Verizon Claims Public Utility Status on Broadband For Government Perks

Illustration for article titled Verizon Claims Public Utility Status on Broadband For Government Perks

The biggest Internet service providers in the U.S. hate the idea of being treated like utilities companies—but a new report reveals that Verizon's FiOS service uses public utility rules to get a raft of government perks.

The FCC classifies broadband—like FiOS—under Title I of the Communications Act, which has less strict rules than Title II, under which traditional phone systems fall. In essence, Title II controls the national phone network, promotes competition and consumer choice, and generally means that pricing and services are more consistent for users.

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But Ars Technica reports that Verizon uses the fact that both services are delivered down the same wire "to reap the benefits of utility regulation without the downsides" for its broadband service. The benefits include "types of legal immunity, easements over private property and public rights of way, pole attachment rights, access to the phone number system, and the right to interconnect with other networks."

It's worth pointing out that this isn't really illegal. But when the very same telecom companies have been bleating about the fact that they don't want broadband to be classed as a utility, it is completely hypocritical. Essentially, Verizon takes advantage of the law but passes no benefit to the consumer. By now we shouldn't be surprised by such behavior—but we can still find it repellent. [Ars Technica]

Image by gt8073a under Creative Commons license.

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DISCUSSION

A company is going to do whatever it can to avoid costs, including taxes. In fact, it could be argued that they have a stakeholder responsibility to do so.

The fault is not Verizon's for making use of this loophole. The fault is on our own shoulders. We elect the people who put people in charge of the FCC. So I'm fractionally to blame, as are many others. I voted for President Obama. I don't regret my vote but sometimes he does things I disagree with. One of those is appointing a cable company lobbyist (Tom Wheeler) in charge of the FCC. This is like the fox guarding the henhouse.

He was uninimously confirmed by the US Senate. So anyone who voted for any Senator in his or her seat today contributed to this problem.