"we have to earn it" is a quote used by Verizon Wireless' CEO.
Earning it, dissected by a few people means that Verizon has to increase the stability of their network and push out LTE faster. I don't think Verizon's network won't suffer too hard if the iPhone does get pushed.
There is a chance that by getting the iPhone, that Verizon's network will get stronger, bigger and better to be able to handle that much more data. On a side note, Android users are already consuming more data than iPhone users, and since Verizon is the largest carrier with android devices, adding the iPhone to the mix just = more customers, data consumption may differ.
If you switch to another carrier because of the iPhone, i believe you will make the wrong decision. Verizon has been behind on the 4G/LTE update only because they want to cover a lot of people and do it right. Their roadmap in 2011+ coupled with LTE is just the first step to having the ultimate mobile service at your finger tips.
Also, the latest rumors also indicate that there could be two different versions coming out. The first one having a CDMA/LTE based chip to work right away, and then once LTE is fully established, a full 4G/LTE phone. Time will only tell, but the fact still remains that so much of this talk about the iPhone just means that it's eventually going to go there, when is the question.