The chart above shows the results of a 2023 survey of 5 large cities, all of which were supposed to have 100% completion with a fiber optic wire to the home. This was required under 2 separate regulatory changes that gave Verizon billions to build out the cities that were charged to phone customers.– Where’s the investigations?
RE: Comments: New Jersey Initial Proposal 5 Year Plan to solve the Digital Divide- has left out basic, material facts, creating distorted and even harmful public policies.
We file these comments as the IRREGULATORS, a group of senior telecommunications experts, including forensic auditors, lawyers and former regulators. We have a strong track record of examining Verizon’s misdeeds and achieving results in the public interest. We call to your attention the background of the Digital Divide in New Jersey and ask you to take the steps necessary to prevent a repeat of the shortchanging of the State’s consumers, as well as the economic harms over the last 3 decades.
Closing the Digital Divide in New Jersey requires that first, the State must recognize that Verizon New Jersey helped to create the Digital Divide by its failure to properly upgrade the primary state telecommunications public utility, starting in 1993.
Second, Verizon has been able to rewrite the history and erase the fact that they had binding commitments, starting in 1993, to replace the existing aging, copper wires with a fiber optic wire and by 2010 –100% of their territory, including rural urban and suburban areas, and all income groups would be served equally.
Third; Negligence by the State for the failure to provide basic, basic, material facts in these 5 year proposed plans about the history, the players, and the current customer overcharging via cross-subsidies, that is ongoing. How is it possible that the State failed to even mention Verizon NJ, the state telecommunications public utility that covers the overwhelming majority of the state, or that had a 100% commitment for fiber to the home?
We are on record (as New Networks Institute and Teletruth) since 1998 that there has been a massive scheme to defraud the public and not provide fiber optic networks, directly to homes and offices, having testified and submitted comments and complaints detailing what we wrote herein. In fact, we predicted this ugly outcome in New Jersey and throughout the US. (See: Bill Moyer’s PBS special, “The Net at Risk”; our segment “The New Digital Divide”, featured Verizon and New Jersey.)
Fourth, Verizon’s business strategy to engineer an all wireless future, its concomitant overcharging of local service customers and letting the state telecommunications public utility infrastructure deteriorate, has caused great public harm and calls for immediate investigation.
Fifth, Verizon has manipulated its accounting and construction budgets to make the state telecommunications utility appear unprofitable, while cross subsidizing its other lines of business, including wireless.
Sixth, the New Jersey Office of Broadband Connectivity, has received a large amount of government subsidies, with the hope that it will solve the Digital Divide.
“The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be allocating $263.7 million to New Jersey to help improve access to affordable, high-speed, reliable internet in unserved and underserved communities across New Jersey.
“The funding allocation will essentially be the program budget for developing and deploying the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program in New Jersey and ultimately implement the state’s plan.”
Seven, Verizon has over the years collected over $20 billion from its customers to deploy high speed broadband services throughout New Jersey. Rather than give Verizon even a single dollar of the federal funds, the State should hold the company accountable for its willful failure to upgrade the utility network.
Eight, whether due to a failure of institutional memory or intentional disregard for an uncomfortable truth, current documents, reports and websites in the State do not even mention Verizon New Jersey, or its obligations to build out broadband to the entire state. How is this possible?
And we must make clear, FiOS, the fiber optic wire to the home, started being rolled out around 2007, and this was the second wave of promises made to the State; the first wave of a fiber optic future in New Jersey was called “Opportunity New Jersey”, announced in 1992.– and it ended around 2011 with the diversion of the construction budgets to wireless.
Nine: This is not a history lesson, however.
The State claims that it is in the middle of creating a 5-year plan “We are currently in the program planning and development phase. The federal deadline for the state’s 5-Year Action Plan is August 28, 2023. Then the Initial Proposal for spending is due December 2023, and late 2024 for the Final Proposal. After the Final Proposal is approved by the NTIA, the program is expected to be implemented over the course of four years and is tentative to be completed in 2028.”
And the NTIA states that these plans should include the existing assets, rights of way.
“3.3.1 Broadband Deployment The following list includes example assets that the Eligible Entity may identify and detail:
- State or Territory owned structures and utility infrastructure that providers could utilize at low- or no-cost for broadband deployment (e.g., towers, water towers, silos, buildings, utility poles).
- State or Territory owned land that providers could utilize at low-or no-cost for broadband deployment.
- Existing rights of way.
- Conduits or dark fiber deployed by the State/Territory or other government entities.
- Current or forthcoming capital projects, which would allow providers to lay new fiber at lower costs (e.g., road construction, water, or sewer projects); and
- Highly skilled workforce available to deploy broadband.
And here’s why this is not history.
Finally, we are expecting Verizon, New Jersey to claim that it is best positioned to build any new networks and ask for most if not all of the funding.
This, however, is the wrong answer: Verizon New Jersey and Verizon and all of the subsidiaries should be held accountable for the failure to upgrade the state.
Billions of dollars that should have been spent on infrastructure went illegally to build out wireless. If 100% of Verizon NJ’s territory which covers 96% of the state, then how can the 5 year plans even entertain giving more money to deal with unserved areas vs examining how Verizon failed to do upgrades and examine where did all the money go?
Worse, the state utility never stopped spending for ‘construction’ of fiber optic networks in the state–it just never went to the homes. Where’s all the money going and this would be in 2023, and will be going in 2024?
Which brings us to three other troubling issues.
Wireless and FWA are a bait and switch and not a substitute for fiber to the home. There is a serious disconnect that occurred in New Jersey in 2014, when Verizon claimed that there was no previous fiber optic commitments and that the previous law should be modified via a ‘stipulation agreement’ to allow wireless at DSL copper-based slow speeds to substitute the 45Mbps in both direction commitments (as of 1993). The state also allowed Verizon to harvest the customers– i.e.; continuous rate increases.
As we showed, not only is wireless a bait and switch, but it is being cross-subsidized with funds that should be used to wire homes with fiber optics; and wireless violates laws pertaining to the illegal cross-subsidy of this wired, utility network.
Cable networks are now colluding with Verizon. Spectrum and Comcast are now reselling Verizon wireless networks as part of their cable package. This collusion means that
- Verizon did not show up to upgrade the State and thus there is a digital divide.
- The cable companies have no direct high speed competition for most of their territory
- The cable companies can also continuously raise rates.
- Verizon NJ’s wires are being used for wireless and there have been no investigations
- The bottom line: wholesale prices for cable wireless are all rigged.
- Collusion of the primary players: In every current proceeding, Verizon et al. are now members of the same associations, using the same research and fake-astroturf groups and funding the same non-profits, as well as lobbying for more government subsidies.
All of these items mean that the ‘middle’ class and everyone else has been harmed with inflated prices that will not go down and customers will not get their competitive fiber service from Verizon to lower rates, and bring high speed to rural and low income areas.
And finally, the State has been incapable of tracking the fiber optic broadband services for 30 years; it ain’t gonna happen now. The plans laid out in the 5 year plans are well intentioned play-acting and there is no evidence that the state will properly examine and make sure that the work gets done.
We have compiled our filings, articles, posts, etc pertaining to the fiber optic failure of Verizon New Jersey.
NOTE: We created a case study of broadband in New Jersey
We are available to work with the State to further explain why New Jersey must deny Verizon any federal broadband funding and why the company must be investigated.
But more importantly, the State has an obligation to actually servo the public interest and we have laid out enough material facts that the State has ignored but must act so as to not repeat the same basic core problems with solving the Digital Divide. The regulators failed to properly analyze and then hold accountable those who created this mess.
W put a detailed description of these documents and a timeline of the different proceedings, cable franchise, etc, in this next section.