Members of several North Baltimore communities met for a discussion on improving area broadband competition and service, though the focus quickly shifted to residents’ questions about why Verizon’s FiOS wasn’t available.
But representatives from Verizon at the meeting told residents there is no current plans to extend the service, which provides high speed Internet via fiber-optic cable, to their neighborhoods, because the company has been focusing on fulfilling the franchise contracts it has in place since 2010.
"At this time we’ve not been extending any franchises anywhere in the country," said Tad Bishop, Verizon’s vice president of Governmental Affairs.
Prior to the meeting, 322 North Baltimore residents filled out an online survey about their Internet services on the Roland Park website.
The survey reported 94 percent of residents who responded receive their Internet from either Comcast or Verizon. The survey also showed that 48 percent of residents who responded to the question said they were either dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied, with their current service, which is limited primarily to a Digital Subscriber Line from those two vendors.
Bishop declined to discuss why Verizon decided to extend its FiOS to some communities in the Baltimore metro area and not others, saying it was a business decision and cited proprietary issues.
"These are the kind of things we don’t put on display," Bishop said.
He also rejected the notion—raised by a community member—that the city was being avoided because of racial or socioeconomic reasons. He pointed out that Boston also does not receive FiOS service.
"We’re not picking and choosing per se," Bishop said.
Following the meeting, some residents said they were disappointed by the lack of information about the future of broadband services in their communities.
"It went nowhere, and it’s hard to see any insight, that the issue is sort of put to the future rather than something that can be done now. Every answer seemed to imply that tomorrow we’ll talk about it again,” A.J. O’Brien said.
Casey Lide said he thought the broadband vendors did their best to answer questions form residents, but that he feels these companies have decided investing in Baltimore is not a priority.
"So I think this may be a situation where the city’s got to find out what they can do to put their feet to the fire and show Baltimore’s an attractive place to invest," Lide said.
But Phil Spevak, the president of the Roland Park Civic League and one of the meeting’s organizers, said he thought the meeting accomplished what it needed to.
"Well, I think the purpose of the meeting was to communicate information, raise the level of understanding of the issue and frankly gauge what’s the interest in the issue," Spevak said.