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Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York

Phil Harvey
News Analysis
Phil Harvey

How badly does Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) want its New York grounding controversy to go underground?

So much so the company is now offering to shell out what could amount to millions of dollars to FiOS customers across several counties where the carrier has repeatedly returned to homes to fix electrical problems identified by state officials, Light Reading has learned from a study of documents filed with the New York Department of Public Service (NYDPS).

"Verizon will issue the corresponding product credit to each customer account…", that was improperly installed or cited as being problematic, the carrier wrote in a document filed with the NYDPS on Aug. 15. The point of the account credits is to "compensate such customers for the inconvenience of the inspection (and, where applicable, remediation) process," the document stated. "The total amount of credits required... may be in the millions of dollars, depending upon the level of compliance that is achieved."

What's going on?
Over the past two years, New York State officials have conducted several field audits of Verizon FiOS installations and most weren't bonded or grounded properly, as mandated by the National Electrical Code. The carrier is now in the process of auditing its own work and correcting the issues identified by the NYDPS, and those fixes won't have any bearing on Verizon's New York State video franchise, which has already been approved.

Since the spring of 2006, the NYDPS has documented numerous examples of Verizon installations in Nassau, Orange, Rockland, and Westchester counties that it says weren't properly grounded. The following photos, extracted from the state's April 2008 installation audit, show the extent of some of the ugliness that Verizon now says it is committed to cleaning up:

NYDPS officials say the grounding issue poses a "potential safety risk to the premises and its occupants" in the case of FiOS homes, according to one report sent to Verizon two years ago. "We tentatively conclude that FiOS may form an electrically conductive path both to the outside world as well as other electrically powered devices inside the building," that report stated.

Verizon, in July, laid out a Network Review Plan, where it discussed an extensive effort to check its installers' work and fix and document any problems it discovered. After Light Reading posed questions about this quandary, Verizon commented that it has been working on the issue for a while and that it puts safety first.

Industry analysts say this issue is probably more political than it is an issue of public safety. And the point of being political is to chip away at a competitor's reputation. "As an old Bell System Installation and Repair foreman, I'd say that Verizon-New York has some serious quality problems," says Kermit Ross, principal at Millennium Marketing. "If the problems are Verizon-wide, FiOS' momentum is bound to be affected."

Meanwhile, cable companies must be snickering at the fits they're giving the big telco. One document filed with New York State even acknowledges that the impetus to inspect the FiOS installations came "in response to concerns expressed by consumers, municipalities, and competitors."

"The only thing that strikes me as out of the ordinary here is that it's usually the other way around," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. "The phone guys have used public services commissions for years to keep cable guys snarled up, and now Verizon's getting a taste of its own medicine."

And now, we wait…
Two days ago, the NYPSC issued a notice that it will consider "whether to approve, modify, or reject, in whole or in part" Verizon's Network Review Plan. That will happen on Sept. 22.

— Phil Harvey, Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:47 PM
re: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York
Here's a link to the above-mentioned notice:

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:45 PM
re: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York
This won't be the last time Verizon finds itself in hot water because of improper installations. Verizon Wireless has many cell phone sites that do not comply with FCC rules and regulations in that they over expose third party workers to RF Radiation. Verizon and other service providers are putting up cell sites on buildings, rooftops, and other structures that are accessible to roofers, electricians, and firefighters etc who are unaware of the hazard. As a result, these people are exposed to RF above FCC limits. This is issue is becoming harder for the Service Providers to hide, soon the dam will burst. When this pressing public health issue hits the mainstream press, every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to file suit.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:42 PM
re: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York
Wow. Hadn't heard of Verizon cell site problems, but we'll look into it.

Meanwhile, does else look at all these photos and secretly wish Apple would design an ONT or some way to hide wires on the sides of homes?
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:33:36 PM
re: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York
I'd appreciate an expert commenting on this. The FiOS ONT is plugged in to an electrical outlet at the customer's premises. Why does it need to be grounded separately any more than a television or computer?

The output signals are telephone on twisted pair, Ethernet on Cat-5 and RF on coax. Why do these have to be grounded any more than a telephone or a router?

As a New Yorker desperate for FiOS, I'm very worried about our state's incompetent, corrupt and bloated bureaucracy once again hindering progress.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:22 PM
re: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York
This is pretty simple at first glance, On the side of your house there is a NID (telephone box) in side that is a high voltage protector that the feeder telephone cable plugs into first (Supposeably keeping stray voltage from entering the other lines that go to your phones in the home - ie lightening) and the protector is connected to a ground lug in the NID. Also the shield of the feeder cable has a ground lug in the NID that it is suppose to connect to as well. So those ground lugs are connected to a 12AWG solid core (e.g. AWG depending on state size and type acceptable), which in turn is suppose to connect to ground rode installed at the time the power company hooked up power to your house. Simple huh..

Not really, now what happens if you want the NID installed say in your Garage, well, lets prey that its within 50th of the Power meter/Power ground. Because if it isnGÇÖt then there are several things that has to be done (again depending on state). Additionally, depending on the type of power plant the power company deliveries to your house/community may also have affects (plants 50 years ago are different then code today GÇô IE grandfathered). Which brings up even more, what if your house it say 50years old (ie Northern States), was the power installed according to todays standard and what about that ground rod, what if its out at a power pole and not at the house. So its so easy and while there is a GÇ£National CodeGÇ¥, each state and local government can require exceeding requirements.

Yes the cableCo have a device that is suppose to be connected to the feedercable prior to it entering you home as well.. But take a look at I would say 90%of the Satellite installs and there isnGÇÖt a ground to be found, and if your lucky the antenna is grounded but not the cable entering you home.

So, FIOS is fiber, Well again the fiber is inside a feeder cable, which has a wire inside the cable as well. What copper in a fiber run, yes, Tech can use this for locating the buried cableGǪ. Which means its conductive and yes you got it needs to be grounded.. Additionally, since the NID is external of the home, the Electronic and copper entering your home need to be high voltage protected, just incase the lightening decides to hit your rose bush an jump into the nid.
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