Verizon's FiOS Broadband Service Makes Inroad Into Manhattan

Verizon's fiber-optic service, so far mainly available to suburbanites, is making a big push into Manhattan with a deal to connect an 11,232-unit apartment complex.

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, an enclave of 110 buildings on Manhattan's East Side, is the largest apartment complex in Manhattan and the largest to get FiOS service anywhere in Verizon's 17-state fiber buildout area.

Verizon Communications Inc. announced the deal Monday, but seven buildings are already connected. It will take some months to connect the rest.

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Single-family houses have been the low-hanging fruit for the company's $23 billion project to replace its copper phone lines with fiber optics. Connecting apartments is technically more difficult and requires permission from landlords.

At the end of last year, 560,000 apartments in Verizon's phone service area were open to FiOS marketing through deals with landlords, out of the 2.4 million apartments that could technically be connected because the company has run fiber down the street.

Only scattered buildings in New York City have FiOS. Eric Cevis, head of the FiOS unit that focuses on apartment buildings, could not say how many buildings are connected, but said there are FiOS installations in all five boroughs of the city.

It's unclear when FiOS will be more widely available. Verizon has no video franchise agreement with the city, so it can provide only Internet and phone service over fiber. It is negotiating to get permission to provide the full "triple play" that includes cable TV.

"We really like triple-play areas," Cevis said, saying the company prioritizes them because they provide a better return on investment.

A tenant in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who orders FiOS may find that the company doesn't pull fiber all the way to the apartment, because this entails wall-mounting a box in the apartment, and not all layouts have the space for it, Cevis said.

In those cases, Verizon will pull fiber to the basement, and use a phone line to carry Internet data the last part of the way. Coaxial cable will be used for video when that becomes available.

Subscribers will be able to get the fastest current Internet plan, with downloads of 50 megabits per second, but may not be able to take advantage of future speed increases available to subscribers with fiber all the way to the home.

Verizon's first choice is to take the fiber all the way to the apartment, Cevis said.

Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are already served by two cable companies: Time Warner Cable Inc. and RCN Corp. Both provide triple-play services.

The complex is owned by Tishman Speyer Properties LP, which bought it for $5.4 billion in 2006.