Verizon Communications’ telecom technicians are getting a dose of time-consuming tedious work as they recheck all of the electric connections for Verizon’s FiOS high-speed Internet service.
Verizon, which introduced FiOS Internet service in New York three years ago, recently began an eight-month campaign intended to resolve the Public Service Commission’s safety concerns over the product’s installation.
In 2006, commission staffers discovered a “high proportion” of FiOS customer installations not complying with the National Electrical Code, a standard outline for installing electrical wiring and equipment.
Over the past year, commission staffers continued to cite concerns about the fiber-optic network’s electrical grounding on customer premises. The telecom last month issued a plan to fix the FiOS connections.
Although the commission is not aware of any incidents caused by the noncompliant FiOS installations, it remains concerned about the threat of damage to equipment and electrical shocks. Verizon maintains its FiOS installations are safe and in compliance with industry standards.
“The risk is minimal, but the risk is there,” commission spokesman James Denn said.
Under the plan, Verizon will send optical network quality assurance teams to inspect FiOS installations and to adjust improperly connected terminals, many of which are outside households.
In the Capital Region, the telecom two years ago introduced FiOS to Delmar. Verizon later introduced the product to Schenectady, Niskayuna, Colonie, Latham, Guilderland and New Scotland.
“Since FiOS is new technology, questions about proper procedures naturally arise. We are working cooperatively with the commission as part of its proceeding to ensure that they are comfortable with our installation approach and that we understand what their expectations are,” Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said in an e-mail.
Bonomo would not specify how many FiOS customers the telecom has in New York, but nationwide it has 2 million FiOS Internet customers and 1.4 million FiOS television customers. The FiOS inspections are slated to end by March 31. Bonomo could not say how much the FiOS work would cost, but it is “not financially material.”
Verizon plans to offer product credits to all FiOS customers in specific regions if the telecom fails to inspect a certain percentage of installations during each month in those areas. In a supplemental report released earlier this month, Verizon said those credits “may be in the millions of dollars.”
“The bottom line is we put safety first. We are confident that our FiOS instillation procedures are in compliance with prescribed standards,” Bonomo said.
The FiOS snag is drawing complaints from a growing number of consumer advocacy groups, such as the People’s Production House, Consumers Union, New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause. Citing Verizon’s “privileged access” to commission officials and the FiOS grounding issue, Common Cause called on the commission to reconsider its decision to grant Verizon a New York City cable franchise.
The telecom two years ago started offering FiOS television services in Boston and on Long Island. It started offering that product in New York City last month and will roll it out in Buffalo this autumn.
“We believe this petition is without merit … This has been filed by a group that has stood in the way of progress and opposed our entry into the NYC market every step of the way,” Bonomo said.
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