Friday, January 20, 2006

FIOS - Good News Bad News

Good News

First, the good news: David Li has won the Frappr contest and will be receiving the free Comcast movie. David, just email me your address and I'll send you the coupon.

I plan to give away more of the crap that Comcast keeps sending me to people who list themselves on the Frappr. So sign up if you haven't already. Everyone on the map is eligible. For those of you that cannot make use of such prizes, peace of mind should be enough. ... Ok, I'll come up with something else.

Bad News

Since I last wrote about the subject of Verizon TV, here's what's happened ... oh, wait, do you want the short version or the long version?

Short version:

Long version: There's been no progress. And it's even worse than that.

Details (If You Really Want To Call Them That)

According to discussion at Wednesday evening's CCAC meeting, there has been a breakdown in communications between the county and Verizon. Negotiations have come to a complete standstill. Let me repeat: Complete. Total. No one is calling anyone else. A Cable Office official had doubts whether Verizon will even show up at the next MFP meeting.

The Cable Office, the Council, the CCAC, the Public - all appear to be out of the loop. We were left with a lot of speculation. So who is in the loop? County Executive Duncan - and he's busy running his campaign to be the next governor of Maryland. (Get this - his campaign motto: Think Bigger. Hmm, bigger overdevelopment, bigger traffic jams, bigger taxes? He really wants us to think about this?)

Executive Duncan has not issued any statements regarding the franchise. He has not held hearings for public input as he did for the Comcast franchise. (He didn't even attend his own meeting with the CCAC and CCC. It's only once a year - is that such a burden?)

What's Wrong With This Picture????

Why isn't there action from Verizon? Probably because there are easier pickings elsewhere. They recently signed a franchise with neighboring Howard County. That at least shows that it's not a problem with the state of Maryland. (The state is significant because they traditionally controlled access to rights-of-way for most of Verizon's lines - and Verizon continued to take advantage of that by laying their FIOS-fiber as "upgrades" so that local communities couldn't interfere.)

And Verizon appears to be on the verge of nailing down a franchise with Carroll County. (For the geographically impaired, Howard is northeast of MC and Carroll County is north of Howard. (MD county map)

This Makes No Sense

So Verizon has laid fiber through half of MC but signs a franchise in a county where they only have 10% laid? And Verizon is actively negotiating in counties where they haven't even begun to dig! Is this a bad dream? Or a calculated move on Verizon's part? Or just a teeny tiny mistake? (Kinda like that teeny tiny "slam dunk" thing.)

Hey, anything's possible. Maybe Verizon is asking for concessions (We're the new guy in town - we need help from the big bad Comcast who has everything locked up.) Seems fair. After all, Starpower got concessions. For instance, StarPower doesn't have to meet certain customer service requirements as long as the number of customers falls below a certain number. Or maybe it's the reverse and the County Executive, having learned his lesson from being walked all over by Comcast, is trying to extract more from Verizon with an even tougher franchise.

I really don't understand the problem. These franchises should be cut and dry things by now. Everyone's signing franchises but MC. (Across the Potomac, Verizon is also getting franchises. For instance, Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax have both signed franchises.) Are we really asking for something so different?

Or is Verizon simply pissed off at all the complaints they've received from the digging in MC. (Admittedly, severing the electricity to the entire neighborhood of one of the councilmembers was not a politically savvy move.) But hey, I think competition is too important. I'm not complaining about a few "minor" annoyances. (They left a cable across two of my neighbors' lawns for 3 months and I didn't call once!) And maybe Verizon is trying to keep Duncan out of Annapolis and has decided this embarrassment is a good way to do it. I don't really know. The Executive doesn't talk to me.

In fact, that's literally true. The Executive has Customer Service Standards which say that the county must respond to e-mail within 2 days. However, I've never received responses to my e-mails to him. Yesterday, I sent him another - requesting an explanation of the holdup over the franchise. His standards also say: In general, all written communication must contain complete, accurate and precise information. Wow. His response oughta clear things right up. Assuming I get one. Anyone willing to lay odds?

12 comments:

Rob F said...

I'm ready to start writing my own letters, and it sounds as though Duncan is the bottleneck, though I'm sure Verizon is probably somewhat at fault as well.

See, the thing is, the real reason I want Fios TV is because it should save me roughly $30 a month over what I pay Comcast right now for fewer channels. Of course, that assumes that they use the same price structure they used in Fairfax, which might be a big assumption.

So, with MC dragging their heels on this issue, they're costing me that much every month they delay. Really think I'm going to re-elect you bozos if you keep acting like this? Think you have a good chance at governor when you never really took care of your county?

Just think, really. I realize y'all are busy, but if this is so very easy for other counties to pass, what's the hold up? At least answer that question.

Geez.

Cliff said...

Why would Duncan get personally involved in the details of county cable franchise issues? The county has an existing cable bureaucracy they claim to be one of the most advanced in the country. Unless Duncan has something to keep private, it seems logical the county cable office would be involved in every phase of a Verizon deal. Did the cable office say he was working on the franchise? Why did you conclude Duncan is working with Verizon?

JTRockville said...

Maybe Verizon won't show up at the next MFP meeting, but it looks like a bunch of other network providers will be there: Looking Glass Networks, NextG Networks Atlantic, and Fiberlight. Anyone know why these companies need to install equipment in the public right-of-way?

Don Libes said...

JT, I've seen stuff like that in the past and presume it's similar - companies providing video, telecomm, etc. services to businesses requiring them to plant their own fiber or cable in the rights-of-way.

Cliff, Duncan's office regularly interferes (in a sense) with the "cable bureaucracy" as you call it. For example, when the Cable Office finds behavior that merits a fine, the CO first asks for approval from Duncan. Sometimes, Duncan waives the fine and sometimes not. There are lots of other examples. But basically, Duncan wants a lot of this treated as policy issues - and the Cable Office doesn't make policy; only Duncan does. I'm not saying this is good. But it certainly is a long-standing practice.

Roger I said...

I've been trying to digest your info...

In your previous FIOS update, you mentioned that Verizon may be waiting on Congressional resolution of some pending legislation. I think that probably still figures into it. Sign the easy counties first... Let things settle before dealing with the franchise-savvy ones. I suppose this alone could account for the standoff that you've described.

I also guess that responsibility and accountability at VZ possibly figures into it. What I'm saying is that there may be a very simple reason (from their perspective), such as the department/org that is responsible for signing up franchises, may simply get brownie points for every jurisdiction signed, not the number of potential existing FIOS ready customers in signed jurisdictions. You'd think that their metrics would be tied back to increased sales revenue, but who knows? This could explain their signing counties like Carroll first.

On the other hand, maybe their metrics are NOT tied to generating revenue... Consider that 'the phone company' has had video delivery (and video telephones) on the planning board for decades. They think in large scales and long terms. I think that the broadband Internet took them by surprise, initially, and the cable companies got the initial lead in broadband delivery. They developed DSL over voice lines as an initial counter, but redoubled their efforts to deploy fiber to the home as the long term solution. I guess my point here is that Verizon figures that they'll get MC eventually. Right now, they're concentrating on the low hanging fruit, not on generating immediate FIOS revenue. You gotta figure that the FIOS revenue being generated is a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of fiber installation. We're just in the first inning of a very long ball game. If some existing, early adopting FIOS customers get frustrated in the short term, well, they be happy FIOS TV customers eventually.

From the practical side, Verizon may simply be busy handling the counties that Want FIOS TV. The Verizon folks surely have limited personnel bandwidth (so to speak). They can only sign up counties so fast, so it'd be natural to work first with counties that acutally want FIOS TV. I used to live in Fairfax. From my minimal dealings with county folks, my impression was that they were very citizen-centric and pro-active. It would not surprise me if they were in Verizon's face trying to get Fairfax signed up early. It also helps to promote the county's economic development department's task of showing the county as a national technology leader. Contrast that with MC's apparent attitude that "Comcast is good enough for our constituents. Come back and talk when you're ready to play by our rules."

As you mentioned, time to start writing letters. (Maybe to the economic development folks?)

(PS is your blog clock on GMT?)

Anonymous said...

Does Duncan have a stake in Comcast... or Comcast in Duncan?

Don Libes said...

The blog clock is EST/EDT.

medvitz said...

Can someone put up names and contact info for everyone and anyone who we could write to to help this along? I'm anxiously awaiting FIOS TV, just like the rest of us. It seems like if we don't do something, we'll all be waiting, and waiting....

Cliff said...

Here is a link to the county website with the public email for Duncan and the council.

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/mcginfo/siteFiles/contact.asp


Montgomery County Executive
Douglas M. Duncan
Executive Office Building
101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
(240) 777-2500
TTY (240) 777-2544
Email: douglas.duncan@montgomerycountymd.gov
Montgomery County Council


Stella B. Werner Council Office Building
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
(240) 777-7900
TTY (240) 777-7914
FAX: (240) 777-7989
Email: county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov

I understand every council member will get a copy sent to the above address.

lennie l said...

In NJ I am dealing with both Comcast and Verizon. Why anyone would want and actively campaign for either of them beats me. Comcast here is infamous for their consistantly poor service and Verizon is infamous for their consistantly poor billing.
The latest with Verizon Wireless (a subset of Verizon) is double billing. Two identical bills for one month. OK, so they have (when confronted, but without admitting an error) decided not to send credit but to apply it to the next month (keeping my money for another 30 days)!
In NJ, the NJBPU is very helpful and does get action from these two giants. Complaints to NJBPU apparently bypasses the local county franchise concessions.

Stephen Jamieson said...

HAHAHAHAHA! Lol. Oh sorry, I have not seen any cable being run in Carroll county, where I live, nor have I seen any news about there being an potential FIOS in the area. I would greatly wish to know where you have found this info. If you can tell me, please email me at hlpimfalling/at/gmail/dot/com. THANKS!

Dave Harlow said...

found your blog doing a search for FIOS in Carroll, however the commisioner on Cable regulation for the county still says there is NO TALKS with VZ for FIOS.. where do you get the information you said?