Cable and Telco Companies Enter Alarm Industry: Are Comcast and Verizon in Compliance?

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Comcast continues to roll out the XFINITY ™ home security  offer across its markets, and Verizon has also jumped in – although in the latter case with what some call an “Alarms Lite” version of home security: the Verizon service is not even professionally monitored. These providers, along with others trying to migrate into the business of providing peace of mind, are learning that it’s harder than they thought to “swim upstream” from telecommunications and entertainment into protecting homes and families. Now Comcast and Verizon have a new obstacle to overcome: it’s possible that they may actually be violating existing alarm licensing laws. Folks who should know in Massachusetts think that is exactly the case.

A trade association of contractors who install home security systems charges the two telecommunications companies are violating state law and possibly putting residents’ lives in danger by letting unlicensed technicians install their own burglar alarms and smoke detectors. In a lawsuit originally filed last month in state court but transferred this week to US District Court in Boston, the Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association charges:

Exact Wording of the Complaint

“The performance of Security Systems Work by Comcast and Verizon has caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm to MSCA member and to the public due to the life safety and security concerns associated with the work. The legislature has enacted multiple licensure requirements to ensure that those performing this work are educated, competent and trustworthy. In bypassing all these legislative requirements, Comcast and Verizon are causing substantial and irreparable harm.”

The association is asking for a judge to order the two companies to knock it off immediately.

Why Alarm Licensing Matters

Almost every state in the US has an alarm company licensing law – and Massachusetts is a particularly strict state. These laws are written to protect the consumer, and the requirements vary from state to state. The real alarm companies (like FrontPoint) are licensed everywhere they are required to be, and pay close attention to following the rules. However, not all companies are compliant – as this prior post about a criminal conviction and a fine levied in Maryland demonstrates.

Of course, one might argue that the cable and telco companies face bigger challenges than obtaining an alarm license. There are serious concerns about the level of service delivery and customer satisfaction these new entrants are capable of providing, and it’s widely rumored in the alarm industry that the progress to date for Comcast in this regard has not been very impressive. And as for Verizon, it is facing questions on whether its technology platform even works, and if the company’s employees understand and can support these new features.

And with my sincere apologies to those who have already seen this, please allow me to share some tongue-in-cheek alarm humor from a web site affiliated with Consumer Reports. In response to Comcast’s pre-launch announcement, one wag penned the following simulated response that might follow an alarm event for a Comcast alarm subscriber:

“We just received an alarm from your XFINITY Security System. The police are scheduled to arrive between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm next Thursday. Please make sure someone is home to let them in. Or, if you prefer, you may choose the self-arrest option.”

As a “real” alarm company that is focused on protecting homes and families, FrontPoint welcomes the increased consumer awareness of interactive monitoring services and home automation that new entrants like Comcast and Verizon bring to the general public – exactly the advanced features that FrontPoint has offered since our inception in 2007. We also expect that the more people research their options, the more they’ll choose FrontPoint. As the leader in wireless home security, we specialize in the best protection: that’s why we’re the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. FrontPoint systems are safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat. We are licensed in every state that requires it – including Massachusetts – and you’ll be thrilled with our service.

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