Verizon Communications settled a three-year-old lawsuit with New York City on Tuesday, agreeing to add 500,000 low-income households to its broadband footprint, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York sued Verizon in 2017, claiming the telco reneged on a promise to extend its Fios fiber-optic broadband, TV and voice service to 100% of the city’s residents by 2014, part of the franchise agreement Verizon signed with the city in 2008.
A 2015 audit conducted by the city showed that Verizon had fallen far short of that goal, and found the telco had failed to install the necessary equipment in several areas where it said the buildout was completed. In addition, the study claimed Verizon had failed to consistently document service requests and said that 40,000 requests for service were pending, some for a year or more.
Verizon had denied those claims, countering that it had lived up to its commitments and that the dispute centered on semantics, basically the definition of a “passed home.”
As part of the Nov. 24 settlement, Verizon agreed to extend its fiber broadband service to an additional 500,000 households within the New York City Housing Authority.
“Internet access is an economic right in New York City, no matter your ZIP code. Tech giants will not stand in our way to deliver high-quality broadband to New Yorkers – they must be a part of the solution,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release. “COVID-19 has further exposed the inequalities in internet access while changing the way New Yorkers work, learn, and live. We will continue to hold any corporation that fails to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers accountable.”
According to the Mayor’s Office, many of the neighborhoods that will be earmarked for the expansion include Community Districts that are hit hardest by the pandemic.
According to the settlement, Verizon will make broadband connections available to a minimum of 125,000 additional households in these Community Districts. That means if a resident requests paid Fios service, Verizon is required to make it available within seven days.
Verizon also will report quarterly on their progress, and the city will make the list of newly eligible households public. The settlement is subject to approval from the NYC Franchise and Review Commission and the Public Service Commission.
"We're grateful for the opportunity to bring Verizon Fios service to an additional 500,000 New York City consumers,” Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in a statement. “Currently about 2.5 million NYC homes and businesses benefit from all that Fios has to offer. This agreement builds upon Verizon's base, and will make this premier broadband service available to even more consumers."
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