Cable Operators

Bright House Complains About Verizon Cut

4/17/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Officials from Bright House Networks last week filed a complaint with Manatee County, Fla., accusing Verizon Communications Inc. of cutting into its fiber-optic plant and disrupting service.

The telco countered that Bright House’s plant wasn’t properly marked, and called the complaint an attempt to “significantly delay the onset of meaningful competition in Bright House’s serving territory.”

In its formal response to Manatee County Administrator Ernie Padgett, Verizon asserted that during the past five years, Bright House had damaged or severed 77 Verizon lines across a five-county area.

The construction accident on April 6 had nothing to do with Verizon’s fiber-to-the-home build, said assistant county attorney Robert Eschenfelder.

The fiber cut, which severed service to about 500 cable customers, occurred during work to move plant away from State Route 70. Work to widen that highway has forced Verizon to shift its plant.

According to Verizon, the 8 a.m. accident occurred when a directional bore was pulling back from the hole it had made. Because the drilling occurred underground, Verizon’s contractors did not know they’d knocked out cable service to the area until notified by a Bright House field worker.

The notification time is at issue, because Bright House claims the telephone contractors did not give timely notice of the damage, as the state requires.

Bright House claims its plant was appropriately placed and marked. It submitted pictures of the scene which showed drilling guidelines, painted in white, crossing orange lines that mark underground plant, the cable company asserted. Verizon disputed the cable company’s interpretation of those markings.

Because Bright House officials believe the telephone contractor was negligent, it has formally complained to county and state utility regulators. It is seeking an immediate cease-and-desist order against the telephone company.

It appears the county isn’t inclined to stop Verizon. “There’s no public-safety threat,” Eschenfelder said. “We just want a full and complete analysis [of what happened].”

Verizon argued that Bright House’s complaint “rests on unsubstantiated and incorrect allegations against Verizon.” A stop-work order would be to the detriment of Florida consumers, the company said.

Bright House last year filed a formal complaint with the Florida Public Service Commission over Verizon’s bundling of its phone service with its digital subscriber line product.

Consumers who wish to drop Verizon phone service to take Bright House’s newly offered phone product find they must also drop their DSL service and lose their familiar e-mail addresses. That’s a deterrent to switching phone providers, Bright House said.

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