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Broken driveway puts a snag in Verizon's cable plans for Hingham

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 26, 2011 03:21 PM

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Hingham officials will meet tonight to discuss the installation of Verizon fiber optic cables in three additional locations, a proposition that may prove difficult after the company butted heads with a resident.

The ordeal started when Verizon was burrowing below a driveway on Saw Mill Pond Road to install a conduit for a neighborhood fiber optic cable – part of a four-year-long process to bring the company's FiOS service to residents throughout Hingham.

The boring machine became stuck when it hit a boulder under the driveway, causing the company to have to dig a trench in the driveway in order to remove it.

Although the homeowner has requested that Verizon replace the entire driveway, the company has refused, saying it will repair from the trench to the street.

The controversy has created concern for selectmen, who, on July 12, put a hold on other grants of locations for the company until the issue was resolved.

While the resident is still at odds with the company, selectmen tonight will take another look at the proposal, which hopes to bring the FiOS conduit to Manatee Road, Volusia Road, and Newbridge Street.

According to Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, it’s a matter of weighing the rights of the company verses the protection of residents.

“The town very much supports Verizon as a service provider to its residents. They have rights within our right of way and the town will grant them as the town sees fit…but we want to make sure our residents are protected. The selectmen have a responsibility to ensure people’s property is cared for. How they go about the public way is important,” Alexiades said.

Although the town would like to see Verizon install FiOS without damage to property, Alexiades said that “we’ve always had a cooperative relationship with Verizon, and we expect to sit down with them and go over these issues.”

According to Harry Sylvester, the highway supervisor for the town, Verizon spends considerable time going out with him to discuss where and how conduits should be placed, and typically restores property that is disrupted by the work.

This is the first conduit Verizon has attempted to install underground for the town, and only one of dozens to come, said Rick Colon, a public relations director for Verizon.

“All of the work that we’re doing [is] to build the backbone of the network,” Colon said. “I believe that the people of Hingham want and deserve a choice of cable providers. That s what FiOS coming to the town of Hingham has done. We’re looking forward to completing our FiOS build out on schedule, but it will take the cooperation of the town to do it.”

Comcast is the other cable provider in Hingham.

Colon further asserted that all work done was within Verizon's easements or in areas authorized for utility work.

“We’re not disrupting private property,” he said.

Homeowner Joe Freitas, whose driveway will now have a seam running horizontally through it, feels differently.

“I am going to continue to ask them to restore my driveway,” Freitas said. “I feel that the offer that they are making falls short of my expectations. It’s a driveway that is less than three years old … If it was a driveway that was in poor shape and I was getting a new driveway out of it, that would be unreasonable. But that’s not the case.”

Freitas said he wasn’t comforted to know that the company was on an easement property.

“They might be beyond that and might be on private property… I’m looking at it purely from a homeowner’s perspective,” he said.

Although no other homes have been affected, the way Verizon has handled the dispute is troubling to some, Freitas said.

“The neighbors are aware, they’ve asked us if there is anything they can do to help, and the are concerned what might happen as they continue work down the street,” he said.

Selectmen will discuss the controversy and the fate of future grants of location for Fios at tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. The public hearing is set for 7:30 p.m.

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