05.29.2014Public Policy

Verizon responds to the FCC: fiber is better, even for POTS

Today, Verizon filed a response to opposition filed for our copper retirement in Ocean View, Virginia, and Belle Harbor, New York. You can download the full filing here [PDF]. As of April of this year, fewer than forty of Verizon’s customers in Ocean View, Virginia, and Belle Harbor, New York, remained on copper facilities. Customers in these two wire centers – which cover more than 15,000 homes – have already overwhelmingly made the decision to move to either Verizon’s fiber-based services or to competitors. Completing the migration to Verizon’s more advanced and reliable fiber facilities, and retiring the legacy copper loops and the switches in these wire centers, is not just a logical and efficient step, but it is also an incremental one. There has been no valid objection to the copper retirement filed by customers living or working in these areas or by providers serving them, and no request for an extension of time made.

The claims raised by the very few commenters (none of which is specific to these two wire centers) have no merit under the circumstances here.

Most of the customers remaining on copper-based services in these two wire centers today are purchasing plain old telephone service, or POTS. Following copper retirement, they will continue to receive the same traditional POTS service over fiber on the same terms and conditions and at the same or better price as they received over copper. There is no change in the underlying features and functionalities in their service: voice mail, collect calling, and other features will continue to work just as they did over copper; customers will continue to be able to use fax machines, medical monitoring devices, and home alarms; and accessibility services – such as relay services used by customers who are deaf or hard of hearing – also will continue to work as before. There will be no change to customers’ ability to call 911: public safety answering points will receive the same E911 information as before.

RELATED: Here's why 7 out of 8 customers prefer fiber

To be clear: service received over fiber facilities is not the same thing as Verizon’s FiOS service. Fiber refers to a physical medium: a network made up of fiber optic cables. FiOS refers to particular Verizon branded voice, video, and data services – FiOS Digital Voice, FiOS TV, and FiOS Internet – that Verizon provides on an optional basis to customers over fiber. While millions of customers have elected to switch to Verizon’s best-in-class FiOS service – provisioned over fiber-optic cable – many others, including those who so choose in these two wire centers, receive the same traditional phone service, with the same features and at the same or better price, over Verizon’s advanced fiber network.

The move toward fiber here is nothing new. As customers and public entities have widely recognized, fiber is a safe, proven, and known technology with a track record of serving communities well. From the perspective of reliability, fiber is immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable, including electrometric interference and radio-frequency interference. It is less susceptible to temperature fluctuations or weather conditions, meaning fiber is less likely to experience outages during weather events, homeland security incidents, or other public safety emergencies. Fiber lines are generally more durable, do not corrode, have a much longer lifespan, and require fewer repairs than copper lines.

The reliability advantages of fiber directly benefit customers. For example, as a result of Verizon’s programs in recent years to encourage customers experiencing repeated service issues with copper facilities to migrate to fiber, there have been approximately one million fewer repair or trouble-shooting dispatches than would have been required had these customers remained on copper facilities. This equates to one million instances in which customers have not experienced an outage or other problem with their service. And for many of those customers, this also equates to time savings, since they would not have to schedule repair appointments and take time out to meet a repair technician. While the resulting consumer welfare gains may be difficult to quantify precisely, to put this in perspective, if one million customers were able to avoid a repair visit with a four hour window, a conservative estimate of the consumer welfare gains from those avoided repairs would approach $100 million.* Of course, there may be other ways to quantify the benefits as well, but regardless of the calculation the point is the same; the benefits to customers are significant and large. And the customer benefits from avoiding the outage or other service problem in the first place.

Fiber also provides performance advantages, as it offers significantly greater bandwidth and is much less sensitive to distance limitations than is copper. Because the fiber optic signal is a light rather than an electrical signal, there is very little signal loss during transmission, and data can move at higher speed and for greater distances. As a result, fiber can support much greater broadband and higher speed services than copper.

Fiber facilities are also more energy efficient than copper because they use laser light – not an electrical signal – reducing energy consumption and resulting in a greener network. And in instances such as those at issue here, the energy savings are particularly pronounced. Once the copper facilities and switch are retired, there is no longer a need to power two parallel networks as there is today. Instead, only the more efficient fiber network will consume energy going forward. Based on these benefits, communities throughout the United States have been clamoring for the benefits of all-fiber networks. The President has praised fiber deployment and investment; the Commission has had as a long-standing goal the encouragement of more widespread fiber deployment. Indeed, providers across the country have deployed fiber cables in their networks and to homes for decades.

*Please see our full filing for footnotes & details. [PDF]