No neutral future: Verizon brags about Sacramento deal even as it faces national protests

Company cites capital as testing ground for its 5G vision, while closing in on killing net neutrality

Just as outrage reached a fevered pitch against Verizon Communications for its role in the possible end of net neutrality, the telecommunications giant was again touting its partnership with the city of Sacramento.

News that the state capital would soon be one of the first U.S. cities with 5G broadband didn’t sit well with Verizon critics, who worry about the untested nature of 5G and foresee the monopolization of a once-free internet.

The deal local leaders struck gives 101 small cell towers to Verizon in exchange for a $100 million investment in the city’s technological infrastructure. In late November, an SN&R article examined a host of public concerns about Verizon, which included dropping cell coverage for rural users, selling customers’ online data, building cell towers in Yosemite National Park and spending huge sums to lobby against net neutrality (read “Cellular Sacramento,” News, November 23, 2017). The same week, the Federal Communications Commission revealed a plan to roll back legislation that enshrines net neutrality as law—a development Verizon has pushed for since 2008.

Beyond serving as a bulwark against online censorship, net neutrality keeps small businesses and big corporations on the same footing in the internet’s open marketplace. Experts say ending it would hurt the ability of a small business to compete, and possibly price some right off the net. New FFC chairman Ajit Pai is a Trump-appointee and former attorney for Verizon; and he was reportedly speaking at a Verizon company event as late as December 4, according to the Huffington Post. On November 30, Demand Progress held national protests at Verizon stores from coast to coast.

Local leaders such as Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Economic Council of Sacramento, have all applauded the city’s new public-private partnership with Verizon, while staying mum on the company’s controversial moves. They also let Verizon do the talking November 29, when the company revealed in a press release that it will be hosting 5G service across Sacramento by the end of 2018.

In September, more than 180 scientists and doctors from 35 nations and several universities, including Columbia University, Trent University, University of Washington and UC Berkeley, called for a temporary moratorium on 5G telecommunication due to concerns over potential impacts on human health and the environment.