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The Ground War Between FiOS and Cablevision

The turf battle between Cablevision and Verizon has opened another front. Specifically, in my front yard. Digging up my turf.

Verizon logo I noticed someone digging a hole by my front porch last week. And the Verizon truck parked across the street (incidentally, there’s no parking on that side of the street. These monopolies know no bounds!). Wanting to do my part for homeland security, I decided to question the infiltrator.

According to “Jim,” the FIoS installer (I’ll assume this was an assumed name he used in the event that he was taken prisoner by The Other Monopoly), says he was checking the ground for my FiOS connection. I remarked that although I was neither an installer, an engineer or a physics major, the ground looked perfectly fine to me, having been freshly installed only a year ago by Verizon. He shrugged his shoulders saying an inspector had recently been out to visit and had fingered my location as a trouble spot. According to Jim, Cablevision was behind all of this.

IMHO : Probably. About three years ago, I was on a citizens review committee for a Northern New Jersey community which needed to approve Verizon’s application to provide TV services to the community. In the middle of the process, the NJ legislature made the process moot by giving Verizon a statewide OK to provide video services. But for a brief amount of time, I got to see some of the tactics that Cablevision lawyers employed to protect their franchises. It wasn’t pretty — but for those of you who appreciate what highly paid corporate lawyers can do when unleashed, it was probably high art.
So, is it likely that Cablevision sicked the PUC on FiOS? Yes.

It was at this point when my informant turned from possible fact to corporate fiction. “And if it wasn’t for all of the extra taxes Verizon has to pay, we would have put those bastards out of business already.” I found this to be a curious accusation at best, given that FiOS has offered no discernible discount in rates for video — a place where the marketplace is hungering for a price break. But I wasn’t going to interrupt him quite yet. After all, he had the sharp tools and was holding the higher (electrical) ground.

“And their phone service sucks. The quality isn’t quite as good as the we provide, but people just put up with it.” As a dual Vonage and Verizon subscriber, I attempted to point out the fallacy and the irony of his statement. Vonage quality *is* just as good as the phone company and it’s only that way because of the generous FiOS bandwidth. But this wasn’t a man who was going to be slowed down by facts. And he still was holding the sharp tools, so I decided to let him talk himself out and then show himself out.

Is there a digital turf war going on? Probably. But its nothing for us lowly consumers to concern ourselves with. Until it gets desperate enough for one of the two carriers to start using price as a weapon to take away customers.

It makes sense for Verizon to take the lead in pricing. According to USA Today, the phone company spends about $900 per home with expectations of adding three million new video homes per year. Costs run about $715 more per home than Cablevision for the typical five-hour, two-person job for a new install. What’s a few dollars more for the Ivan Seidenberg if it will pay off in the long run?

Now, I don’t have an MBA, an EE degree and the only advanced telecommunications term I know is POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). But if I owned a phone company and my consumer base was in a cost-cutting mood in trying economic times, the first thing I would do is start discounting to steal share from my competitor while I could do it on the cheap.

Which is the common ground for both the consumers and the competitors.

-Dave Zornow

This article was previously posted on

See also: RemoveTheLabels, Verizon

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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