Cox Communications Accuses Verizon of Damaging Cables

Wed July 20, 2005 - Southeast Edition

RICHMOND, VA (AP) Cox Communications Inc. has complained to state regulators that rival Verizon Communications Inc. damaged its underground fiber-optic cables in northern Virginia and then covered up the cuts with black electrical tape.

“Cox personnel have uncovered and, in one instance actually observed, ’repairs’ done by Verizon that consisted of wrapping tape around a Cox line damaged by the (sic) Verizon and then reburying the line,” according to a complaint filed last month with the State Corporation Commission.

The accusation comes amid fierce competition in the industry.

Atlanta-based Cox, historically a cable company, now competes with Verizon as a provider of telephone and high-speed Internet services in northern Virginia. And Verizon, a major player in local phone and Internet service, may be looking to enter the cable market.

“Cox welcomes competition, but believes Verizon is improperly using its authority as a telephone company to bypass regulation and oversight associated with its construction project,” Cox said in the complaint.

Cox’s complaint includes photos of exposed fiber-optic cables patched with tape in various locations in northern Virginia.

The company claims there have been about 500 incidents, leading to about $254,000 in damage to Cox’s underground network. Company spokesman Alex Horwitz said possible loss of telephone service caused by the cuts jeopardizes crucial communications like emergency 911 service.

Cox claims Verizon violated Virginia’s Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act, which requires that utility companies make public any kind of damage to underground lines.

Christy Reap, a spokeswoman for New York-based Verizon, said the company already is working with Cox to address the underground damage issue and will formally respond to the complaint with the commission.

“The bottom line is that we take every precaution to avoid hits on other companies’ facilities,” Reap said.