Threatened Strike Could Slow FiOS Rollout

About 65,000 Verizon Communications workers might strike beginning Sunday if the carrier can't work out a deal with their unions, possibly slowing the rollout of Verizon's flagship FiOS fiber-optic network.

Contracts covering members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in the Northeastern U.S. are due to expire at midnight Saturday, and the two sides were still in talks Friday afternoon. The contracts involve workers involved in FiOS deployment, including technicians, cable splicers and programmers, as well as customer service employees, the unions said. Issues include health care and maintaining high-quality jobs, representatives of the unions said.

FiOS is at the heart of Verizon's bid to deliver telephone, high-speed data and high-definition video to consumers and businesses. With fiber running all the way to each subscriber's home, the network can deliver as much as 50M bps (bits per second) downstream and 20M bps upstream.

Verizon said on Monday it has about 1.4 million FiOS TV customers and 2 million FiOS Internet subscribers. It is aggressively expanding the network, adding 176,000 TV customers and 187,000 Internet users in the second quarter. Also on Monday, FiOS became commercially available in New York City, at the heart of the region that might be affected by a strike, which stretches from New England to Virginia. FiOS is available to about 300,000 households, and Verizon is shooting for 500,000 by year's end.

Verizon said Friday it is negotiating in good faith to come up with timely and fair contracts for the workers.

The labor dispute does not involve Verizon Business or Verizon Wireless. Verizon Communications has about 230,000 employees in total.

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