Rural South Jersey communities: Verizon reneging on FiOS promise

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is reneging on a two-decade-old pledge to provide broadband service to every New Jersey household, officials in rural Southern New Jersey claim. Going further, elected officials in Hopewell Township and Cumberland County predict that a proposed agreement between the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and Verizon could put the kibosh on FiOS ever coming to their rural areas of the state.

"Verizon is turning (its) back on the commitment it originally made to cover the entire state," Hopewell Township Committeeman Greg Facemeyer told the South Jersey Times.

Facemeyer pointed to Verizon's 1993 "Opportunity New Jersey" proposal to completely wire the state with broadband by 2010, and claimed that Verizon customers have already paid for the upgrades via $13 billion in surcharges for high-speed broadband.

The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously voted that the BPU should hold Verizon to its "overdue commitment to deploy broadband service as intended in 1993 when the BPU approved" the Opportunity New Jersey plan.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, whose legislative district encompasses Hopewell and Cumberland County, supported his constituents and said that he thinks the state is trying to let Verizon "off the hook."

For its part, Verizon says it's semantics. FiOS, the company maintained, is not the only way to deliver broadband, especially in a rural area. According to Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski, FiOS was required only for the largest municipalities, and Verizon never imposed surcharges.

Adding to the controversy is another Verizon promise made in 2013 to bring fiber optics to Greenwich and Stow Creek, two communities that surround Hopewell.

"If I am a business and trying to compete in Hopewell Township … I cannot compete on any level, not locally, regionally, let alone nationally or globally," Cumberland County Planning Board Secretary Barbara Stratton told the Times. "A farmer cannot just move a 300-acre farm where infrastructure exists."

Gierczynski did offer one other solution to the officials: "There is no reason they can't go out and solicit other companies."

For more:
- The South Jersey Times has this story

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