Waiting on FiOS Until It Can Deliver LMC-TV

by Judy Silberstein

(January 30, 2008) Less than 24 hours after the Larchmont Village Board approved door-to-door sales of Verizon’s new FiOS (fiber optic) television service on January 7, the salesmen were at our door, and we eagerly signed on. (See: Verizon & Cable Board Agree on TV Franchise Terms and Verizon FiOS Ready for Sale but Not for LMC-TV.) We were lured by the promise of faster broadband, more reliable phone service, better digital picture and lower prices.

There was a hitch – a deal breaker for us. Verizon was not yet ready to provide local access television stations, including LMC-TV, and no one knew when that part of the service would begin. The salesmen and their supervisor had no clue.

Nevertheless, we signed up – having been assured that we could just delay installation until Verizon was ready to deliver LMC-TV.

Unhappily, we learned later that Verizon's franchise agreement allows four months to conclude whatever process is necessary to enable broadcast of local access stations over FiOS. According to a Verizon spokesperson, the work is a priority – but it’s not easy. The likely completion date is April 10.

And, much to our regret, we learned that pushing off installation of our FiOS television and telephone was also not easy. The system could barely handle a short delay; multiple delays led to chaos.

Verizon was unable to keep track of changes in our install date – subjecting us to weekly – and lengthy – robotic telephone messages with erroneous information. Each time, waiting to get a human took endless minutes of elevator music and chirpy, “all operators are busy helping other callers.” And each time it was the wrong human we were connected to, subjecting us to many more minutes on the musical queue. Asking for a supervisor didn’t help – it took another lengthy wait to get us someone with a bigger title who claimed she could delay the installation for a month. But , somehow , the computer failed to get the message, and things only got more confused the next week.

The final straw was when our second phone line went dead. Seems that Verizon had failed to inform our previous provider, Cablevision, to delay the switch. The Verizon installer (who hadn’t received the message to hold off) said he could only work with an active line; Verizon phone support said to call Cablevision; Cablevision said it was too late and only Verizon could fix things.

Many, many calls and three days later, our phone was back, but only with the extraordinary intervention of a Cablevision supervisor working through a personal contact to circumvent Verizon’s cumbersome bureaucracy and phone maze.

Our experience with Verizon this month was less than promising, and we’re rethinking our decision about FiOS. We found Verizon’s sales force, installers and all of the hapless folk we encountered to be unfailingly polite – but no one at the corporate level thought it was important that they be equipped with the details of Larchmont and Mamaroneck’s specific situation. Clearly, there were insufficient resources – and this from a phone company – to handle the volume of calls for help.

Valuing LMC-TV

But, for us, the biggest problem was the specter of being without LMC-TV for months. Why do we care? For the Gazette, LMC-TV is our back-up for all the government meetings we cover. We rely on the live broadcasts when we can’t be at a session and on the replays when we need to review exactly what was said.

And why should you care? Judging from the number of citizens attending most sessions, very few of you actually turn up at Village Hall or the Town Center or Mamaroneck High School for board meetings. Many more of you – without a rating service, we don’t know how many – watch from home. We try to cover the highlights in our reporting, but if you want all the details, LMC-TV is the only source.

And then there are all the other LMC-TV shows that are hosted by community members and that feature our neighbors and our neighborhood.

So, We’ll Be Waiting On FiOS

At the end of our consumer adventure, we followed advice – from both Cablevision and Verizon – to cancel rather than delay FiOS, at least for the next few months. We’re not ready to write off FiOS for all time – it’s nice to have a new choice, and it’s nice to have two cable services competing for our business.

But, for now, we’re sitting on the FiOs sideline until Verizon can deliver our LMC-TV.