Rally to bring FiOS to Riverhead draws dozens of supporters

More than 50 people rallied at Riverhead Town Hall Saturday to support bring Verizon FiOS to Riverhead. (Cyndi Murray photo)
More than 50 people rallied at Riverhead Town Hall Saturday to support bring Verizon FiOS to Riverhead. (Cyndi Murray photo)

Although Verizon officials have already said they won’t be bringing their FiOS service to Riverhead, more than 50 people rallied at Town Hall Saturday morning in hopes of getting the company to change its mind.

County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter all attended the event, where residents and union representatives voiced their support for Verizon to bring its fiber-optic communications network to the town. Members of Communications Workers of America Local 1108, the union that organized Saturday’s rally, said they believe Riverhead needs the jobs and alternative options for phone, Internet and TV service.

“The residents of Riverhead are no different from the neighbors to the west of them,” union executive vice president Michael Gendron said.“High speed Internet and cable are no longer a luxury in this day and age. It is a necessity.”

Every elected official in attendance agreed the area would benefit from having a second phone, cable and Internet provider in Riverhead.

“The only way for anyone to keep Cablevison in check is with competition, ” Mr. Walter said.  “Right now Cablevision does whatever it wants, without that competition you’re never going to see an increase in service or a decrease in bills. We support your efforts. We need Verizon to be here.”

The union hoped the protest would encourage the New York State Public Service Commission to pressure Verizon to expand its services on Long Island.  Mr. Gendron told audience members that thousands of people have signed petitions to bring FiOS to the towns of Brookhaven, Fire Island, Babylon and Riverhead.

While no one from Verizon was present at the meeting, spokesperson John Bonomo said last week that the company has commitments to other communities that it must meet, adding that Verizon isn’t planning to invest in any new buildouts, according to a previous Riverhead News-Review article.

That message has not deterred supporters of the effort to bring the service to Riverhead.

“We are not going away, we are going to continue to raise our voice and raise awareness,” Mr. Gendron said. “Verizon will be bringing FiOs to the East End. The question is will they do it the easy way or the hard way.”

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