Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rockville Debate

On Monday, October 22, 2007, I attended a debate among the candidates for mayor and council of Rockville, Maryland. I was curious if fresh blood might be the solution to breaking the logjam presently preventing Rockville citizens from getting Verizon FIOS internet and TV. Given the upcoming November 6 election, this may be an opportunity to effect change by voting.

Before going on, let me clarify that that when I say Rockville, I'm referring to the City of Rockville. It is only in the city limits that residents have been unable to get FIOS. (Outside Rockville, county residents are of course still at the mercy of Verizon's installation schedule but that's a separate issue.)

I don't avidly watch Rockville politics but I have attended council meetings on occasion so I'm familiar with how interesting (to put it politely) their behavior can be. A candidate debate seemed to promise an evening even more entertaining than professional wrestling - with an equal amount of simulated grappling.

Although it was called a debate, it was nothing close. Organized by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce and intended to focus on business interests, 14 candidates stood on stage, each starting with a two-minute position spiel. Questions were then doled out to each candidate round-robin. They had 90 seconds to answer their respective questions. This was repeated again with an additional round of questions. So although questions were solicited from the audience (and I submitted one about Verizon), there was no debate and no opportunity for followup or rebuttal.

My question: Please address why the city has been unable to come to terms with Verizon for FIOS internet and TV service and how your approach would differ.

Although only two candidates got the question on-air, I did also speak to several other candidates afterward and put the question to them as well. All in all, I was disappointed by the responses - only one candidate expressed any grasp of the details of the issue - and even his grasp was tenuous, seemingly accepting of a large portion of the current position held by Larry Giammo, Mayor of Rockville. The best that could be said was that the candidates understood that it was a valid issue.

What I'd like to do at this point is contact all the candidates, give them time to look into the issue and provide their position. We'll then be able to compare them.

For candidates who would like a little background, it will be helpful to read what I wrote earlier about the fee situation.

Besides fees, the other big issue appears to be the provisioning schedule. I have never addressed the schedule before but I understand that the Mayor is still insisting on 100% coverage in 3 years. To be blunt, Rockville is simply wrong to demand this. By comparison, the MC franchise provides staged service areas which factor in density and other issues. That seems much more reasonable.

If Verizon was being granted monopoly status, I would make a different argument but since Verizon is entering the field as a competitor and since Rockville has done little but postured for coming on two years now, Rockville has little basis for its schedule demands. Frankly, if Verizon stuck Rockville at the end of their current schedule, it would be justified. But it's worth looking at Verizon's county-wide schedule that was created during the county-wide negotiation. Notice that Rockville falls in what's termed the Middle Service Area.

According to the MC franchise, the middle service area is provisioned as follows:
3.1.2. Middle Service Area: In the Middle Service Area, the Franchisee shall offer Cable Service to significant numbers of Subscribers in residential areas within three (3) years of the Effective Date of this Franchise, to at least fifty percent (50%) of the residential areas within the Middle Service Area within four (4) years of the Effective Date of this Franchise, and to all residences within the Middle Service Area at which such service is requested within five (5) years ofthe Effective Date of this Franchise, except as specified in Section 3.2. If Franchisee is unable to reach agreement with the City of Rockville to obtain construction permits for the FTTP network under reasonable terms and conditions, as determined by Franchisee, by December 31, 2007, these timeframes shall not apply to Franchisee's provision of Cable Service to residences served by Franchisee's Rockville and Montrose wire centers. Instead, Franchisee shall offer Cable Service to all residences served by the Rockville and Montrose wire centers at which such service is requested within four (4) years of obtaining construction permits for the FTTP network from the City of Rockville, except as specified in Section 3.2.
The referenced section 3.2 deals with density requirements and related issues as I mentioned earlier.

Go ahead and attach a comment to the blog (or email me) if I've overlooked any related issues that the candidates should also address. At the end of the week, I'll contact each candidate for a response.

8 comments:

Neil said...

Don:

I have to take issue with your second paragraph. There are folks, like myself, who live outside the city of Rockville but are unable to get FiOS because of the missing agreement between the city and Verizon.

That's because though we don't live in Rockville, we live near it and are served by a Verizon central office that's within the city limits. Since Verizon can't put down fiber within Rockville, they can't get it out to me.

This is doubly frustrating because as a non-citizen of that city I cannot use my vote to make my voice heard.

I should say that I'm making an assumption here, and that's that FiOS service is necessarily served out of the same CO as my telephone service or DSL would be. I'd be happy to hear that I'm just plain wrong about that.

Don Libes said...

Neil,

Good point about non-Rockville citizens stuck because they are served by Rockville central offices. Your assumption about using existing COs is my assumption as well.

I suppose the Rockville Mayor and Council would tell you that you're getting their "higher standards and oversight" without having to pay for them - so you should be doubly happy rather than double frustrated. :-P

Keith said...

Don

After speaking with or trading emails with several city officials I have given up on ever receiving FIOS.

Thanks for keeping everyone up to date.

Anonymous said...

Rockville is now beginning to look like Luddites.

There is a big whole in MoCo and it is bass ackwards Rockville.

Very frustrating.

jonsmith20850 said...

THANK YOU for raising this issue. I was so very excited about getting away from Comcast only to have my hopes dashed by this bizarre conflict. Keep pushing the candidates to move on this!

JTRockville said...

Don, you mentioned one of the candidates was "seemingly accepting of a large portion of the current position held by Larry Giammo, Mayor of Rockville". What is Giammo's position?
-JT

Don Libes said...

JT,

In short, Giammo's stance is:

- Fee structure (see my earlier discussion of this).
- Verizon must fiber 100% of Rockville within 3 years.
- Verizon must schedule deployment without regard to affluence.

This is based on a bbr posting.

The candidate said that he agreed with the fee structure but had no problem with giving Verizon control of the schedule. In speaking with him afterward, the candidate professed ignorance of the problems with the fee structure. That's why I'm not mentioning him by name - because he said he would look into it and since I'm giving all the candidates a chance to do so, it seems fair to include him as well.

Anonymous said...

Don,
I moved to my current address in Potomac about 2 years ago. Ever since then I have been told, month after month, Verizon FiOS Internet and TV will be available soon. After waiting for about one year I tried to get Comcast service but I was told I was about 580 feet away from their current installation. Therefore, I would have to pay about $ 1500 to be connected. I decided to sign for Hughes Networks satellite Internet access while FiOS became available. This was a big mistake. I signed for a 1.5Mbps package that costs about $90/mo. However, what they do not tell you upfront is that 1.5 Mbps is peak speed, not typical speed (which is more like 0.7 – 1.1 Mbps) and, more importantly, that if you download more than 400Mb/24 hour (unless done at 3 AM – 6 AM EST), you are penalized for 24 hours with speeds around 14Kbps. Now, a year later, I emailed Verizon to find why are we not getting FiOS in our street while people around our corner are. I was told I am serviced by the Rockville CO and therefore, until the city of Rockville gives them permission, there will be no FiOS coming to our street. Searching the web, all documents I find related to the Verizon FiOS franchise seem to be from 2006.
Do you know if there has been any progress regarding the FiOS agreement between Verizon and the City of Rockville, which unfortunately is affecting also non-Rockville citizens like us?