Verizon policy: switch from copper to fiber, or no fix for you

A leak shows that Verizon refuses to fix copper landlines if you won't upgrade to fiber.

Reuters/Brendan McDermid

It won't shock you to hear that Verizon is not so fond of copper phone lines (just ask those left out in the cold after Hurricane Sandy), but it's now clear exactly how the carrier plans to make you ditch those old wires. The Philadelphia Inquirer has obtained documents detailing a longstanding "Fiber is the Only Fix" policy that effectively forces you to move to a fiber optic connection if you want assistance. If you ask for repairs on copper phone service in an area where fiber is available, technicians are supposed to tell you that the only remedy is to move to the newer technology. Decline, and you won't get any help -- Verizon's official stance is to refuse repairs on copper.

Verizon is quick to tell Ars Technica that the copper-to-fiber effort has been in place for four years, and maintains that fiber is "better technology, more reliable, and has fewer service issues." To a degree, it's right: you're definitely going to get faster internet access, and fiber is less prone to interruptions in bad weather. American carriers will also need to offer at least a 24-hour backup for phone service starting in 2018, so the notion that fiber is useless in a significant power outage won't be relevant for much longer.

The problem, as you might guess, is that customers don't have any real say in the matter. If you're worried about multi-day outages, don't like the existing 8-hour minimum backup or otherwise have zero incentive to switch, too bad -- you have to move to fiber if you want help. Also, there's the simple matter of being completely forthright. Verizon could fix the copper if it really wanted to, but it's choosing to use these breakdowns as an opportunity to upgrade its network. As much as the company stresses that it's "transparent" with customers when discussing fiber upgrades, it's not revealing its motivations.