PHILADELPHIA -- When Henry Powderly II ordered Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS fiber-optic service, he knew he was about to be connected to the future of telecommunications. He also got unplugged from its past.
Verizon's installer -- without warning, Powderly says -- removed the copper wires that used to carry his phone calls.
Verizon's new high-bandwidth fiber lines are fully capable of carrying not only calls but also Internet data and television, with room to grow. But once the copper is pulled, it's difficult to switch back to the traditional phone system or less expensive Digital Subscriber Line service. And Verizon isn't required, in most instances, to lease fiber to rival phone companies, as it is with copper infrastructure.
What's more, anyone who owns Powderly's house in the future will face higher bills with FiOS than another home with copper. Currently, Verizon's DSL plans cost as little as $15 a month. FiOS Internet starts at $30 a month.
"I was not given an option," said Powderly, a 30-year-old Long Island, N.Y., resident.
As it hooks up homes and businesses to FiOS, Verizon has been routinely disconnecting copper, many subscribers say. More than 1 million customers have signed up for FiOS. A Verizon spokesman said customers should have been notified at least three times: by the sales representative, by the technician, and in paperwork.