Hundreds of Verizon workers rallied with consumer advocates and community organizations in front of the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday in protest of the proposed monopolistic deal between Verizon Wireless and Big Cable.
Verizon Wireless has put forward a plan to cross-market and resell cable video services with a number of the country’s largest cable operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox. This partnership would subsequently eliminate competition, killing thousands of jobs and deepening the digital divide between cities and wealthy suburbs. Consumers would be left with fewer choices and higher prices.
Traveling hundreds of miles to picket the agency, CWA and IBEW members stood outside chanting, “Stop the deal!” and “Hey, hey FCC, we don’t want monopoly!”
CWA Local 2201 President Richard Hatch told the crowd that Verizon promised eight years ago to build a fiber network – high-speed connection at an affordable cost – from Virginia’s booming cities to the rural western part of the state. But the company has since reneged on that promise and cut a third of the workforce. “The citizens of Virginia and the rest of the country deserve better,” he said.
In fact, if the current deal is approved without conditions, Verizon will completely lose any incentive to expand FiOS, the nation’s largest all-fiber optic commercial network. As a result, more than 7 million customers—30 percent of the area Verizon now covers with landlines—will be left without the option for high speed internet and TV.
Adrian Crisp of CWA Local 1118 warned that it would spell the end of his and his wife’s careers. As construction splicers in Albany, NY, they’ve already witnessed Verizon’s refusal to build FiOS in Albany, which has a large concentration of low-income households and minorities.
Protesters responded with loud calls of “Where’s my FiOs?”
Margrete Strand Rangnes, director of the Sierra Club’s labor, workers’ rights and trade programs, stressed that broadband expansion is a key part of solving the climate crises.
“Broadband expansion means reduced carbon emissions, millions of fewer cars on the road and the ability to fully maximize our energy efficiency efforts,” she said. “Broadband expansion also means economic development and new opportunities for both rural and urban communities, and broadband means jobs.”
And consumer advocates from leading organizations, like Consumer Union, also voiced their concerns about the deal at the rally. “Consumers and Labor have a common interest in ensuring a dynamic and competitive telecom sector. As it stands, this deal strangles any hope of competition,” said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America.
Inside the building, CWA representatives met with FCC officials to share their concerns and urge the FCC to impose conditions on the deal to ensure it is in the public interest. Members delivered petitions and handwritten letters of concern to FCC officials from more than 130,000 workers and consumers. In addition, they distributed copies of a new report, “Slamming the Door on Our High Speed Future,” which details how the proposed deal will destroy jobs and widen the digital divide.
Reps. Edward J. Markey-- one of the authors of the 1996 Telecommunications Act--and John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, also released a letter on Wednesday calling on the FCC and Justice Department to scrutinize the proposal.