BALTIMORE, MD – More than 100 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and concerned Baltimore citizens rallied at City Hall today to urge Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city officials to oppose a job-killing deal that Verizon Wireless and big cable companies are pushing federal regulators to approve.
As currently structured, the deal would cause Baltimore to lose thousands of jobs and remain on the wrong side of the digital divide, as Verizon loses incentives to bring its world-class all-fiber FiOS network to Baltimore City—even as six wealthier suburban counties enjoy it.
With regulators expected to make a decision on the deal later this summer, protestors called on city officials to tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) that the agreement should not move forward without conditions to promote job growth and protect competition.
“We are calling on Mayor Rawlings-Blake and other city leaders to take a stand for jobs and economic development in Baltimore City,” said Ron Collins, CWA Chief of Staff. “It’s time for Baltimore City leaders to support a deal that would bring Verizon’s FiOS service to Baltimore City, bringing much-needed jobs and higher-quality broadband service to the city.”
If approved by regulators without conditions, the current deal between Verizon and major cable companies would destroy competition, increase prices for Baltimore consumers and end the expansion of FiOS, since Verizon would instead be promoting the broadband services of cable companies including Comcast and Time Warner.
Baltimore City Council President Jack Young, who spoke at the rally, wrote a letter this week to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expressing his opposition to the current deal, and outlining the harmful impact it would have on Baltimore City.
“I am deeply troubled by the potential negative effects of this transaction on Baltimore City,” Young wrote. “Thousands of good, middle-class jobs that would otherwise be needed to build, maintain, service and sell the Verizon FiOS network would not materialize. These quality jobs are vital to our economy so that we can expand.”
Verizon has left Baltimore City and other urban areas behind, as the company has instead built FiOS in wealthier suburban areas. The six surrounding counties surrounding Baltimore City currently have access to FiOS, but the city itself does not. The median household income in those suburban areas with FiOS access is $95,386, compared with $38,346 in Baltimore City, which lacks access; the poverty rate is 7.7 percent versus 25.6 percent. (For more information, see CWA’s report, “Verizon/Big Cable Deal: Slamming the Door on Our High-Speed Future”)
Dozens of members of Congress have voiced their opposition to the current deal in recent months, along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and nine mayors of cities in New York State. Elected leaders cite concerns it would eliminate competition and hamper economic development.