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LI unions upset over Verizon bandwith deal

Two local unions Friday blasted the U.S. Justice Department's approval of a $3.9 billion deal that allows Verizon Wireless to acquire more bandwidth from a group of four cable companies. The deal also allows Verizon and the cable companies to sell one another's products.

The unions contend the agreement is a job-killer that will allow Verizon to forgo building its FiOS network to make inroads in new areas and instead rely on wireless products, which are installed by nonunion workers.

"I believe they are going to shift as much work as possible to nonunion cable workers," said George Bloom, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1104, which represents about 2,400 Verizon workers in Nassau County.

Said Michael Gendron, executive vice president of CWA Local 1108, which represents about 950 workers in Suffolk County, "They can now offer new cable service without a FiOs buildout, and that will wipe us out."

A Verizon spokesman said that when the FiOs project began in 2005, the company said it would exceed 18 million households. "We are fast approaching that goal," spokesman John Bonomo said. "We never said that we would be in all geographic areas."

To deal with the Justice Department's concerns about diminished competition and its effect on consumers, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications agreed not to cross-market their products in areas served by Verizon's FiOs high-speed Internet, telephone and television service. The department announced its approval on Thursday.

The cable deal still needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to gives its OK.

-- With Bloomberg News

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