Verizon’s Plans to Abandon Rural Landline Customers
Some of the most revealing commentary from McAdam came in response to questions about what Verizon plans to do with its enormous landline phone network, dominant in the northeastern United States.
In comments sure to alarm rural Verizon customers from Massachusetts to Virginia, McAdam clearly signaled the company is laying the groundwork to abandon its rural phone network (and DSL broadband) as soon as regulators allow. Dave Burstein at DSL Prime estimates that could impact as many as 18 million Verizon customers across the country.
“In[…] areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got [a wireless 4G] LTE built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there,” McAdam said. “We are going to do it over wireless. So I am going to be really shrinking the amount of copper we have out there and then I can focus the investment on that to improve the performance of it.”
Elsewhere, in more urban and suburban areas, McAdam also wants Verizon to purge its network of copper.
“The vision that I have is we are going into the copper plant areas and every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper,” McAdam said. “We are going to just take it out of service and we are going to move those services onto FiOS. We have got parallel networks in way too many places now, so that is a pot of gold in my view.”
In other words, McAdam would shift money spent maintaining and upgrading rural landline service into the company’s wireless network in rural America and its FiOS network in more urban environments, both of which will improve profits. FiOS allows Verizon to pitch television, broadband, and phone service in one profitable triple-play package, while also discontinuing standalone DSL service. Rural customers pushed to wireless LTE for broadband will face onerous usage limits and more expensive service for phone calls and broadband. Using Verizon’s LTE network for video would be prohibitively expensive.
McAdam hints the company has used its lobbyist force to make preparations to abandon rural customers first in Florida, Virginia, and Texas where state regulators approved legislation that eliminates the requirement Verizon serve as “the carrier of last resort.” That law required Verizon to deliver landline phone service to any customer in its service area on request. With that provision stricken in those three states, Verizon can abandon any landline customer it chooses after serving written notice.
McAdam said he intends to continue lobbying other states to adopt similar deregulation, and chided legislatures in both New York and New Jersey for “being backward” because they have repeatedly refused to allow Verizon to walk away from its rural customer obligations.
Burstein thinks the changes in progress at Verizon will be a disaster for affordable rural broadband.