Verizon is yanking out its old copper wiring when it installs its new FiOS fiber optic lines in the homes and businesses of its customers, according to an article by the Associated Press.
At first blush, this might not seem like such a big deal. Fiber optic lines are far faster and have a much higher capacity that the traditional copper wires that have carried phone calls for more than a century.
There are a couple of big problems from a consumer standpoint, however.
Yanking out the copper means there is no going back for consumers who might be unhappy with their new fiber optic services. Unlike the old copper wire systems, FiOS doesn’t work during a power outage, for example.
Yanking the copper also means consumers can no longer get DSL Internet service. DSL is slower than FiOS or cable broadband, but it is also usually cheaper. For consumers who don’t feel the need for speed, DSL can be the best choice.
Verizon appears to be the only big phone company that is pulling out its copper lines — at least for now. That’s because Verizon is in the midst of a $23 billion program to convert its entire network to fiber optic lines.
Other phone giants such as AT&T and Qwest are also aggressively replacing copper with fiber optic, but only along their main lines. Voice and data are still fed into homes and businesses — referred to as “the last mile” — over copper. Those systems are fairly limited in speed and capacity, however.
Verizon is to be commended for making a huge investment to upgrade its network to fiber optic, but why is it going to the time and expense of ripping out all those perfectly good copper wires in the process?
Verizon and other incumbent phone companies are still required to lease space on their copper lines to competitors, a requirement that dates back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. With certain exceptions, the phone companies are not required to lease space on its fiber optic network to competitors, however.
By snatching out their copper lines, Verizon appears to be using a “burn the bridge behind them” strategy so that consumers cannot go back to tradtional phone service or cheaper DSL Internet service if they so desire. That’s anti-competitive and anti-consumer.