Verizon refuses to repair copper infrastructure, still set on forcing fiber conversion

For the past few years, there have been persistent reports from across the country that Verizon was forcing end-users to switch away from copper networks by deliberately tearing out infrastructure, firing repair crews, forcing customers to wait months for repair, and then claiming to Congress that its fiber conversion is driven by demand. In reality, that demand is being manufactured.

Corporate documents obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer show that Verizon has an internal program known as “Fiber is The Only Fix,” meant to cajole and/or strong-arm both existing copper customers and, in some cases, their next-door neighbors, to move to fiber connections.

Here’s how the Inquirer describes the situation:

The customer is told that a technician truck will roll for repairs. Verizon’s customer-service system then generates two tickets on the repair call: one for a repair and a second, called a “ghost service order,” to replace the copper with a fiber connection.

Once at the customer’s home, the Verizon technician tells the customer that the only solution is to switch to fiber, which includes the installation of a FiOS box.

If a flagged copper customer needing repairs ultimately declines fiber upgrade, the Verizon document commands: “Do not fix trouble” with the copper line.

As we’ve previously covered, Verizon’s commands to not fix copper infrastructure go beyond the house; reports filed by consumer watchdog groups and the Communications Workers of America have detailed the blatant mismanagement and disregard that Verizon lavishes upon its copper infrastructure. The company’s messaging on these topics emphasizes that it isn’t charging current customers more for fiber service, but ignores the fact that certain services aren’t available via fiber connections, including some home security systems and medical alert systems. Sustained power outages can also be an issue; Verizon offers a portable battery pack for its fiber devices, but that’s not the same as being able to provide power for the phone via copper wire. In many cases, it’s the elderly who are most at risk at having their lives disrupted by a copper-to-fiber shift, and these are the populations often least able to navigate the disruption or most at-risk from a lengthy power loss or medical alert failure.

Ultimately, the picture the Inquirer paints just emphasizes what we already knew. Verizon is dumping its copper network in part to escape from FCC guarantees of service that governed the Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN). Verizon claims to help customers navigate the difference between its phone services, but a look at the company’s website shows which services it prioritizes.


If you click on “Phone” on the residential homepage, pictured above, you’re bounced over to FiOS Digital Voice, the VoIP offering that isn’t subject to any of the FCC’s consumer protections, price limits, or rules that prohibit cramming. If you want standard phone service, you have to go hunting for it, and there’s only a tacit acknowledgment of the difference between the two concepts.

The FCC has shown little interest in regulating how the utilities shut down these networks, which is likely part of what’s emboldened Verizon to push ahead with its own shutdown tactics. For existing copper customers, shutdown appears to be more a question of “when” than “if.”

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