Poplar Street and Verizon: A Job for Jack


Poplar Street, an innocent cul-de-sac of Georgetown near Rose Park, is being slowly crushed by a regional monster. Its name is Verizon. The latest installment of this nightmare involves a curious letter from the behemoth telling a longtime resident, Nancy Flinn, to come up with $1,932,880 (we kid you not, gentle reader) to get rid of a telephone pole with a spray of dangerous wires leaning against her house. Nearly $2 million would be the cost -- her cost, Verizon asserts -- to bury the wires to remove the pole. Huh?

Not only is this absurd, it is the latest insult Flinn has received in response to her requests for help, including shrugs from city officials, even the capable Councilmembers Jack Evans, David Catania and others.  The only help she’s gotten is from her “hero,” Christine Kidwell in Mayor Fenty’s office, who arranged for the tree that was leaning against the pole and adding to the pressure on her house to be removed.

The facts are simple. Verizon and the other utilities that use the pole endanger the Flinn house, and those of all neighbors. Someone needs to step up and force coordination among the players, who include PEPCO and various D.C. Government agencies.

We suggest a forceful effort led by Councilmember Evans.  As the principal leader of Ward 2, he should call a meeting in his office of all parties – Verizon and other utilities with lines on the pole, the Mayor's office, District officials from such agencies as the Public Service Commission, the District Department of Transportation, and of course Nancy Flinn, Katherine Tallmadge and other neighbors, – and say (as he has often done in the past) “Look, we have to solve this. Let’s examine all options and get it fixed.”

He might add, "Stay on it 'til it's done."

The solution should not involve considerable digging, on Popular Street or on O or P Streets, as proposed by Verizon.  Excavation would be disruptive to the structural integrity of these historic structures.  Perhaps it requires only moving the pole about two feet to where the stump of the old tree is now, away from the house, for cheaper and less disruptive solution.

Beyond this Georgetown microcosm, Verizon has built an unequaled and unprecedented reputation for arrogance, poor service, and disrespect for its customers in the Washington area. A contributor to The Georgetown Dish -- this weekend alone -- spent over five hours on the telephone, mainly on hold with call-centers all over the globe, attempting to schedule, for the second or third time, a repair that was originally called in two weeks ago. The Wifi was, had been, and remained nonfunctional. Seemingly straightforward. After two hours on-hold Sunday, a Verizon representative 12 time zones away declared that a technician (in Washington) was confirmed to address the problem between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm Monday. Hopeful emails were sent. Prayers were said. Light seemed to appear at the end of a tunnel. 

But 10:00 Monday morning, Verizon claimed to have no knowledge of the technician's scheduled visit. "I have no record of it," said a Phillipino call-center supervisor. "I don't understand why they didn't arrive on schedule two weeks ago." We don't either. The disrespect, insult and wasted time are enough to wish for a more primitive kind of justice against Verizon's ilk. We're paying through the nose for this "service."

Nancy Flinn and her neighbors deserve immediate action led by Councilmember Evans. They deserve a refund for the costs they have borne and the time they have wasted. The people of Washington, D.C. and its surroundings deserve public hearings focused on Verizon followed by a crackdown on abusive practices meeted out on a public that has been punished time and time again. We're getting spotty, deteriorating service while paying premium-channel prices.

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Jack Evans DID promise to have the wires buried BEFORE HIS RE-ELECTION. In fact, Poplar Street neighbors had a meeting with his office, several communications, in fact, occurred back and forth between Evans and the Poplar Street neighbors - who carry the wire burden for surrounding neighbors on O and P Streets - and Evans promised to have the job done. He said "Don't worry... You can count on me!" Every time I met Evans and his aids... at receptions, at the Farmer's Market, etc. he and his aid would re-iterate: "The job is done!" Then he was re-elected and we haven't heard zip. Before Evans' re-election, Poplar Street was re-paved, along with many other streets in the District, and the neighbors tried to get Verizon to bury the wires then, when the work was being done anyway - to save money. We delayed the project as long as we could, until the District said the weather would push it back another year if we waited any longer. We relented, as by then, Evans was re-elected and turned his attention to other more important matters. This is my first personal experience with a politician making promises to become re-elected and then not following through. Obviously we are very disappoited.