The city of Albany has FIOS-envy.
"When you think about the opportunity that is presented by FIOS, by this phenomenal product that’s been developed by Verizon," Albany Mayor-Elect Kathy Sheehan says. "And you look at where Albany is at this point in history, we are really poised to be an ideal place for Verizon to make this investment."
Sheehan, a Democrat who is set to replace Jerry Jennings, wants to bring the high-speed service to Albany, hoping it will help revitalize economically challenged neighborhoods, improve the school district and lure potential residents to new developments planned for downtown.
"One of the challenges to these new residential buildings is access to the internet. High speed internet," Sheehan says. "People, when they’re renting apartments now, they expect those types of amenities. They expect to have cable, they expect to have high speed. And we need more players in Albany, because we’re trying to attract that culture of the entrepreneurs, the tech culture because that’s really going to be the future of our city."
At the moment, FIOS is available to residents in several surrounding suburbs like Bethlehem, Colonie, and Guilderland. Just down route 5, the city of Schenectady is also plugged in. But Albany is out of the fiber optic loop.
And according to Verizon spokesman John Bonomo, it’s going to stay that way, at least for the foreseeable future.
"I realize that we’re not in every community, we never said that we would be in every community. And I realize that some communities have FIOS envy, because they are great products," Bonomo says. "But right now we have commitments to 183 municipalities where we need to complete 100% of our network. So we want to make sure that we make good on those commitments before we reach out and get new commitments. Of franchises in other communities, namely like Albany."
Sheehan and other supportive local leaders are suspicious that Verizon’s refusal to come to Albany is redlining the city—that the company is turned off by the city’s economically downtrodden communities, where they don’t see themselves getting a very high return on investment. Citizen Action New York, the local Communications Workers of America and State Senator Neil Breslin echoed the mayor-elect’s calls.
I just wanted to say that, and tell Verizon that business leaders, elected officials, the public, the unions are all on board. Albany cannot be redlined, and I urge them to reconsider, to come to Albany and other upstate cities.
Verizon’s Bonomo says the accusation of redlining is insulting.
"We don’t do business like that, we never have done business like that and that’s not fair for anyone to accuse us of that. What we need to do is look at simply where we have deployed it and they would come to a completely 100 degree opposite conclusion."
Redlining or not, local elected officials and business leaders agree they want to open the door to competition in the city, where Time Warner has long been the dominant service provider for residents. FirstLight Fiber is another source for businesses, but does not provide residential service.
Central Avenue Business Improvement District President Anthony Capice says Verizon is a great product that both businesses and residents in the city would buy.
"You need to have competition in the marketplace, but you also need to access to things like FIOS. And there’s a lot of products that come through Verizon on those products and there’s some great opportunities for our businesses to take advantage of that, also helps in the marketplace when you have multiple vendors providing service to the community. And it’s going to create jobs and it’s going to create opportunities for people to work together and sell outside of Albany and bring the revenue to town. And that’s kinda what we’re excited about."
Verizon’s Bonomo says the company is confident that it can compete with—and beat—competing service providers in a given municipality. But it’s still not coming to Albany any time soon.
"The telecommunications and the technology business change every single day, and sometimes multiple times within a day. So to kind of game plan exactly what we would do in the future is not something we’re prepared to do at this point."
Verizon chooses the municipalities it wants to build in. By New York State law, it must seek a franchise agreement with a chosen municipality. Mayor-elect Sheehan said she called Verizon this week to let the company know the city is interested.