Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements
Note 1 (1 of 4)
Description of Business and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
Description of Business
Verizon Communications Inc. (Verizon or the Company) is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services. We have two reportable segments, Domestic Wireless and Wireline. For further information concerning our business segments, see Note 14.
Verizon’s Domestic Wireless segment, operating as Verizon Wireless, provides wireless voice and data services and equipment across the United States (U.S.) using one of the most extensive and reliable wireless networks in the nation. Verizon Wireless continues to expand its penetration of data services and offerings of data devices for both consumer and business customers.
Our Wireline segment provides communications services, including voice, broadband video and data, network access, nationwide long distance and other communications products and services, and also owns and operates one of the most expansive end-to-end global Internet Protocol (IP) networks. We continue to deploy advanced broadband network technology, with our fiber-to-the-premises network, operated under the FiOS service mark, creating a platform with sufficient bandwidth and capabilities to meet customers’ current and future needs. FiOS allows us to offer our customers a wide array of broadband services, including advanced data and video offerings. Our IP network includes over 485,000 route miles of fiber optic cable and provides access to over 150 countries across six continents, enabling us to provide next-generation IP network products and information technology services to medium and large businesses and government customers worldwide.
The method of accounting applied to investments, whether consolidated, equity or cost, involves an evaluation of all significant terms of the investments that explicitly grant or suggest evidence of control or influence over the operations of the investee. The consolidated financial statements include our controlled subsidiaries. For controlled subsidiaries that are not wholly owned, the noncontrolling interest is included in Net income and Total equity. Investments in businesses which we do not control, but have the ability to exercise significant influence over operating and financial policies, are accounted for using the equity method. Investments in which we do not have the ability to exercise significant influence over operating and financial policies are accounted for under the cost method. Equity and cost method investments are included in Investments in unconsolidated businesses in our consolidated balance sheets. Certain of our cost method investments are classified as available-for-sale securities and adjusted to fair value pursuant to the accounting standard related to debt and equity securities. All significant intercompany accounts and transactions have been eliminated.
Basis of Presentation
We have reclassified certain prior year amounts to conform to the current year presentation. Also, refer to “Employee Benefit Plans” below regarding a change in accounting for benefit plans.
Corporate, eliminations and other during the periods presented include a non-cash adjustment of $0.2 billion, ($0.1 billion) and ($34 million) in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively, primarily to adjust wireless data revenues. This adjustment was recorded to properly defer previously recognized wireless data revenues that will be earned and recognized in future periods. The adjustment was recorded during 2010, which reduced Net income (loss) attributable to Verizon by approximately $0.1 billion. Consolidated revenues in 2009 and 2008 were not affected as the amounts involved were not material to our consolidated financial statements.
Use of Estimates
We prepare our financial statements using U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), which require management to make estimates and assumptions that affect reported amounts and disclosures. Actual results could differ from those estimates.
Examples of significant estimates include: the allowance for doubtful accounts, the recoverability of plant, property and equipment, the recoverability of intangible assets and other long-lived assets, unbilled revenues, fair values of financial instruments, unrecognized tax benefits, valuation allowances on tax assets, accrued expenses, pension and postretirement benefit assumptions, contingencies and allocation of purchase prices in connection with business combinations.
Our Domestic Wireless segment earns revenue by providing access to and usage of its network, which includes voice and data revenue. In general, access revenue is billed one month in advance and recognized when earned. Usage revenue is generally billed in arrears and recognized when service is rendered. Equipment sales revenue associated with the sale of wireless handsets and accessories is recognized when the products are delivered to and accepted by the customer, as this is considered to be a separate earnings process from the sale of wireless services. For agreements involving the resale of third-party services in which we are considered the primary obligor in the arrangements, we record the revenue gross at the time of the sale.
Our Wireline segment earns revenue based upon usage of its network and facilities and contract fees. In general, fixed monthly fees for voice, video, data and certain other services are billed one month in advance and recognized when earned. Revenue from services that are not fixed in amount and are based on usage is generally billed in arrears and recognized when such services are provided.
When we bundle the equipment with maintenance and monitoring services, we recognize equipment revenue when the equipment is installed in accordance with contractual specifications and ready for the customer’s use. The maintenance and monitoring services are recognized monthly over the term of the contract as we provide the services. Long-term contracts are accounted for using the percentage of completion method. We use the completed contract method if we cannot estimate the costs with a reasonable degree of reliability.
Installation related fees, along with the associated costs up to but not exceeding these fees, are deferred and amortized over the estimated customer relationship period.
We report taxes imposed by governmental authorities on revenue-producing transactions between us and our customers on a net basis.
Discontinued Operations, Assets Held for Sale, and Sales of Businesses and Investments
We classify as discontinued operations for all periods presented any component of our business that we hold for sale that has operations and cash flows that are clearly distinguishable operationally and for financial reporting purposes.