Surcharge
- Telephone Right Of Way Fee (municipal right-of-way fee)
- TV, Voice (Phone) and Internet Late Payment Fee