NY regulators get tough on Verizon FiOS installs

NEW YORK (AP) - October 1, 2008 Poorly grounded equipment or cables could give electrical shocks or start fires, but there have been no reports of FiOS equipment causing harm to people or property, Verizon said.

The New York State Public Service Commission, which regulates telecommunications, has been dogging Verizon on the electrical issue since 2006, and the staff concluded in a report to the commission last week that the company's remedies don't go far enough.

New York is the only state to have raised these concerns, but Verizon is installing FiOS in 15 others.

Fiber-optic cable itself isn't electrically conductive, but in most of the homes Verizon connects to the service, it wall-mounts a box that sprouts a coaxial video cable. The New York regulators are concerned that the coaxial cable could inadvertently carry a high voltage.

The report said 17 percent of new FiOS installations in the state still didn't meet the National Electrical Code in August, down from 50 percent earlier. The Public Service Commission staff considers 5 percent the goal, and asked the commission to consider suspending the company's right to perform new installations in New York City until it achieves that goal in the rest of the state.

Verizon is spending $23 billion on FiOS, replacing copper phone lines with optical fibers in much of its coverage area. The massive project is intended to let the phone company compete with cable companies in delivering TV service and fast Internet downloads.

With 3 million households, New York City is the single largest market for FiOS, and a big growth opportunity for the company. It received permission from regulators in July to start selling its FiOS TV service, and is now working toward making it available to half a million households by the end of the year. Some surrounding suburbs, particularly on Long Island, have had FiOS available for a few years.

Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said that fewer than 5 percent of new installations in New York state were unsatisfactory in September, according to an independent consulting firm it has hired to perform inspections.

"We've bent over backwards to make sure we meet all their concerns," Rabe said. "Really, what it stems from is that we have installations of new technology that really isn't covered well by regulations."

The company is inspecting all of the several hundred thousand FiOS installations in the state made before Aug. 1, and fixing the ones that don't meet the electrical code.

"We certainly do not think there is any danger from this," Rabe said.


On the Net:

New York State Public Service Commission docket: http://www.dps.state.ny.us/08V0835.htm

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