Bell Atlantic (1983–2000)
Bell Atlantic Corporation was created as one of the original Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in 1984, during the breakup of the Bell System. Bell Atlantic's original roster of operating companies included:
- The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania
- New Jersey Bell
- Diamond State Telephone
- C&P Telephone (itself comprising four subsidiaries)
Bell Atlantic originally operated in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, as well as Washington, DC.
In 1996, CEO and Chairman Raymond W. Smith orchestrated Bell Atlantic's merger with NYNEX. When it merged, it moved its corporate headquarters from Philadelphia to New York City. NYNEX was consolidated into this name by 1997.
Acquisition of GTE (2000–2002)
Bell Atlantic changed its name to Verizon Communications in June 2000 when the Federal Communications Commission approved a US$64.7 billion acquisition of telephone company GTE, nearly two years after the deal was proposed in July 1998. The approval came with 25 stipulations to preserve competition between local phone carriers, including investing in new markets and broadband technologies.
The new entity was headed by co-CEOs Charles Lee, formerly the CEO of GTE, and Bell Atlantic CEO Ivan Seidenberg.
Upon the acquisition, Verizon became the largest local telephone company in the United States, operating 63 million telephone lines in 40 states. The company also inherited 25 million mobile phone customers. Additionally, Verizon offered internet services and long-distance calling in New York, before expanding long-distance operations to other states.
The name Verizon derives from the combination of the words veritas, Latin for truth, and horizon. The name was chosen from 8,500 candidates and the company spent $300 million on marketing the new brand.
Two months before the FCC gave final approval on the formation of Verizon Communications, Bell Atlantic formed Verizon Wireless in a joint venture with the British telecommunications company Vodafone in April 2000. The companies established Verizon Wireless as its own business operated by Bell Atlantic, which owned 55% of the venture. Vodafone retained 45% of the company. The deal was valued at approximately $70 billion and created a mobile carrier with 23 million customers. Verizon Wireless merged Bell Atlantic's wireless network, Vodafone's AirTouch and PrimeCo holdings, and the wireless division of GTE. Due to its size, Verizon Wireless was able to offer national coverage at competitive rates, giving it an advantage over regional providers typical of the time.
During its first operational year, Verizon Wireless released Mobile Web, an Internet service that allowed customers to access partner sites such as E*Trade, ABC News, ESPN, Amazon.com, Ticketmaster and MSN, as well as the "New Every Two" program, which gave customers a free phone with every two-year service contract. In another partnership with MSN in 2002, Verizon Wireless launched the mobile content service "VZW with MSN" and a phone that utilized the Microsoft Windows operating system.
In August 2000, approximately 85,000 Verizon workers went on an 18-day labor strike after their union contracts expired. The strike affected quarterly revenues, resulting in Verizon Wireless' postponement of the company's IPO (the IPO was ultimately cancelled in 2003, because the company no longer needed to raise revenue for Verizon Wireless due to increased profits), and created a backlog of repairs.
Verizon launched 3G service in 2002, which doubled the Internet speeds of the time to 144kb a second. In August 2002, Verizon began offering local, long-distance, and mobile calling, as well as Internet service, in a bundle. It was initially only available to customers in New York and Massachusetts.
In June 2003, Verizon Wireless backed an FCC-issued portability requirement that permitted consumers to take their phone numbers with them across carriers. The company gained 1.5 million new subscribers the following quarter, partially due to the rule change. The following year, in April 2004, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added Verizon Communications to its stock market index. Verizon replaced telecom competitor AT&T, which had been a part of the index since the Great Depression.
On December 22, 2004, mail servers at Verizon.net were configured not to accept connections from Europe, by default, in an attempt to reduce spam email that was originating from the region. Individual domains would only be unblocked upon request.
In 2004, Verizon launched its Fios Internet service, which transmits data over fiber optic cables, in Keller, Texas. The company launched Fios TV in September 2005, also in Keller, Texas. Twenty percent of qualified homes signed up by the end of the year. By January 2006, Fios offered over 350 channels in eight states, including 20 high-definition television channels as well as video on demand.
Verizon began negotiations to purchase long distance carrier MCI in 2005. MCI accepted the company's initial $6.75 billion offer in February 2005, but then received a higher offer from Qwest Communications. Verizon increased its bid to $7.6 billion (or $23.50 a share), which MCI accepted on March 29, 2005. The acquisition gave the company access to MCI's one million corporate clients and international holdings, expanding Verizon's presence into global markets. As a result, Verizon Business was established as a new division to serve the company's business and government customers. The FCC approved the deal on November 5, 2005, valuing it at $8.5 billion. Verizon's 2006 revenues rose by as much as 20% following the purchase.
In May 2006, USA Today reported that Verizon, as well as AT&T and BellSouth, had given the National Security Agency landline phone records following the September 11 attacks. That same month, a $50 billion lawsuit was filed by two lawyers on behalf of all Verizon subscribers for privacy violations and to prevent the company from releasing additional records without consent or warrant. Protesters staged the National Day of Out(R)age due in part to the controversy. Verizon stated in 2007 that the company fulfilled only "lawful demands" for information, though also acknowledged surrendering customer information to government agencies without court orders or warrants 720 times between 2005 and 2007.
Verizon won a lawsuit against Vonage in March 2007 for patent infringement. The three patents named were filed by Bell Atlantic in 1997 and relate to the conversion of IP addresses into phone numbers, a key technology of Vonage's business. The company was awarded US$58 million in damages and future royalties. Vonage later lost an appeal and was ordered to pay Verizon $120 million.
In May 2007, Verizon acquired Cybertrust, a privately held provider of global information security services.
Verizon Wireless reversed a controversial decision in September 2007 to deny NARAL Pro-Choice America a short code through which the organization could text consumers who had signed up for messaging from the group. They had initially refused the group access to a code by reserving the right to block "controversial or unsavory" messages.
In November 2007, Verizon opened its networks for the first time to third party apps and devices, a decision that allowed it to participate in the FCC's 2008 700 MHz auction of "open access" spectrum. During that auction, the company bid $9.4 billion and won the bulk of national and local licenses for airwaves reaching approximately 469 million people. Verizon utilized the increased spectrum for its 4G service.
Verizon Wireless purchased wireless carrier Alltel for $28.1 billion in June 2008. The acquisition included 13 million customers, which allowed Verizon Wireless to surpass AT&T in number of customers and reach new markets in rural areas.
In October 2010, Verizon Wireless paid $77.8 million in refunds and FCC penalties for overcharging 15 million customers for data services. The company stated the overcharges were accidental and only amounted to a few dollars per customer.
On February 4, 2010, 4chan started receiving reports from Verizon Wireless customers that they were having difficulties accessing the site's image boards. 4chan administrators found that only traffic on port 80 to the boards.4chan.org domain was affected, leading them to believe that the block was intentional. On February 7, 2010, Verizon Wireless confirmed that 4chan.org was "explicitly blocked" after Verizon's security and external experts detected sweep attacks coming from an IP address associated with the 4chan network. Traffic was restored several days later.
In August 2010, the chairmen of Verizon and Google agreed that network neutrality should be defined and limited.
Verizon introduced its 4G LTE network in 38 markets in December 2010, as well as in airports in seven additional cities. The company planned on a three-year continuous expansion of the 4G service.
Selling wirelines (2005–2010 & 2015)
Between 2005 and 2010, Verizon divested wireline operations in several states in order to focus on its wireless, Fios internet and Fios TV businesses. It sold 700,000 lines in Hawaii in 2005, and spun off lines in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in January 2007 that were then purchased by FairPoint Communications for $2.72 billion. Verizon also shed its telephone directory business in 2006.
In May 2009, the company spun off wirelines in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin into a company that then merged with Frontier Communications in a deal valued at $8.6 billion. In 2016, Verizon sold its wireline operations in Texas, Florida, and California to Frontier.
On January 27, 2011, Verizon acquired Terremark, an information technology services company for $1.4 billion. Ivan Seidenberg retired as Verizon's CEO on August 1, 2011. Lowell McAdam succeeded him.
In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized Verizon for its tax avoidance procedures after it spent $52.34 million on lobbying while collecting $951 million in tax rebates between 2008 and 2010 and making a profit of $32.5 billion. The same report also criticized Verizon for increasing executive pay by 167% in 2010 for its top five executives while laying off 21,308 workers between 2008 and 2010. However, in its Form 10-K filed with the SEC on February 24, 2012, Verizon reported having paid more than $11.1 billion in taxes (including income, employment and property taxes) from 2009 to 2011. In addition, the company reported in the 10-K that most of the drop in employment since 2008 was due to a voluntary retirement offer.
In June 2012, as part of its strategy to expand into new growth areas in its wireless business, Verizon purchased Hughes Telematics—a company that produces wireless features for automobiles—for $612 million. Also in June 2012, Verizon's E-911 service failed in the aftermath of the June 2012 derecho storm in several northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., with some problems lasting several days. The FCC conducted an investigation and in January 2013 released a report detailing the problems that led to the failure. Verizon reported that it had already addressed or was addressing a number of the issues related to the FCC report, including the causes of generator failures, conducting audits of backup systems and making its monitoring systems less centralized, although the FCC indicated that Verizon still needed to make additional improvements.
In July 2012, the FCC ruled that Verizon must stop charging users an added fee for using 4G smartphones and tablets as Wi-Fi hotspots (known as "tethering"). Verizon had been charging its customers, even those with "unlimited" plans, $20 per month for tethering. As part of the settlement, Verizon made a voluntary payment of $1.25 million to the U.S. Treasury.
In August 2012, the Department of Justice approved Verizon's purchase of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum from a consortium of cable companies, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, for $3.9 billion. Verizon began expanding its LTE network utilizing these extra airwaves in October 2013.
On June 5, 2013, The Guardian reported it had obtained an order by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and approved by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that required Verizon to provide the NSA with telephone metadata for all calls originating in the U.S. Verizon Wireless was not part of the NSA data collection for wireless accounts due to foreign ownership issues. (see also MAINWAY article)
In September 2013, Verizon purchased the 45% stake in Verizon Wireless owned by Vodafone for $130 billion. The deal closed on February 21, 2014, becoming the third largest corporate deal ever signed, giving Verizon Communications sole ownership of Verizon Wireless.
On January 14, 2014, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC's net neutrality rules after Verizon filed suit against them in January 2010. In June 2016, in a 184-page ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld, by a 2–1 vote, the FCC's net neutrality rules and the FCC's determination that broadband access is a public utility, rather than a luxury. AT&T and the telecom industry said that they would seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
On January 22, 2014 the Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon received more than 1,000 requests for information about its subscribers on national security grounds via National Security Letters. In total, Verizon received 321,545 requests from federal, state and local law enforcement for U.S. customer information. In May 2015, Verizon agreed to pay $90 million "to settle federal and state investigations into allegations mobile customers were improperly billed for premium text messages."
In late-October 2014, Verizon Wireless launched SugarString, a technology news website. The publication attracted controversy after it was reported that its writers were forbidden from publishing articles related to net neutrality or domestic surveillance. Although Verizon denied that this was the case, the site (described as being a pilot project) was shuttered in December.
In August 2015, Verizon launched Hum, a service and device offering vehicle diagnostic and monitoring tools for vehicles. On August 1, 2016, Verizon announced its acquisition of Fleetmatics, a fleet telematics system company in Dublin, Ireland, for $2.4 billion, to build products that it offers to enterprises for logistics and mobile workforces. On September 12, 2016, Verizon announced its acquisition of Sensity, a startup for LED sensors, in an effort to bolster its IoT portfolio.
In October 2016, Verizon was accused by Communications Workers of America of deliberately refusing to maintain its copper telephone service. The organization released internal memos and other documents stating that Verizon workers in Pennsylvania were being instructed to, in areas with network problems, migrate voice-only customers to VoiceLink—a system that delivers telephone service over the Verizon Wireless network, and not to repair the copper lines. VoiceLink has limitations, including incompatibility with services or devices that require the transmission of data over the telephone line, and a dependency on a battery backup in case of power failure. The memo warned that technicians who do not follow this procedure would be subject to "disciplinary action up to and including dismissal". A Verizon spokesperson responded to the allegations, stating that the company's top priority was to restore service to customers as quickly as possible, and that VoiceLink was a means of doing so in the event that larger repairs have to be done to the infrastructure. The spokesperson stated that it was "hard to argue with disciplining someone who intentionally leaves a customer without service".
In November 2016, Verizon acquired mapping startup SocialRadar; its technology will be integrated with MapQuest.
On January 26, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Verizon was in talks to merge with Charter Communications.
On March 13, 2017, Verizon was sued by New York City for violating its cable franchise agreement, which required the provider to pass a fiberoptic network to all households in the city by June 30, 2014. Verizon disputed the claims, citing landlords not granting permission to install the equipment on their properties, and an understanding with the government that the fiber network would follow the same routes as its copper lines, and did not necessarily mean it would have to pass the lines in front of every property.
On April 27, 2017 Verizon invested $10 million in Renovo Auto, a Campbell, California-based autonomous vehicle company.
Verizon Connect was created in 2018, combining the individual units Telematics, Fleetmatics, and Telogis.
On December 10, 2018 Verizon announced that 10,400 employees would part ways with the company by the middle of 2019 as a part of its strategy to reduce costs. Employees will receive severance of up to 60 weeks salary, a bonus, and benefits depending on the length of their tenure with the company.
Acquisition of AOL and Yahoo
On May 12, 2015, Verizon announced they would acquire AOL at $50 per share, for a deal valued around $4.4 billion. The following year, Verizon announced that it would acquire the core internet business of Yahoo for $4.83 billion. Following the completion of the acquisitions, Verizon created a new division called Oath, which includes the AOL and Yahoo brands. The sale did not include Yahoo's stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Japan.
On March 16, 2017, Verizon announced that it would discontinue the e-mail services provided for its internet subscribers, and migrate them to AOL Mail.
On May 23, 2017, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam confirmed the company's plan to launch a streaming TV service. The integrated AOL-Yahoo operation, housed under the newly created Oath division, will be organized around key content-based pillars.
In a deal which officially closed on June 13, 2017, Yahoo! shareholders approved the sale of some of the company's internet assets to Verizon for $4.48 billion.