Verizon's Selloff Not A Good Idea

As the end of the year comes closer, the number of TV ads touting the sale of Verizon's wireline network and customers in northern New England to FairPoint Communications have become ubiquitous. The ads keep telling us that nothing will change once the sale goes through except for the names on the trucks and buildings presently owned by Verizon.

I hope that's not true.

First, Verizon's technological advances here in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have crawled to a stop. While TV, radio, and print ads have been trying to sell Verizon's FiOS Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) service to its customers, very little of that is available in northern New England except for a few of the more thickly settled areas.

Second, maintaining the status quo, whether or not the sale goes through, is not an attractive option. FairPoint keeps telling us that they will be bringing broadband access to even the more rural areas of each state. But the technology that they'll be using, DSL, is already on what is called “the backside of the power curve”, meaning that it has already become obsolete technology, incapable of providing some of the broadband services more consumers are demanding. While better than what many people in rural areas have available to them, it's still old technology.

At first I was a supporter of this sale. But as time has passed I have become more and more skeptical that FairPoint will have the means to keep its promises.

It's not as if Verizon will step up and deploy FTTH should the sale fail. The profit margin for deploying fiber in rural areas isn't big enough for them. That's not to say that the margin will be too small for someone else.

As the time of the sale has grown closer, many of the opponents to it have become more visible, both with signs along the roads as well as one of the online forums that has explored the deal and found it wanting. So far it seems that a majority of the people attending the public meetings in all three states have opposed the sale. The question I have to ask about that 'fact' is whether those people are regular customers or present workers/union members employed by Verizon?

This is going to get interesting for no other fact that the wrong choice, regardless of what it is, could cause northern New England to become a broadband hinterland, left behind by the rest of the country.

I can't honestly say whether the sale is a good or bad deal. I don't know enough to make that call. Because of that I have to fall back on an old truism usually applied to votes at town meetings:

If you don't understand something the safe thing to do is to vote against it. Either the proponents are as much in the dark as you are, they haven't thought through all of the consequences, or they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes. In any case voting for it is exactly the wrong thing to do.


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