Engineering experts deliver warning on smart meter design

Analysis from engineering experts suggests significant damage could be caused to the UK’s power infrastructure unless more steps are taken to improve security around smart metering.

The FT reports that the Royal Academy of Engineering and private technology companies have raised concerns about the meters’ security, according to a report from the Commons science and technology committee.

Nick Hunn, a wireless technology consultant, said he was worried about the risk of “rogue programmers” in metering companies.
Cyber security
“If I were working for one of those companies, I could insert code that would make every meter turn off on a particular date in a year’s time,” he said, adding the inclusion of an isolation switch in every smart meter was “an unnecessary risk”.

“If somebody could hack into that or turn off very large numbers of meters by mistake, the sudden shock of taking them off the grid … would cause significant damage,” he said.
[Native Advertisement]
The academy added that “disruption to energy and gas supplies at a massive scale is possible”.

Britain’s electronic intelligence agency GCHQ had assured the government earlier this year as to the steps taken to ensure meter security. These included security controls aimed at preventing mass disconnection, and special arrangements made to vet people with “access to sensitive system components”.

More than 3.6m smart meters have already been installed in homes and businesses and 53m are due by 2020, part of a £10.9bn programme.

Advocates say the meters’ ability to show people how much energy they are using will encourage consumers to switch off lights or buy more efficient appliances, lowering their bills and cutting greenhouse gas pollution from electricity generation.

Large Turnout for Michigan Utility Rules Hearing

Large Turnout for Michigan Utility Rules Hearing

By David Sheldon

September 24th, 2016 – Dramatic testimony was heard at a five hour-long hearing of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission on September 22nd. This was about the Commission’s completely revised rules for utility service, proposed under Case U-18120. Participation was amazing – both as to the numbers of people who participated and the quality of their comments. We estimate that there were about 60 protesters present of which some 35 took their turn to testify. Also present were an MPSC staff attorney and a few MPSC staffers. Presiding was an administrative law judge who listened very intently to everything that was said. Though the commissioners were not present, the judge assured us that the commissioners will be reading the transcript.

Everyone who spoke did so with courtesy and stayed on point, relating their personal views or experiences to one or more rules that needed changing or needed to be added. At the same time the vast majority of those who spoke clearly stated that the Commission had not, in their view, been doing its job of protecting the public from bullying utility companies. Many made the point that the Commission has a responsibility under the law to assure safe and adequate utility service to all customers, not just to the majority who are currently not objecting to smart meters. John Tatar made this point very well when he reminded us all that we are living under a republic and not a democracy, so that the rights of all must be taken into account.

The areas of greatest concern were health, privacy and fires. It was brought out that the majority of published peer reviewed research by scientists independent of the industry was to the effect that the type of radiation given off by smart meters is immediately injurious to a small percentage of the public and likely to cause cancer or neurological illnesses over a period of years for nearly all utility customers.

The three rules of greatest concern to participants were (1) Rule 37(1)(a) which outrageously allows a utility to declare any situation “hazardous” at their sole discretion, and to immediately shut off service with no notice and apparently no recourse, (2) Rule 37(1)(i) which allows a utility to shutoff power with suitable notice “where the customer has refused to arrange access … for .. replacement of equipment …” and (3) the lack of any rule requiring the utility to offer an analog opt-out choice. Many pointed out that the ‘hazardous’ designation was being misused by DTE to shutoff customers without notice who had refused a smart meter and padlocked their meter enclosure.

Much of the testimony was highly emotional, detailing the suffering many have endured at the hands of DTE or Consumers Energy. Particularly poignant was that of Jaime Chimner of Cheboygan who had lost the ability to walk because of a digital electronic meter installed by Consumers Energy. Replacing that digital meter with an analog meter allowed her to walk again! She spoke also of enduring a winter with no electricity and minimal heat. Another spoke of an elderly lady in the Muskegon area whose uninsured house burned to the ground from a fire the local fire department had identified as caused by a smart meter! The burned out meter that caused this fire was exhibited. Quite a number of others spoke of having been forced to survive on generators for a year or more, or endure a winter without heat, because DTE cutoff of their service on that ‘hazardous’ pretext.

Of the 35 who spoke, only one, representing the Michigan Environmental Council, was in favor of smart meters. Her comments were effectively countered by an engineer from the Muskegon area, who made the point that energy conservation could be accomplished far more effectively by lighter colored roofs on homes and better insulation.

There is still ample opportunity to submit comments on this case, whether you participated in the hearing or not. The Commission will allow public comments and exhibits to be posted to Case U-18120 until 5 pm on October 13th. After that date the Commission will make its decision whether to proceed with these rules or to modify them in response to public objections.

With any new comments that are submitted by writing, it would be wise to refer back to any of the MPSC rules, such as Rule 37(1)(a), Rule 37(1)(i) discussed above, or to Rule 30 on medical emergencies, or Rule 38 with special provisions for senior citizens. These rules (30 and 38) currently do not allow for medical emergencies for senior citizens that want an analog meter.  We will have to make that point.  We must show the inadequacy of the proposed rules.  If folks want to comment about fire safety, privacy or liberty, please try to find a rule to tie the comment to. 

As Richard Meltzer reminds us, it would be good to mention, in any health-related comments specific BCBS codes or other medical insurance codes for electrosensitivity, as well as any references to the United States Access Board and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  These documents mention accommodation for ElectroSensitivity based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.   Referencing the National Toxicology Program Study on Cancer, released in May would also be very good.

If we can back up our comments with governmental or industry acknowledgement/accommodation of electrosensitivity and cancer risk, then they cease to be just our opinions.

This commission has not shown itself to be at all conscientious about protecting the public. The Governor, who is pushing hard for smart grid, appointed them. The Commission also includes one who was recently the lobbyist for Consumers Energy, a clear conflict of interest. So nobody should naively believe this Commission is highly likely to do the right thing. If they were smart they would get out in front of all this and introduce some good changes to the rules. That might benefit them by reducing the chance we have to persuade the legislature to enact reform. But they are far more likely to do what they have always done – the bidding of the utilities, Governor Snyder and other powerful moneyed lobbyists.

You might ask, with such long odds, why did we bother to come to this hearing. The short answer is that if we did not the utilities and MPSC staffers would be telling legislators that they gave us a chance to voice our objections and hardly anyone showed up. That would hurt our chances of getting the legislature to pass HB 4916, the meter choice bill. It might also hurt our chances in any court cases, particularly since there is a doctrine of exhausting administrative remedies before coming to court. But as matters now stand, legislators will be hearing through the grapevine what a high level of participation we showed.

If the Commission decides to proceed with the rules in their present form, they will go next to a joint committee of the legislature which will have the power to stop the new rules, pending possible further action by the full legislature. This committee is called the “Joint Committee on Administrative Rules” or JCAR for short. Two of the cosponsors of our proposed meter choice bill, HB 4916, sit on that committee. Stay tuned for further details as they develop.


The original call to attend this hearing, by Utility Meter Choice 4 Michigan, together with many comments on that, may be viewed here:

From the Commission Order opening this case: “Written and electronic comments may be filed with the Commission and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 13, 2016. Written comments should be sent to the: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, Michigan 48909. Electronic comments may be e-mailed to If you require assistance, contact Commission staff at (517) 284-8090 or by e-mail at All information submitted to the Commission in this matter will become public information available on the Commission’s website and subject to disclosure. All comments should reference Case No. U-18120. Please do not include information you wish to remain private.”

Those wishing to review all the new proposed rules for comments will find them all here:

Large Turnout for Michigan Utility Rules Hearing





There appears to have been bias by one of the judge’s hearing the CTIA appeal on Berkeley’s right-to-know cell phone labels.

PRESS RELEASE – Possible Bias in Berkeley’s Cell Phone Right to Know Appeal     

Dear Friends,

I am sending this Press Release for Ellie Marks. There appears to have
been bias by one of the judge’s hearing the CTIA appeal on Berkeley’s
right-to-know cell phone labels. I am hoping you might be able to send
this to your contacts and perhaps post on the RRT site. There has been
no decision yet. This decision will have far-reaching implications.

Thank you!

Susan Foster
For Immediate Release:

Contact: Ellen Marks, California Brain Tumor Association

925-285-5437 <tel:925-285-5437

BREAKING NEWS-KENTUCKY FAMILY’S ELECTRICITY TURNED OFF….while fighting to get the smart meter removed..

This story is just breaking so the details will be forthcoming.  What we do know at this time is that the family is actively opposing a smart meter on their home.  Their electric utility company notified them that they had 10 days to pay $800.00 to have the smart meter removed and placed on a pole.  The family was unable to meet this demand so their electric was shut off today.

This is what is happening across our country and all family’s are trying to do is protect themselves from the harm of the Smart Grid technology!!!!   We must continue to stand up to these criminals.  This technology is a willful act of violence against the citizens of the United States.  More to come….

Smart Meter Data at Crux of Arkansas Murder Case

Smart Meter Data at Crux of Arkansas Murder Case

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 2.25.50 PM

Imagine this scenario:

You just got a bonus at work, bought a new barbecue smoker and a large hot tub at your suburban home. Your 5-year old son (whom you have custody of) is at his mother’s home for the Thanksgiving holiday and you decide to invite a few pals over to watch the game on TV, and kick back and drink some beers.

As the evening passes, vodka shots are downed, more beer is drunk, people are enjoying the hot tub. It gets late, and you decide to go to bed.  A couple of your friends are still in the jacuzzi. You go inside the house and get in bed, lay around and text some friends, and make a few drunk, aborted calls.  You drift off to sleep, wake up around 9:30am the next morning, walk out into your kitchen, look out your back window, and see one of your guests from the previous night face down in the hot tub, apparently drowned and not responding.  You call 911. The police and then the coroner come.

This is what happened on the night of November 21st, 2015, according to the host of the party, James Bates, a resident of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Three days later, still reeling from the tragic events of that night, the police told Bates that they believed his friend Victor Collins, a former law enforcement officer, was murdered.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 2.58.34 PM

Then, 3 months after the incident, police came and arrested Bates on the charge of 1st degree murder. The arrest was based largely on smart water meter readings they obtained–without a warrant–from the City of Bentonville Water Department.

Police claim that this data shows that Bates used a significant amount of water between 1am and 3am, water that prosecuters say was used to spray down his patio. The police case is outlined in this affidavit.

In an exclusive interview with Stop Smart Meters!, Bates insisted on his innocence and said that his friend’s death was a tragedy, and must have been the result of combining a lot of liquor, a jacuzzi, and a late night. He told us that Collins was found by medical examiners to have had a .32 blood alcohol content when he died.

Bates also speculates that the smart meter data is not accurate and that the timing on the meter must have been off (possibly switched between AM/PM). He asserts that he can prove he used approximately that same amount of water to fill the hot tub earlier that day. He says it is notable that the smart meter data report obtained by the Bentonville police department does not reflect any large consumption of water used earlier that day.

google_cctvThe use of smart meter data by law enforcement to charge someone with murder is a stark example of where violations of privacy can mean the difference between a life of freedom and a life in prison.

With the numerous reports of inaccuracies, switched meters, and wireless transmission problems with smart meters, it is more than a little disturbing that law enforcement is now basing criminal indictments on spy devices installed stealthily–and most of the time without permission–in your home. If accessing private data from your smart meter without a warrant is considered acceptable by society, then why not deploy CCTV in everyone’s living room, and have live feeds direct to police headquarters. Where does the creeping surveillance end?

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 3.03.37 PMThis case shows that detailed monitoring of activities within the home is a key design feature of the smart grid and smart meters, and that law enforcement is presently using this detailed data about one’s private activities in the home–without a warrant–to prosecute individuals on charges as serious as murder. This is what Stop Smart Meters! and many other privacy advocates have warned would happen if we accepted smart meters onto our homes and businesses.  Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and like everything else related to the smart meter program, the utilities and the governments who cover for them continue to lie through their teeth.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 3.19.49 PMExhibit A: In Naperville, Illinios, where a 4th amendment case against the city’s smart meter program continues to simmer in the courts, one of the arguments that the city has used to defend against the charge that their smart meters are violating the Constitution, is that if the police needed smart meter usage data, they would first obtain a court-ordered search warrant. The James Bates case shows that in practice, law enforcement is obtaining this data routinely without a warrant, and in direct violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Following are two citations from the legal record, showing  a blatant inconsistency in how the promise of smart meter data confidentiality by authorities contrasts with the reality of an official lack of regard for due process and protection of individual privacy.

The Promise (from Naperville’s 4th amendment case):

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.28.50 AM


The Reality (from Bentonville, AR Police Affidavit):

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.47.27 AM

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.33.46 AM


The repercussions of these clear 4th amendment violations are deadly serious–for James, and for everyone who values privacy, truth and justice.

A promotional poster for Mueller smart meter mesh network system- the same system in place in James Bates' Bentonville neighborhood


Local Mainstream Media Coverage:


5 News Coverage

40/29 TV Coverage

NWA Newscast


You can contact James Bates’ attorney, Kim Weber, via email, at, or by phone at (479) 381-0865. Those with a technical or detailed knowledge of wireless water meter mesh network systems are encouraged to contact.

Smart Meter Injury Testimonials

Smart Meter Injury Testimonials

California residents return smart meters en masse to the utility in an early action coordinated by

If you ever think to yourself, “oh maybe it’s not that bad- maybe people are exaggerating the health threat posed by smart meters…” read this document(pdf) and print it out for your family.

The document contains Stop Smart Meters! official testimony that we submitted as part of the Maine Supreme Court case. It includes dozens of firsthand testimonials from people who were injured primarily by PG&E “Smart” Meters.  We’ve also submitted similar testimony in proceedings in the United Kingdom and recently, in New Mexico.

We’ve permanently linked the document at the top of the “Don’t Miss” menu on the right side of our site, so you can easily find it. To watch a video of the ladies above, and others speaking about the serious health impacts that led them to take direct action and have the meters removed from their properties, click here. Links to peer-reviewed science that backs up the thousands of these testimonials can be found on our Science Page.

The Evidence is in.  It’s Time to Act.

Why men should NEVER put their phone in their pocket: Study shows how prolonged exposure to radiation steadily destroys sperm

Why men should NEVER put their phone in their pocket: Study shows how prolonged exposure to radiation steadily destroys sperm

  • New review of 21 studies found link between phones and sperm count
  • Public health are hesitant to say phones definitely harm sperm – there is currently no way to prove exactly how radiation and sperm count are tied
  • But experts warn this review provides compelling enough evidence that men should not keep their cell phones in their pockets 

Despite all the fears about cell phones and radiation, most of us still put our phones in our jean pockets.

It’s easy, convenient, and any bad effects are impossible to see.

But a new study warns there is conclusive evidence that men in particular need to find another storage spot.

A systemic review of 21 research papers on radiation shows phones placed close to a man’s genitals for a prolonged period of time steadily drive down sperm count.

Scroll down for video 

Danger: A review of years of evidence shows men are putting themselves at risk by storing their phones in their front pockets


And among the studies, many suggest surviving sperm could be DMA-damaged.

The biological phenomenon is currently under fierce debate since scientists have no way to explain how non-ionizing radiation influences the body.  

Without that link, many public health investigators are hesitant to say definitively that cell phones harm sperm.  

However, a new review by a team at Australia’s University of Newcastle has collated years of evidence in an attempt to both emphasize the trend, and to identify potential causes. 

And since 14 per cent of the world struggle to conceive – with male infertility involved 40 per cent of the time – they warn a small detail such as where one stores their phone could be crucial. 

‘While this subject remains a topic of active debate, this review has considered the growing body of evidence suggesting a possible role for RF-EMR [radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation] induced damage of the male germ line,’ the authors write.

‘In a majority of studies, this damage has been characterized by loss of sperm motility and viability as well as the induction of ROS generation and DNA damage.’

The authors reviewed 27 studies. Twenty-one of them showed a causal link between cell phone radiation and sperm damage. 

Ten studies were examined including 1,492 human sperm samples. 

Exposure to mobile phones was found to be associated with a significant eight per cent reduction in sperm motility and nine per cent reduction in sperm viability.

The data are hardly surprising, the authors say, given the 'unique vulnerability of the highly specialized sperm cell'

The data are hardly surprising, the authors say, given the ‘unique vulnerability of the highly specialized sperm cell’

The effects on sperm concentration were more equivocal. 

The results were consistent across experimental laboratory studies and correlational observational studies.

The data are hardly surprising, the authors say, given the ‘unique vulnerability of the highly specialized sperm cell’.

But by continuing to store phones in pockets, the male population is ignoring ‘the future health burden that may be created if conception proceeds with defective, DNA-damaged spermatozoa’. 

Dr Joel Moskowitz, of UC Berkeley’s public health school, explained to Daily Mail Online that this review is a pivotal step towards broader global understanding about the dangers of our phones. 

In 2011, the World Health Organization classified cell phone radiation as a possible 2B carcinogen.

It was the first major recognition that cell phones could have a detrimental effect on our bodies.

However, while studies have shown a correlation between sperm count depletion and cell phone radiation, there is a lack of research and concrete findings into the link between the two. 

Regardless, Dr Moskowitz warned, the University of Newcastle review is clear evidence that ‘men should not store their cellphones near their genitals’.

‘In this line of research more intense cellphone radiation leads to more sperm damage,’ he added.

How digital devices are building anxiety in our kids

How digital devices are building anxiety in our kids

From the Sunday Tasmanian, September 18, 2016


How digital devices are building anxiety in our kids

TASMANIAN parents are being urged to help their children unplug from mobile devices amid concerns our hyper-connected world is adding to their anxiety and impacting on mental health.

One of the nation’s leading mental health services for schools says the saturation of online games, information and social media is resulting in young children suffering “FOMO” — the “fear of missing out”.

The Principals Australia Institute, which delivers the mental health program KidsMatters and MindMatters in schools, has observed increased levels of anxiety in children and urges parents to let kids understand “it’s OK not to know”.

And from page 11:

By Anne Mather

OUR hyper-wired children have the world at their fingertips – but the information overload riskd crowding their heads, educators and mental health experts have warned.

One of the nation’s leading mental health services for schools says the saturation of online games, information and social media was resulting in young children suffering “FOMO” — the “fear of missing out”.

The Principals Australia Institute, which delivers the mental health program KidsMatters and MindMatters to schools, has urged parents to let children understand “it’s OK not to know”.

The pressure on children to be connected was leaving them with anxiety when they were not connected, said Victoria Ninnes, a mental health worker and senior project officer with the institute.

“The FOMO they experience when not checking their phones or other devices leads to increased levels of anxiety,” Ms Ninnes said. “Kids need to learn to switch off.”

She urged parents to help children and young people find connection in other ways:

NATURE-BASED play and activities, which encourages switching off and mindfulness. SPORT and exercise.

FACE-TO-FACE communication with family and fiends.

DEVELOPING hobbies that are not reliant on devices.

Ms Ninnes said encouraging children to be outdoors was great for physical and mental health — although taking their screens with them was not.

The reality game Pokemon GO was not a true experience of being connected with the real world.

“We live in a beautiful, amazing world and we have to help kids tap in to that. They need to be connected to the environment and to be mindful.

“At first I was happy to see kids getting outside with Pokemon GO, but then I saw kids walking into walls.”

The challenge was to direct focus away from screens and back to real faces and experiences. The constant nature of social media has also raised concerns about the persistence and pervasiveness of cyber bullying.

“Social media has become a huge trigger point that has increased anxiety and depression. It has seen bullying become easier,” Ms Ninnes said.

Almost one in seven (13.9 per cent) of Australia’s 4-17 year olds were assessed as having a mental health disorder in the 12 months leading up to a Commonwealth Government report released last year. Anxiety disorders accounted for half of mental disorders.

Hobart school principal Susan Ryan said digital technologies had opened up a wealth of social and learning opportunities for children but the constant connection had also seen a rise in anxiety.

Ms Ryan is completing a PhD on cyber bullying in secondary schools and how it affects school communities, including bystanders and staff.

“Research tells us really clearly that bullying in all its forms has a direct impact on health and wellbeing,” Ms Ryan said. “It affects levels of anxiety, self-esteem, ability to concentrate, school attendance and truancy.

“It can lead to feeling of isolation, depression and even suicide ideation. Bullying has a whole range of social and emotional impacts.”

Social media meant the bullying could now go on around the clock — as it allowed perpetrators to keep contacting victims outside of school gates and hours.

“The potential impact of bullying going beyond the school boundaries is vast,” said Ms Ryan, who is principal of Mount Carmel College.

“Cyber bullying is a whole new realm. There are no school walls and the audience is limitless. With cyber bullying, there is nowhere to hide.”

Unlike verbal or face-toface bullying, cyber bullying could also be spread to an unknown number of recipients and have an online permanence even after the initial image or message was deleted.

Reported rates of cyber bullying among young people varied from 10 to 40 per cent, but the variation was largely due to a lack of a clear and universal definition of what was meant by cyber bullying.

Ms Ryan said traditional bullying was any “repeated, intentional behaviour that involves an imbalance of power and violated another person’s right to feel safe and protected”.

But, in the case of cyber bullying, Ms Ryan said repetition was not necessarily a criteria because a single instance could have deep penetration and permanence in cyberspace.

“One harmful post can really be magnified. The victim doesn’t know how far and wide it has been distributed — even if it’s deleted,” she said.

However, despite the downsides, Ms Ryan said there was no going back with social media, as it was the dominant avenue for socialising among young people.


Verizon’s Wireline Networks Diverted Billions for Wireless Deployments Instead of Wiring Municipalities, and Charged Phone Customers for It.


Verizon’s Wireline Networks Diverted Billions for Wireless Deployments Instead of Wiring Municipalities, and Charged Phone Customers for It.

09/15/2016 04:05 am ET


Abandoned Verizon Central Office in Kingston NY, (Photo Google Maps)

First, the news: On September 13th, 2016, the City of New York sent a letter to Verizon that it had defaulted on its cable franchise agreement with the city. By July, 2014, Verizon should have upgraded the networks so that all households could get a FiOS, Fiber to the Premises, “FTTP” service.


But, it is the charging of billions of dollars to build out the wireless networks and the abandoning (or not upgrading) of most of NY State’s wired infrastructure (for retail services) that our new SPECIAL REPORT details. In New York, Verizon was granted multiple rate increases, starting in 2006, to pay for the “massive deployment of fiber optics”, which was charged to every phone customer, including low income families and customers in rural areas. In fact, customers (including low income families, seniors, small businesses, etc.) in New York City that have or had phone service (2006-to-today), also paid extra for these upgrades, even if they didn’t get them (or want them).

The Story: Massive Cross-Subidies Go Unchallenged.

Verizon claims it is now a ‘wireless-first’ company. But Verizon also controls, state by state, the state-based wired utilities and business networks from Massachusetts to Virginia, with only a few exceptions. Verizon has no serious plans to upgrade or even maintain the existing retail copper wires. Even Verizon’s FiOS fiber to the home deployments stopped in 2010-2012, except for areas with existing license agreements. And while Verizon claims that in Boston they are finally doing fiber to the home to deliver wireline broadband, it is a ‘trial’ to instead deploy and substitute wireless broadband, which still requires many wireless antennas to be connected to a fiber optic wire. (As of now, 5G is more a hyped next-generation mirage than a working service to replace fiber to the home.)

But there are more troubling issues. What should be of major concern to all Verizon municipalities and cities is that Verizon has diverted billions per state to build out its wireless networks by having the wireline state utility take over the capital expenditures’ (“capex”) budget, thus phone customers, pay for the capex. In just New York, Verizon built 5,515 cell towers and charged local phone customers and the state wired utility an estimated $2.8 billion for just 2010-2012. On top of this, Verizon Wireless pays a fraction of what its competitors, such as Sprint, pay for the use of the Verizon networks, known as “special access”.

This diversion of funds is one of the primary reasons why the work in most cities along the East Coast abruptly stopped around 2010-2012, or the municipalities were never even offered service. And, this lack of payment back to the wired networks is also one of the primary reasons the local phone networks are ‘unprofitable’; the financial books are manipulated to make local phone service pay the majority of expenses.

In fact, throughout the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia, Verizon has left the majority of municipalities with a deteriorating copper network, which, depending on the state, should have been replaced with fiber optics. This has left most areas without direct, very fast broadband and thus cable competition, but also left most cities without serious upgrades of their town, or even working reliable service.

In 2015, DSLReports summed up the current situation based on recent calls for broadband deployment in cities across the East Coast.

“With the exception of major city franchise obligations (and even those have lots of wiggle room), Verizon all but ended their FiOS expansion plans around five years ago. With so many un-served cities still begging to be upgraded Verizon continually has to remind folks that they’re simply not interested in upgrading their fixed line networks any more. If you live in one of those un-upgraded cities like Buffalo, Boston or Alexandria, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

NOTE: The opening picture is of a Verizon Central Office (CO) in Kingston, New York. That is testimony of this abrupt changeover. According to union personnel, the CO could have been ‘lit’ to deliver service, but was never implemented. Instead, the staff was deployed to do wireless deployments. (Note: Every city has a number of Central Offices, which are buildings where the wires and services are aggregated in the community.)

Unknown to most, depending on the state, Verizon was able to manipulate the accounting to charge local phone customers extra to fund the fiber-build out as well as to pay, via cross-subsidies, for the deployment of Verizon’s other lines of business, such as special access, which has unchecked ‘Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA), profits. Meanwhile, “Local Service” was left holding the proverbial bag to pay most of the expenses and thus loses money.

(In fact, as documented in “The Book of Broken Promises”, the lack of fiber optic broadband can be traced to changes in state laws in the 1990’s to have entire states, from New Jersey or Pennsylvania, completed with 45 Mbps bi-directional services.)

Verizon and the other incumbent phone companies have also been able to hide the majority of access lines, all of the “special access” wires. These are the wires that go to the cell sites (sometimes called “backhaul”) or carry retail data services, like alarm circuits and to ATM machines. Yet these wires are actually part of the state utility and are the same as phone wires, but, since they are under a different regulatory covenant, they have high profits because the accounting could be manipulated.

The Consumer Federation of America’s 2016 report found massive special access overcharging and estimated the encompassing larger economic harms; the overcharging doesn’t just harm the competitors or business users, but impacts consumers as well.

“Consumer Federation of America (CFA) estimates that large incumbent telephone companies have engaged in abusive pricing practices for high-speed broadband “special access” services, with overcharges totaling about $75 billion over just the past five years. As a result, CFA estimates that the indirect macroeconomic loss to American consumers doubles that damage to a total in excess of $150 billion since 2010.”

New Networks Institute and Consumer Federation have combined analyses and filed comments and reply comments in multiple FCC proceedings pertaining to special access.

We believe that the first step is to document the cross-subsidies, then stop the diversion of the billions going to fund wireless and ‘redirect’ it. Wireless and all other affiliates would be paying market prices, which would not only supply money to build out the networks to residential and business customers, but dramatically lower rates, especially for the low income families and the elderly that funded the wired networks and FiOS through rate increases in New York. Unfortunately, the cross-subsidies appear to have occurred in every state telephone utility, as many were set via the FCC federal cost allocation rules.

The irony is – wireless densification requires fiber optic wires. All of the “loss of lines” stories have been manipulated, as they do not count the growing special access markets—or the actual lines in service.

Why It Matters Now:

  • First, the ability to block a municipality from offering services in a growing number of states has been upheld by the courts after the FCC decided to take actions to change this situation and lost. The agency has decided not to appeal.
  • No city has asked for an audit of the accounting to deal with the cross-subsidies of wireline and wireless.
  • Most people don’t like being gouged, among other complaints. From overcharging of special access to many states raising rates multiple times, which ended up going to fund the wireless business, the customers, the state economy—and the cities throughout the East Coast, have all been harmed.
  • While the cable companies have deployed more coverage areas in many states, (as opposed to the telco’s broadband-TV deployments) they are also the “most hated companies in America”, year after year, survey after survey. Worse, even where Verizon has rolled out its FiOS service, this is only a ‘duopoly’ at best; it is still not competition.
  • Economic growth for the city, business and family income is missing in many cities. There are thousands of studies pertaining to the benefits in economic growth or education from high speed services. See:
  • Even the White House released a report“Community-Based Broadband Solutions: The Benefits of Competition and Choice for Community Development and High-speed Internet Access”

Every Verizon State and Municipality is in the Same Boat.

  • In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Verizon has been able to get rid of the requirement to offer a wireline service and can replace it with wireless service. Pennsylvania and New Jersey stand out as they both had commitments to rewire the entire state territory with fiber optics, by 2015 and 2010 respectively, and yet were able to have the laws changed to supply a slow ‘DSL equivalent’, which can be wireless.
  • In New York, funding for broadband build-outs by the state is being sued over as groups and companies feel that the distribution of500 million in state funding was not properly objective.
  • In Massachusetts, one of the state funds managed by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute just gave Comcast5 million to build in underserved towns they already serve but had not build out due to low density of homes passed. In the end, Comcast will own the state funded infrastructure, paid for by the government, meaning customers or tax payers or both.
  • Only a few municipalities have taken the leap to do an overbuild of the incumbent provider(s), as the expense and expertise are enormous for most cities and towns.
  • Google is not going to save every city. Google has recently stated that it, too, is doing a financial cut-back and is now questioning some fiber deployments to do wireless broadband instead.

Boston Is a ‘Trial’ to Shut Off the Retail Networks Completely, but have the Wired Customers (and Special Access) Pay for It—Statewide.

The developing story of Boston should have cities realizing that there will be no fiber to the home or even copper maintenance by Verizon. In April 2016, Verizon announced spending $300 million on a six year project to bring FiOS fiber to the home to all of Boston.