Verizon Resumes Work on Fla. Buildout


The Verizon Communications Inc. fiber-optic buildout in Hillsborough County, Fla., resumed after a two-and-a-half week hiatus caused when county officials stopped work Nov. 18 due to about 200 instances in which county-owned sewer and water pipes were hit.

In the highest-profile incident, a car sank into the ground Nov. 12 when the roadbed caved in beneath it. Verizon contractors were working underneath the road the previous day and it gave way when a motorist backed his car over the site, according to Verizon.

Once pulled out of the sinkhole, the car was able to drive away, officials noted.

Verizon is upgrading its plant throughout Hillsborough and Pasco counties in the Tampa area as part of its $800 million investment this year into fiber-to-the-premises technology in several areas of the country.

Verizon has construction underway in eight other states, with the goal of offering its FiOs-branded broadband services to current telephony customers.

Scott Cottrell, director of the engineering division of the county’s public works department, said the stop-work order came when the infrastructure damage reports came in at a rate “that’s way too frequent.”

Company spokesman Bob Elek said Verizon has constructed 6.5 million path feet since the project began in March.

It would be impossible to work flawlessly given that level of activity, he said.

Of the 200 damage incidents, 82 affected one or fewer people, he said. Some of those involved damage to PVC pipe, which is not listed on infrastructure maps. Another 42 incidents affected 10 or fewer people, he said, and were repaired as soon as possible.

The car incident was caused when a sewer line was clipped by digging machines. The sewer was not visible nor was it on plans, Elek said.

After the sinkhole developed, Verizon voluntarily stopped the build, in advance of the county order, Elek said.

County officials and Verizon executives worked out a plan that allowed Verizon to resume work on Nov. 30, with close supervision of the drilling crews. Construction continued within the county in the city limits of Tampa, and also in Pasco County.

Elek said the planned launch of services early next year shouldn’t be affected.

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Tom Wolzien said in a research note last week that the Verizon incidents “should serve as a reminder that — in the real world — massive infrastructure projects like fiber deployment are messy, take time and incur very real costs of customer goodwill.”