T-Mobile’s Legere ‘rescues’ volunteer fire department, sticks finger in Verizon’s eye

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Ever a social-media showman and tormenter of his competitors, T-Mobile CEO John Legere last night took to Twitter to lambaste Verizon’s decision to ding a volunteer fire company for $73,000 and offered to pick up that tab himself if necessary.

And we don’t even know if the ponies played a part.

Legere made his pledge on Twitter in response to yesterday’s Buzzblog post about a tiff between Verizon and the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which serves an island town of 3,000 in Virginia and is renowned for being caretakers of a herd of 150 wild horses, the Chincoteague Ponies, that has been the subject of a popular children’s book and movie. Legere’s tweet:

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Legere reiterated his intent to pay in a post to the fire company’s Facebook page, which has been a focal point of Chincoteague community displeasure with Verizon over the past few days.

The fire company contends that if it has to pay the $73,000 to move Verizon equipment off land on which it’s building a new firehouse that money will come from funds normally dedicated to buying firetrucks, ambulances, gear … and whatever the ponies might need. Verizon contends that critics are underestimating the scope of the telecommunications portion of the project and has expressed a willingness to work with the fire company to adjust plans and costs.

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While Legere obviously recognizes a reasonably priced public relations opportunity when he sees one, not everyone believes Verizon is being unfair here. Under Legere’s Facebook comment is this one:

“I'm no mega-corp fan but this seems straightforward. Most of your island's telecom lines run through a single major bundled cable containing 1,200 pairs and however many fiber optic cables are run along with it. I think it's hard to call $73k for relocating a major island utility (unreasonable) when you're building a new multi-million-dollar facility in its place.”

Meanwhile, as the negotiating and posturing continues, the Chincoteague herd is bracing for winter’s wrath. “We are predicted to get some heavy snow over the weekend,” reports the fire company’s Facebook page, “at the first opportunity, the boys will go over and check on the ponies.”

Perhaps a certain telecommunications executive could lend them a hand.

(Update, Jan. 20, 2017: Verizon and the firefighters make peace."

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