Verizon: Bills, Franchise, Launch
By Linda Haugsted, Karen Brown & David Cohen 2/7/2006 7:32:00 PM
Verizon Communications Inc. received good news in three states.
Virginia's Senate and House of Delegates Monday approved bills to speed market entry into the multichannel-video business by telephone companies there.
The small community of Hulmerville, Pa., became the first in the state to grant the regional Bell operating company a franchise to offer TV service using its FiOS fiber-to-the-home network.
And Verizon FiOS TV debuted in Beaumont, Calif., Tuesday, with the telco saying it will begin taking orders immediately in the city with a population of 21,000.
Finally, Verizon said Tuesday that it applied for video franchises in seven Rhode Island communities: Coventry, East Greenwich, Exeter, North Kingstown, Warwick, West Greenwich and West Warwick.
In Virginia, telephone companies supported a regulatory framework that will compel cities to act on a local franchising request in a timely manner. Unlike in other states, Verizon did not seek statewide operating authority because Virginia's constitution guarantees franchising rights to local governments.
The bills would force local governments to issue a franchise in 120 days. Franchises would last for 15 years and a telco would pay a fee of 5% of revenue or the lowest franchise fee paid by an incumbent within the area the telco also serves.
Terms under which the telco operates are to be "commensurate" with the terms applied to the incumbent operator.
The bills would also let communities require buildout commitments: They could require new entrants to serve 65% of eligible residents in a franchise area within seven years and 80% in 10 years.
The bills were both approved by resounding majorities: 37-1 in the Senate and 85-12 in the House. The chambers now swap bills for reconciliation before they would head to Gov. Tim Kaine's desk.
"Instead of the typical six months to two years required to negotiate franchises under current law, this legislation will accelerate to a matter of weeks the period from upgrading the network to offering competitive cable products," Verizon Virginia president Robert Woltz Jr. said in a prepared statement:
As far as Hulmerville, the town's Borough Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a 15-year TV franchise allowing Verizon to offer its Verizon FiOS TV service to its 885 residents. Hulmerville is located just north of Philadelphia in Comcast Corp.'s cable territory.
Verizon plans to roll out FiOS TV service there later this year.
Initially launched in Keller, Texas, in September, Verizon FiOS TV offers more than 330 channels. Since September, Verizon has expanded the service rollout to areas surrounding Keller, as well as parts of northern Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and California.
Hulmerville is the first entry point for FiOS TV in Pennsylvania, and Verizon officials said they are negotiating other franchise agreements to expand its rollout in the Keystone State.
Verizon will also sell its FiOS high-speed-Internet service in Hulmerville, offering connection speeds ranging from 5 megabits per second to 30 mbps downstream and as much as 5 mbps upstream. The Internet service is already being offered elsewhere in Buck County, as well as parts of Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.http://www.multichannel.com/article/...=Breaking+News