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Verizon FiOS 'Cutting' Ties to Communities

Verizon fiber optic Big Dig now underway beneath the streets and backyards of America is taking it toll on existing underground power and cable lines. The issue isn't helping the already-strained relations between the well-entrenched cable firms and the newly arrived TV kids on the block--telcos and, specifically, Verizon FiOS TV.

While Verizon claims petty jealousy is at fault for the cable guys exaggerating the accidental damage being done by its newly trained work force laying fiber in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs and exurbs of Washington, D.C., some local government agencies and power utilities also have joined in the call for Verizon to be more cautious in digging fiber trenches. Complaints from consumers, too, have increased markedly in some digging zones, according to The Washington Post and other publications.

Comcast says in Maryland alone since July 2004, it spent more than $1 million to repair cable lines severed by Verizon's crews, and wound up making about 6,000 related repairs. Even when companies work together, the Big Dig for FiOS still seems to produce a lot of mistakes: Washington Gas is working closely with Verizon but still sustained nearly 300 incidents in the past 11 months.

Verizon is working with at least six contractors and 90 subcontractors in Maryland and Virginia. At least one subcontractor is publicly known to have been dismissed for alleged shoddy workmanship. But not all the blame can be laid at the telco's feet for accidentally severed lines. Public utility officials have acknowledged that sometimes their workers incorrectly mark the locations of their existing underground lines, and some maps are outdated.