Here's why seven out of eight Verizon customers prefer fiber

By: David Young

At Verizon, we are excited to be bringing the benefits of fiber to our customers, and our customers who already have it are some of the biggest fiber evangelists around. The benefits of fiber over copper can’t be overstated: fiber is a much more reliable and resilient technology in the face of bad weather and floods, which is why we installed fiber in lower Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy rather than replacing the damaged copper. Not only do fiber cables better withstand storms in the first place, repairs to damaged fiber take less time than fixing damaged copper wire, so services can be restored much more quickly during an emergency.

Further, fiber is capable of supporting robust communications services (video, very high speed broadband) that the old copper network can’t come close to matching. Indeed, fiber has been deployed progressively deeper into networks for decades now in order to better meet the demands of consumers. Communities across the U.S. are clamoring for fiber and in some places have installed it themselves with tax-payer dollars. Similarly, many rural providers have, with the help of USF funding, deployed fiber in their networks as well. In ever-increasing numbers, fiber runs all the way to consumers’ houses – the natural endpoint in a broadband world. Simply put, consumers overwhelmingly prefer fiber and the benefits it provides. Today, within our fiber footprint, Verizon has almost seven times the number of customers served by fiber than by copper.

Although consumers have been migrating away from copper en masse to alternative voice services (87 million households today receive phone service over a newer medium, such as cable, fiber, wireless, or Over-the-Top), we understand that people have some concerns about what the new technology means for the few folks who haven’t made the switch even though it’s available. For example, in some cases, so long as the wire itself has not been damaged, copper lines continue to work during a commercial power outage, while fiber-based systems may, including those where the final connection to a customer’s house may be copper, need backup power such as a battery or generator to continue to provide voice service. Some customers don’t feel this is important, as they rely primarily on their mobile phones, or use cordless phones which themselves don’t work during a power outage. Other customers would prefer to maintain a landline for use during emergencies, and are concerned about potentially losing their phone service in a storm. Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on our customers’ needs. For the past ten years, we have offered customers on fiber a 12-volt battery back-up that provides 8 hours of standby power for voice calls in the event of a power outage. To give customers even more options, Verizon has recently developed and will soon roll out a back-up battery solution for our fiber phone service that uses the same D-cell batteries you can pick up at any drug store. The D-cell solution provides up to 30 hours of standby power for landline phones, and customers can easily obtain and store additional batteries if they like.

As we continue to transition communities onto upgraded fiber facilities, we’ve also heard that some customers are worried that the change will cause their price for telephone service to go up. It won’t. We’ve committed to providing customers the same voice service over fiber that they’ve always had, at the same or a better price. Emergency services and 911 will work over fiber exactly as they do over copper, as will external devices such as fax machines, alarm systems, remote monitoring, and other products.

Similarly, while most of our customers are excited about the new options available to them over fiber, some customers have shared with us is that they don’t want to lose their High Speed Internet service that we provide using DSL. These are customers who have been paying $20-$30 for 1 Mbps service for years, and they don’t want to lose their basic access to email and web browsing. We’ve heard them.

In communities where Verizon is transitioning copper telephone and DSL customers over to fiber, we’re offering them FiOS Internet access service, which is much faster than they’ve been getting with DSL. For existing DSL customers whose DSL will no longer available, we will offer our FiOS Internet access service at a comparable price, locked in for two years. Customers will also be able to choose from different speed tiers if they would prefer the option of faster speeds.

We are excited about bringing the benefits of fiber to more of our customers. At the same time, we’re working hard to help manage the transition to make sure we address the concerns and needs of all of our customers during and after the transition. We look forward to continued public dialogue.

David Young has an engineering background, which enables him to develop positions on emerging public policy issues and asses key technology and communications industry trends. Prior to 2000, he spent six years working in Verizon’s Research and Development (R&D) group on many advanced technologies including VoIP, data network architectures, and audio, video and image compression. He has been awarded ten U.S. government patents for his R&D work. David is a member of the IEEE and IEEE Communications Society.