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Group chides Verizon over FiOS in the city

A community organization that has been working since the spring to pressure Verizon to expand its fiber-optic service to Buffalo is giving the company its "Scrooge of the Year" award at a news conference today.

Members of the Don't Bypass Buffalo coalition and numerous elected officials argue Verizon is discriminating by bringing its high-speed FiOS TV and Internet service to Erie County's suburbs while bypassing its largest city.

"As a city resident, it does make me wonder, is my money not good enough for Verizon?" said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, a scheduled speaker at the rally, which is set for early this afternoon outside Verizon's Hertel Avenue switching center.

A spokesman said Verizon is focusing on boosting its subscriber base in communities where FiOS already is offered and does not plan to bring the service to Buffalo or any other new communities in the near future.

"We have communicated several times to city officials, the coalition itself and others that as we near the end of our FiOS construction program, we are focusing on the mandated build-out commitments we have with 182 municipalities across the state where we have television franchises," John J. Bonomo said in a statement.

Verizon offers its full range of FiOS services in 10 communities in Erie County: Amherst, Blasdell, the Town and Village of Hamburg, Kenmore, Lackawanna, the Town and Village of Orchard Park, the Town of Tonawanda and West Seneca.

Bonomo noted the company offers FiOS Internet -- but not TV -- service in pockets of North Buffalo, South Buffalo, the University District and the central portion of the city. And he pointed out that Verizon already offers fast Internet service over its copper wire network.

Verizon critics, including city officials, county legislators and several members of the Assembly, say this isn't good enough.

"Verizon continues to grow income inequality by investing only in wealthier suburban areas. It's time for this to end so that we here in the City of Buffalo -- the students, the families, the businesses -- can thrive," Ina Ferguson-Downing, coalition co-chairwoman, said in a statement.

Ryan said a number of his constituents have called his office to ask why they can't receive FiOS TV and Internet service.

He accused the company of "redlining" the City of Buffalo and said he would consider introducing legislation in the Assembly that would subject Verizon to greater regulation.