Verizon smokes out another family

They're a bunch of pyromaniacs, those Verizon FiOS installers, that's all I've got left to say about it.

OK, maybe not all I've got left to say.

(Friday update: Yikes! Verizon exec offers tone-deaf reply.)

(Oct. 1 update: My father-in-law gets FiOS ... gulp.)

Before spending the past two weeks on vacation, I had devoted the better part of the prior week to sparring with Verizon's public relations department after the latter got all hot and bothered by the fire department in Needham, Mass. (and me) calling a fire a fire - a fire which in that case had been sparked by a FiOS installer hitting an electrical main.

Well, these sparkies wearing hard hats have done it again, this time generating billows of smoke and causing $2,650 worth of damage to the Philadelphia area home of John Wilen, his wife and young child. Wilen, unfortunately for Verizon, happens to be a business reporter for the Associated Press. (And it's become clear now that the company, whose senior vice president of media relations accused little ol' me of trying to bring it down through this type of coverage, has it in for professional journalists.)

You - and Verizon, I trust - will note that to this point in this particular narrative I have not once used the much-disputed F word (fire) in relation to what happened at the Wilen home. That's because John Wilen tells me he wasn't in the dwelling when the smoke billowed but that he would be happy to ask his wife if the old adage about smoke and fire held true to form in this case. I'll update when he gets back to me. (Friday update: Wilen reports that his wife saw no flames. "She heard a loud 'pop' and remembers a 'significant' amount of smoke coming out of the front of the house near where they were drilling, and from the open garage where the main electrical box was.")

Wilen writes in his AP account:

If the installers hadn't almost burned my house down, I'd say Verizon's new cable television and high speed Internet service was fantastic.

(Insert obvious line about Mrs. Lincoln and the play.)

Wilen, unlike yours truly, did have plenty of nice things to say about the quality of the FiOS service throughout his AP story. But ...

And there is the small matter of installation. When Verizon runs fiber to your house, the company needs to install a box on an inside wall. It was in drilling through a wall to connect that box to a fiber conduit that our installer hit an electrical wire. That knocked the power out and left our electrical box - and the front of the house - smoking.

The technicians compounded this error by insisting that we pay for the electrical repairs, then bill them. We'd be reimbursed in 30 days, they assured us. My wife was having none of that. Verizon's insurance company cut us a check for the $2,650 repair within days.

We got a brand-new electrical box out of the deal, for free. But our electrician tells us ours was not the first botched Verizon installation he's been called out to fix.

Not by a long shot, although a Verizon spokeswoman assured Wilen that "very few" result in serious damage.

Keep that in mind next time a Verizon tech starts drilling into your home ... and also keep a garden hose handy.

(Update: Before you join the mob beating me senseless with garden hoses, please read this mea culpa.)

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