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Sneaky Verizon Cuts Your Copper Wires
You might think you're just "trying" Verson's new fiber-optic service, but the truth is, there's probably no turning back. When Verizon installs this service they're routinely disconnecting and even removing the copper wires that carry the phone signal on the traditional phone system. And they did it to Henry Powderly without warning, he says. From an AP story in the IHT:

Verizon's new high-bandwidth fiber lines are fully capable of carrying not only calls but also Internet data and television with room to grow. But once the copper is pulled, it's difficult to switch back to the traditional phone system or less expensive Digital Subscriber Line service. And Verizon is not required, in most instances, to lease fiber to rival phone companies, as it is with the copper infrastructure.

What's more, anyone who owns Powderly's house in the future will face higher bills with FiOS than another home with copper. Right now, for instance, Verizon's DSL plans cost as little as $15 (€11) a month. FiOS Internet starts at $30 (€22) a month.

"I was not given an option," said Powderly, a 30-year-old resident Long Island, just east of New York City.

Besides limiting options down the road, the switch to FiOS can have other implications. Unlike copper-connected phone service, FiOS does not work during power outages once a backup battery goes out — not even for emergency calls. Home-alarms and certain other devices work best with copper.

As it hooks up homes and businesses to its fiber network, Verizon has been routinely disconnecting the copper and, many subscribers say, not telling them upfront or giving them a choice. More than 1 million customers have signed up for a FiOS service, which is offered mainly in the suburban areas of 16 states.

Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said customers should have been notified at least three times — once by the sales representative when FiOS is ordered, by the technician before copper is cut and through paperwork given to the customer. Some customers say that has not happened.

Here's a question for you: Would you pay more to do business with a company that shows itself to be ethical in its dealings with customers? That makes a pledge to be fair and ethical, and actually follows through?

It seems to me that this could be good old capitalistic good business. A "unique selling benefit," sad to say. Or do you think people will just continue to complain but stick with whatever company is cheapest? What's ethical business worth to you?

Posted by aalkon at July 9, 2007 11:27 AM


I guess I'll have to find out, since I'm a Verizon customer. Oh, well. I hear Brighthouse is faster anyway.

Posted by: Patrick at July 9, 2007 2:20 AM

I'd pay a limited premium for ethical service if I knew I'd get it, but given the corporate structure, and the immense size of these companies, I don't believe there's any way to be sure of receiving such service. At some point things always go off the rails, and there's no one to hold accountable.

Posted by: kishke at July 9, 2007 6:26 AM

Of all the customer service there is, I've been happiest with Apple's. And as far as the accusation of (heh) Apples to oranges goes, yes Applecare is a pay service, but they've always come through for me (I've had Macs since 1985), and I had HP's pay service and it was a nightmare on stilts.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 9, 2007 6:56 AM

The suspicious part of me wonders (considering current prices) what is happening with all the copper that is being cut? Considering that rural areas around the country keep getting hit with theft of phone wire right off the poles, how much easier is it for Verizon's techs to simply roll up the copper wire going to the house as they are laying fiber?

Then again, there really are not any black helicopters, right? (grin)

Posted by: André-Tascha at July 9, 2007 7:49 AM

You pose an interesting question here - ethical business practices are a premium that some are willing to pay for (like, the extra cost of free trade coffee), but they're hard to police, and lots of people will always go for cheaper. Personally, I try to avoid businesses that I think do things badly. E.g., I'd never shop at Wal-Mart. But I live in a place where that's easy to do; I have family living in the rural south, and they have no other options - Wal-Mart is the only nearby place for decent groceries and household items.

As far as big telco's go, I think it's even less likely that they'll have good business practices. Their pseudo-monopoly structure makes it so there basically isn't a choice for home phone/DSL service; as a result, they have little incentive to do business ethically. I am looking for a new cell phone provider, though, as AT&T appears to be particularly egregious in its behavior (opposition to net neutrality and utter complicity in the NSA wiretapping program).

Posted by: justin case at July 9, 2007 8:15 AM

I read recently that Costco goes beyond what the law requires for their employees serving in Iraq or Afghanistan by continuing their families benefits and medical coverage, and reimbursing the soldiers for the gap between their military pay vs their employee salary.

Posted by: eric at July 9, 2007 8:28 AM

So long as a company can be profitable without being ethical, there is no need for them to endure the expense of behaving ethically.

Same reason why everything is made in China.

Since the majority of customers don't demand better, those of us who are willing to pay for better don't get the opportunity.

Posted by: brian at July 9, 2007 8:40 AM

I've done lots of shopping at Walmart. They don't "do things badly" at all. The selection is good; so are prices; and they have a good return policy. What's not to like?

Posted by: kishke at July 9, 2007 9:04 AM

What's not to like?

The way they treat their employees. Their low prices don't just come from Wal-Mart's amazing supply chain management (which is incredible). Low pay, stingy healthcare, ugly scheduling rules. Lots of their employees end up getting public assistance for their health needs. Coscto's cheap and does a much better job on those issues; I'm happier giving my dollars to them. Others may feel differently, which is fine.

Posted by: justin case at July 9, 2007 9:15 AM

The definition of "ethical" for the purposes of this discussion seems to be "The way I think it should be done."
To get a good deal in any business transaction, you have to watch your interests carefully; such has it always been, such will it ever be.
As for Wal-mart et. al. I get benefits through my employer but they are not "given" to me, I earn them (well, not right now I'm not earning them but you get my meaning.) I started out with unskilled, entry-level jobs with no benefits, rotten hours and poly-blend uniforms and I'm glad those jobs were there. They allowed me to work my way through school and get better jobs. If the dull-eyed teenager who can't tell me where the light bulbs are is EARNING full health coverage then I am working WAY too hard even as I sit here yapping with you gang of screen names.
At least Amy is right in looking at how much extra it would cost for products and services delivered at some "higher" standard. The problem is that once a price is named, many people would instantly demand that this premium be paid by 1. "The Rich" 2. Big Corporations 3. The Government. (Tried it, didn't work, millions murdered, next.)
The extra premium you pay for good business practices is in the effort you put into research, the extra miles you drive and your willingness to put up a fight over little things. Pay it happily, not everyone can.

Posted by: non-poo flinging martin at July 9, 2007 11:47 AM

The problem is that once a price is named, many people would instantly demand that this premium be paid by 1. "The Rich" 2. Big Corporations 3. The Government.

I don't see how this follows. Seems to me that many businesses market themselves as being more ethical than others; it's part of the the attraction for their customers, who happily pay a premium for it. A good example is American Apparel and their "no sweatshops, made in Downtown LA" theme.

Posted by: justin case at July 9, 2007 12:32 PM

Business ethics aside, it seems to be an interesting business move. Copper is highly valuable.

If FiOS is installed, copper is pulled so Verizon can make money off of it in the scrap metal business.

Posted by: Michael at July 9, 2007 1:26 PM

"If FiOS is installed, copper is pulled so Verizon can make money off of it in the scrap metal business."

Copper scrap is going for a couple of bucks per pound. A 1000' roll of RJ45 (4 twisted pairs) weighs 27 lbs. and RJ11 has not quite half as much copper. Even if Verizon is confiscating every inch of phone wire in their prospective customer's homes they aren't exactly looking at huge profits.
They are taking out the CONNECTION POINT to the old phone service so it will be prohibitively expensive for their customers to switch back at the end of the trial period. There may be an ethical question there but the black helicopter angle needs work.

Posted by: non-poo flinging martin at July 9, 2007 2:27 PM

I didnt mention the copper scrap angle as the sole reasoning. It is just one avenue not mentioned past the ethics, monopolistic, opportunistic, and competition limiting already discussed here.

I mentioned it similarly to how contractors regularly charge you for a certain amount of building materials then what's left over they keep for use of their other projects. Or take that expensive antique light fixture to sell on Ebay. Kinda like a built in profit margin on all projects.

Unethical? Maybe. Afterall, I paid for those supplies you are now using elsewhere.

Verizon destroying your "antiquated" copper system so you cant turn back sounds quite similar.

It does seem later in the article it's not that permanent:

"Rabe, the Verizon spokesman, said the company will restore copper to homes if the customer insists, but Verizon would rather not reconnect the copper and will try to convince the customer to agree"

Also still, there is always the court argument that the trial period is not a trial when you cant convert back but who wants to fight in court?

Posted by: Michael at July 9, 2007 4:33 PM

Unfortunately, the AP story misrepresented me.

Here's my side:

Posted by: Henry at July 10, 2007 10:03 AM


Posted by: non-poo-flinging martin at July 10, 2007 1:25 PM

Appalling. Did anything happen to the reporter?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 10, 2007 11:46 PM

Oh...I see the correction in another blog entry:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - In a July 8 story about Verizon (NYSE:VZ) Communications Inc.'s fiber-optic service, The Associated Press reported that some consumers say they were not notified that the copper lines to their homes would be removed during installation. One customer, Henry Powderly II of Long Island, N.Y., said he was not told by Verizon. The story should have noted that Powderly didn't mind being disconnected and that he likes the new service.

But, again...any word on the reporter?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 10, 2007 11:48 PM

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