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A. Thomas Levin Quoted in Newsday, "Feeling a Disconnect"

Sep 9, 2007Local Government and Land Use

Media Source: Newsday


When Verizon salespeople came to Paul Sundick's home in the village of Great Neck to sell him its FiOS TV service, it didn't take much convincing. He had received direct mail and watched TV ads for the service, so he signed up.

But on Thursday, just a few months after he signed up and began receiving the service, a Verizon manager called him to pull the plug, saying the company hadn't yet gotten approval for the franchise in the village.

Verizon spokeswoman Heather Wilner said the company installed its high-speed fiber-optic FiOS TV in about 30 homes in areas for which it hadn't yet obtained approval for a franchise and will remove it from all of those homes. She said such mistakes are rare.

Sundick said the manager gave him 14 business days to allow Verizon to come in his house to uninstall the service. 'I said 'Let me get this straight. You've installed five boxes in my house and now you're going to pull them out,'' he said.

The company had obtained franchise approval for the Town of North Hempstead. But the Great Neck/North Shore Cable Commission, which approves franchises for 15 villages including Great Neck, hasn't yet come to a franchise agreement with Verizon after two years.

Several residents in communities represented by the commission got a head start, though.

'We discovered that there was a database error that led us to mistakenly market and approve installation of FiOS TV services to some customers in the Great Neck/North Shore area,' Wilner said.

Wilner wouldn't say if the affected customers in villages were near the border of unincorporated parts of North Hempstead.

Thomas Levin, attorney for Great Neck North Shore Cable Commission, acknowledged that Long Island has complex political boundaries.

'It's possible you could get mistakes,' he said. 'But some of these, I understand, were not near the village boundary; they were in the heart of the village. So it's hard to understand how they could have made a mistake. Maybe a little overzealousness in selling the service.'

Sundick said he's annoyed that he had to stay home to have the service installed, and now he'll have to take another day off to have it uninstalled.

Wilner said the company would remove the service whenever it's most convenient for affected customers and they would receive a full refund.

Sundick said the glitch raises the issue of why the village hasn't yet approved the franchise after so much time. 'Verizon's negotiating style is hurry up and wait,' Levin said. 'It takes months to get a response.'

Wilner said, 'We really want to bring choice. So we're working hard to do that.'

Sundick said he hasn't decided what he'll do after Verizon removes the cable service. 'I'll get an antenna. I don't know. I'll go to my friend's house.'