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Marks questions Verizon over gaps in FiOS coverage in Towson

Although Verizon has installed FiOS — the high-speed fiber-optic cable connection — in a large part of Towson, the southern neighborhoods along York Road near the Baltimore City line, have not yet been connected to FiOS and David Marks, the district's Baltimore County Councilman, wants to know why.

The telecommunications company Verizon has disputed Marks' timetable.

Marks, representing the 5th District, which includes Towson, let Verizon know of his unhappiness over the situation in a July 7 letter to Verizon headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Marks referred to a January 2014 meeting with the county's Telecommunications Advisory Panel, which oversees franchise agreements with Comcast and Verizon, mostly regarding cable TV. Marks said that Verizon representatives indicated that the FiOS build-out for all areas of Towson would be completed by the end of 2014.

"At this juncture," Marks wrote in his letter, "the Towson coverage issue is virtually unchanged, and continues to be a conspicuous hole in coverage."

In an interview, Marks said that he has received complaints from constituents who are Verizon customers about the lack of progress on the issue.

"Towson is the most densely populated part of Baltimore County. It is baffling to me why Towson is ranked so low," he said. "I would like to see [Verizon FiOS] implementation by this year."

There is, however, a complication. In March 2007, the county and Verizon agreed that Verizon would install fiber-optic cable for its subscribers by March 2016. A map of the county neighborhoods ranked dates for wiring of FiOS, which provides a faster and clearer signal, according to Paul Hartman, a member of the advisory panel.

"Most county neighborhoods [primarily the downtown and northern neighborhoods] have been completed by now," said Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella for 30 community groups.

Sandy Arnette, a Verizon spokeswoman, referred to that agreement in a statement, saying that the company was "on schedule to complete our fiber deployment" in southern Towson in 2016.

"Service deployment timelines for these service areas were established in the cable franchise agreement between Verizon and the county," Arnette said.

Neither Marks nor Arnette could name the specific neighborhoods nor give an estimate of the number of people in the southern Towson area awaiting FiOS connection.

But the area is heavily populated with a large number of townhouses, according to Hartman. He is under the impression that the hang-up for southern Towson was that Verizon subscribers were served by a different office — located in Baltimore City — than the other parts of Towson.

Indeed, Arnette said that Verizon customers in Towson are served out of two central offices or wire centers in the jargon. "Work in the Towson wire center is complete, and we're now working in the York Road wire center, which services southern Towson," she said.

"Verizon is on track to complete its fiber deployment in the remainder of Towson, specifically the area served by the York Road wire center, by 2016 as planned," she said.

As for Hartman, he said that "Marks is trying to speed up Verizon, but they have until 2016 so they are not in arrears."

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