Telecommunications and Competition

Monday, December 03, 2012

LIPA workers in Far Rockaway trying to restore power after Hurricane Sandy. LIPA workers in Far Rockaway trying to restore power after Hurricane Sandy. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Syracuse University, and author of the forthcoming book The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" and Other Tricks to Rob You Blind, talks about his New York Times column on telecom companies, and explains their role during Sandy and in other emergencies.



David Cay Johnston

Comments [17]

@lilly Too expensive? Who are you shilling for? Maybe it was expensive 20 years ago, but not now. What's 'expensive' is allowing this country to remain 20th in the world in a technology we invented. Until we catch up, the rest of the world will run slipshod over us.

@jgarbuz MagicJack is one of the *worst* ways to replace your phone. They've been a rip-off since the beginning, and their ToS is terrible. Their software spies on all your computer activity. For the longest time the BBB gave them an 'F' rating, but Magic Jack has since bought themselves a better grade.

Dec. 03 2012 12:09 PM
John from Staten Island

In one customer service call I had Verizon tell me that I ordered Fios when at the time I just needed to get the dial tone back on my landline phone. They started the oonversation about upgrading the service to Fios. I told them since I don't have a dialtone I don't have a service and please fix the problem before I consider Fios. I'm so ready to go to any another provider besides Verion.

Dec. 03 2012 11:54 AM
Kelly from Brooklyn

@playaspec from Brooklyn:

You make a great point. My uncle works for Verizon and apparently they're trying to sell FiOS. The big TeleCos aren't making any money off the fiber networks - they spend more money maintaining the network than they're getting in revenue. I live in Brighton Beach and Verizon began wiring my building for FiOS, then suddenly stopped and they haven't come back.

Dec. 03 2012 11:54 AM
John A from Internet via, yes, Dial-up

I miss Tower records and Borders books too. Things change. I have actually experienced personally much of what DCJ says, but bring modern internet up to the 1913? standard and protect copper for only the interim period. And as Lilly says, protect the price-point too.

Dec. 03 2012 11:52 AM
John from Manhattan

One thing to note about phasing out copper phone lines. Most of the fire alarme in the city run off the copper lines to notify the Fire Department. I wonder what the strategy for replacing these would be since the would require power.

Dec. 03 2012 11:46 AM
Bob from Westchester

I had the same problem getting my current copper line repaired as the guest discussed. Verizon kept trying to sell me on a "free" FIOS upgrade, telling me repair was not possible, then cancelling repair appointments without notice, etc. I had to insist for weeks until a repairman showed up -- turned out the problem had nothing to do with my line, but was in the main (fiber optic) line 3 blocks over. The repairman told me unofficially that the company was purposely dragging its feet on old line repairs to drive customers to FIOS.

Dec. 03 2012 11:46 AM
playaspec from Brooklyn

@LMbusinessowner If you wait for FiOS, you'll be waiting *FOREVER*. Both AT&T and Verizon have both announced that they are ending the deployment of fiber in favor of wireless which is cheaper to deploy.

Add this to the fact that the big telcos promised the FCC and Congress that they would deliver fiber to the home for 2/3 of Americans by the year *2000*!!! They've collected BILLIONS in fees tacked onto every phone bill since the 90's and haven't delivered a thing. Google 'Teletruth' to get an idea of just how hard we've all been ripped off.

Dec. 03 2012 11:45 AM
RBC from Brooklyn

FYI - Cordless phones are powered by electricity, but get the dial tone via copper wire. If there's a power outage or emergency, just keep an old fashioned phone around and you will still be able to get phone service on the wire line.

Dec. 03 2012 11:44 AM
John from Staten Island

Verizon is more interesting in marketing than service.

Dec. 03 2012 11:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Just after what happened during Sandy, I just cut off my Verizon land line and purchased "Magic Jack" which will cost me only a few dollars a month, less than a small fraction of what I paid Verizion for 5 decades. I learned that when the electrical system goes down, everything goes down with it anyway! The landline was out for almost as long as my electricity and computer was out anyway! The Magic Jack works via the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) over the internet, in this case using my Time Warner Cable internet connection. I am please with the Magic Jack and don't feel less safe than with my old, more expensive land line, because when the chips are down, everything goes down anyway as we just learned.

Dec. 03 2012 11:44 AM
Bob from Huntington

Verizon's fiber optic system depends on your home power supply. If you lose power, there's battery backup for a couple of hours. Once you use that, you've lost phone service.

Dec. 03 2012 11:40 AM
John from Staten Island

Another disadvantage of Verizon Fios is when the power went down. The Fios box had an alarm powered by a battery which went off to indicate the phone was no longer operational. This went on for almost an hour while I was attempting to get some sleep. Since I knew the phone was out why do I need an annoying alarm for that length of time!

Dec. 03 2012 11:39 AM

Engadget published a great piece on this issue last year:

In short: allowing some form of government control of infrastructure allows for more telecom competition. This allows smaller providers a chance in the market, and obviously benefits consumers.

My favorite part is how AT&T and Verizon pushed for more competition overseas, yet both do not support the same stateside. Shocking.

I still use my landline DSL since I don't consider the Time Warner "Triple Play" an adequate selection.

Dec. 03 2012 11:38 AM

The fiber optic networks are great, but they are way too expensive.

Dec. 03 2012 11:35 AM

thank you to LMbusinessowner above... I've been without phone since the storm... and have called Verizon several times, but they never explained why it was out. I have Earthlink DSL, though, and that is working for some reason.

Dec. 03 2012 11:35 AM

When will a Chinese company enter the market and take on Verizon with better and cheaper service? Especially on the cell side?!

Starting with the arrogant monopolists, American companies need a good spanking.

Dec. 03 2012 11:16 AM
LMbusinessowner from Lower Manhattan

It's ridiculous that Verizon just decided not to repair the copper wire in Lower Manhattan after the storm (chose to replace it with fiber instead -- all without notification to its customers). This leaves me in a lurch for DSL and phone service in my small commercial office space on Broad St. I can't work there now since I have no connectivity and can't wait for the fiber and FIOS from Verizon. They've lost my business and unfortunately, due to the high cost of other connectivity options, I will most likely relocate my business out of that area.

Dec. 03 2012 11:09 AM

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