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Verizon Opines on Grounding Gripes

The state of New York says it needs more time to determine whether Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has come up with a plan good enough to fix years worth of grounding problems spotted by state agencies in the telco's FiOS-branded fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

In a filing yesterday, Mitchel Ahlbaum, general counsel for the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC), wrote that the state of New York has some "serious, new concerns" about whether Verizon's Network Review Plan will be enough to address the "safety risks that may be associated with FiOS installations."

Ahlbaum, without elaborating much, writes that new concerns came after Verizon's August inspections of its installations, as reported by Light Reading on Friday, failed to reveal enough about "the number of households or the nature of noncompliance involved." (See VZ Verifies FiOS Grounding Failures.)

Background: The NYPSC, for years now, has found that the optical-network terminals (ONTs) outside consumer homes in the majority of Verizon's FiOS installations have not been grounded or bonded correctly as specified in the National Electrical Code. For details and pictures of pure ugliness, please see: Verizon Foes Ground & Pound in New York.

Verizon, in a separate filing to the NYPSC released yesterday, says this whole controversy has been "considerably overstated" and the company reminded state officials that its commitment to a safe FTTH network could put it on the hook for millions of dollars in customer credits.

"While millions of FiOS ONTs are in service today across the country, Verizon is unaware of any instances in which it has been determined that harm to either person or property was caused by an improperly grounded ONT," the telco states in a filing. "Indeed, while Verizon remains committed to providing its customers the highest quality and safest service possible, it believes that the potential for such harm in the context of Verizon’s unique fiber-based network architecture has been considerably overstated."

And, yes, Verizon says it is putting its money where its mouth is. The filing notes that if the telco fails to achieve 95 percent code compliance in specific areas, it will "incur definite and significant financial consequences, in that it will be required to provide all New Installation customers in that area -- regardless of whether individual customers’ installations fail to conform to the applicable grounding requirements -- with a credit or payment in the amount of $10, $15, or $20 each, depending upon the extent of the non-compliance."

While Verizon and city officials delve into the intricacies of code compliance, the former mayor of Rye City, John Carey, brought up a salient point in his comments to the NYPSC. In a letter dated September 20, Carey wrote: "I submit that attempting to determine whether Verizon’s installations comply with the National Electrical Code or with its own Methods and Procedures does not go far enough. The real question is whether installations are in fact safe."

— Phil Harvey, Editor, Light Reading
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