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Don't Let the Verizon/Cable Deal Slam the Door on Our High Speed-Future

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Elected Officials, Community Groups in Five Cities without FiOS Ask FCC to Reject Verizon’s Proposed Collaboration with Cable Companies

While Suburbs Enjoy Fiber-Optic Service and Competition, Secretive Deal Means Fewer Choices, Higher Prices, Slower Broadband for Consumers in Major Cities

WASHINGTON - Groups of elected officials and advocates from Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo and Syracuse announced today in Reply Comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) their deep concerns about a secretive deal between Verizon subsidiary Verizon Wireless and the nation’s biggest cable companies. If approved, this deal would lead to higher prices, fewer options, and a growing digital divide for consumers in the five cities and across the country.

While Verizon has built its fiber-optic FiOS network in surrounding suburbs, it has failed to invest in each of the five cities. The residents of these cities are lower income and have a higher proportion of African American and Hispanic residents than their suburban neighbors where Verizon has deployed its FiOS network. In letters to the FCC, elected officials and community advocates from these major cities expressed concern that if the current deal is approved, Verizon would have little incentive to expand FiOS to their communities, meaning fewer consumer options, lost jobs, higher prices, and an unchecked monopoly for urban consumers. Meanwhile, over 130,000 Americans signed an online petition opposing the deal.

“This type of agreement is not in the best interest of those who need to get and stay connected the most: low-income communities and families. This is a step backwards in bridging the digital divide, and builds an additional socio-economic barrier. Television and internet access are tools for learning in our community,” said Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who was joined by dozens of Albany elected officials and civic groups who are concerned about the deal. “As President of the Albany Common Council, I appeal to you to do what is right and not deny the city and its residents the opportunity to have full access to the broadband technology of the future.”

“For the past few years, we have watched as Verizon Communications has built its all fiber FiOS network in 10 suburban communities that ring our city. In those communities…Consumers benefit from competitive choice,” wrote Buffalo Common Councilmember Darius Pridgen, in a letter joined by dozens of other elected officials,  including Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, and civic groups. “But the residents and small business owners in Buffalo have not been able to reap these benefits. To date, Verizon has chosen not to deploy its all-fiber FiOS network to the more densely-populated city of Buffalo. The proposed Verizon Wireless/cable company partnership would cement this digital divide and foreclose the possibility of effective high-speed broadband and video competition in our city.”

“Under this transaction, Baltimore will never get a fiber-optic network and the city will be at a disadvantage. The direct job loss will be the hundreds of technicians that would be employed building, installing and maintaining FiOS in the area. The indirect costs of this deal are even higher: the lack of competition in telecommunications will raise prices and reduce service quality,” wrote Curt Anderson, Chair of the Baltimore City Delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates, who was joined Monday by Baltimore City Council President William H Cole, Elbridge James of the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP (who raised concerns about the impact of the transaction on the “significant African American population” in Baltimore) and other local consumer groups in raising concerns about the secretive deal.

“We are deeply concerned that the proposed partnership between Verizon Wireless and the cable companies under the SpectrumCo umbrella will leave our city – and other communities like it – on the wrong side of the digital divide,” wrote a coalition of Syracuse elected officials and civic groups. “As a result of the Verizon/cable company partnership, we are deeply concerned that Verizon will never build its FiOS network in Syracuse to compete with its new cable partner. The decision to bypass Syracuse disproportionately impacts minority and lower-income residents and neighborhoods.”

“The decision to bypass Boston disproportionately impacts minority and lower-income residents, small businesses, seniors and neighborhoods. It also hurts the city’s ability to attract jobs,” wrote a coalition of Boston civic groups and religious leaders. “In order to protect the public interest, we join together to urge the FCC to condition any approval of the Verizon/cable Transaction on specific guarantees that Verizon will expand its FiOS network to currently un-served areas within its traditional telephone network footprint, including development throughout the city of Boston and the surrounding areas that do not have access to FiOS.” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino also announced his opposition to the proposed deal.

Background on the proposed Verizon Wireless / Cable Deal:

Verizon Wireless, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and Bright House Networks have reached an agreement on a transaction that has two parts. Verizon Wireless and the four cable companies will jointly market each other’s products allowing them to offer a “quadruple play” of video, internet access, voice and wireless service that would eliminate competition. Verizon Wireless would also pay $3.9 billion to buy wireless spectrum from the four cable companies.

This proposed corporate alliance - if approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) - would limit competition, raise prices, eliminate jobs and end Verizon’s deployment of its world-class all-fiber network, leaving many consumers and businesses on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Verizon’s FiOS is the most advanced broadband delivery platform, making Verizon the only major U.S. telecommunications company to draw fiber all the way to the home. High-speed Internet is essential to economic development, job growth, and improvements in education, health care, energy conservation, and public safety.

To date, Verizon has not deployed its FiOS network in a number of large- and medium-sized cities in its footprint, including Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse, Boston, and Baltimore, among others. A demographic analysis comparing the population in these non-FiOS cities with the population in the suburbs ringing these cities where Verizon has deployed FiOS demonstrates that people of color and lower-income households will be disproportionately impacted by the decreased incentives to invest in FiOS.

Cities without Verizon FiOS Compared to Surrounding Suburbs with FiOS Median Household Income, Poverty Rate, % Minority

% Minority

Median Household Income

Poverty Rate

Buffalo - No Verizon FiOS

44.9%

$29,285

28.8%

Buffalo Suburbs with Verizon FiOS

4.9%

$56,925

8.2%

Baltimore - No Verizon FiOS

72%

$38,346

25.6%

Baltimore Suburban Counties with FiOS

52.8%

$81,840

7.6%

Boston - No Verizon FiOS

52.3%

$49,893

23.3%

Boston Suburbs with Verizon FiOS

22.9%

$82,816

8.3%

Albany - No Verizon FiOS

44.8%

$39,158

25.3%

Albany Suburbs with FiOS

13.4%

$70,540

5.4%

Syracuse - No Verizon FiOS

38.0%

$30,891

31.1%

Syracuse Suburbs with Verizon FiOS

6.7%

$52,961

7.0%

Source: Calculations based on U.S. Census, American Community Survey, 2009 and 2010

The following elected officials, civil rights leaders, and civic groups sent letters to the FCC today:

CITY

Signer

Albany

Capital District Chapter of Citizen Action of New York

Albany

Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin

Albany

Albany Common Council Members Richard Conti, Leah Golby, and Barbara Smith

Albany

Troy City Council President Pro Tempore Nina Nichols

Albany

Albany County Legislator Douglas Bullock

Albany

Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region

Albany

New York State Alliance for Retired Americans

Albany

Center for Working Families

Baltimore

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

Baltimore

Maryland NAACP

Baltimore

Curt Anderson, Chair of the Baltimore City Delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates

Baltimore

City Council President William H Cole

Boston

Mayor Thomas Menino

Boston

Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Boston

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Boston

New England Jewish Labor Committee

Boston

Database Designs

Boston

Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice

Boston

Rev. Terry Burke, Minister, First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist

Boston

Student Immigrant Movement

Boston

Women’s Institute for Leadership Development

Boston

National Lawyers Guild-Massachusetts Chapter

Boston

Neighbor to Neighbor MA

Boston

Boston Workers’ Alliance

Boston

New England United Justice

Boston

TecChange

Buffalo

Congressmember Brian Higgins

Buffalo

Erie County Executive

Buffalo

New York State Assemblymember Sean Ryan

Buffalo

Erie County Legislator Timothy Hogues

Buffalo

Erie County Legislator Lynn Marinelli

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember Richard Fontana

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember David Franczyk

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember Joseph Golombek, Jr.

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember Michael LoCurto

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember Darius Pridgen

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember David Rivera

Buffalo

Buffalo Common Councilmember Demone Smith

Buffalo

Western New York Area Labor Federation

Buffalo

CWA Local 1122

Buffalo

IUPAT District Council #4

Buffalo

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Buffalo

Public Employees Federation Region 1

Buffalo

1199 SEIU Upstate

Buffalo

United Steelworkers of America International Union

Buffalo

Citizen Action of Western New York

Buffalo

Coalition for Economic Justice

Buffalo

North Park Community Association

Buffalo

People United for Sustainable Housing - Buffalo

Buffalo

Workforce Development Institute

Buffalo

Msgr. David Gallivan, Holy Cross RC Parish

Buffalo

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein

Buffalo

Rev. Drew Ludwig, Lafayette Presbyterian Church

Buffalo

Pastor George Nicholas, Lincoln United Methodist Church and Metropolitan Methodist Church

Buffalo

Rev. Merle Showers, Ontario Street United Methodist Church

Buffalo

Sr. Edith Wyss, Sisters of St. Francis

Syracuse

Legislator Chris Ryan

Syracuse

Legislator Monica Williams

Syracuse

Councilor Helen Hudson

Syracuse

Councilor Jean Kessner

Syracuse

School Board President Burrill Wells

Syracuse

Central New York Area Labor Federation

Syracuse

CWA Local 1123

Syracuse

CWA Local 1152

Syracuse

IUPAT District Council #4

Syracuse

SEIU Local 200 United

Syracuse

1199 SEIU Upstate

Syracuse

United Steelworkers of America International Union

Syracuse

United Steelworkers of America Local 1430

Syracuse

Citizen Action of Central New York

Syracuse

Citizen Action of the Southern Tier

Syracuse

Syracuse Peace Council

Syracuse

Syracuse United Neighbors

Syracuse

Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Syracuse

Syracuse

Pastor Kevin Agee, Hopps Memorial CME Church

Syracuse

Julio Urrutia

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For release March 26, 2012

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