Verizon Steps Up Franchise Fight
That surprisingly large number was dropped during Friday's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) open meeting, as Verizon's senior VP of video solutions, Marilyn O’Connell, fielded questions from FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein about the barriers that local politics can place before a service provider's video rollout. (See FCC Brings Video Debate to Texas.)
O'Connell says Verizon would prefer to offer video services in the areas where it already has fiber deployed to homes. But because of the sometimes slow process of receiving approval for video franchises, it may have to expand deployment to make its numbers.
"I would rather follow my fiber build" to offer video services, O'Connell said. "I may not be able to do that. I might have to open new markets in order to accomplish that."
In Texas, where Verizon has a state-issued video franchise, the carrier has committed to making the service available to 1 million potential viewers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by the end of 2006. Elsewhere, it hasn't stated a specific deployment or service uptake goal. (See Even Video Is Big in Texas.)
The carrier says it starts its franchise negotiations with local officials before any paperwork is filed, so the number of franchises it has actually applied for is nowhere near 300 yet. And critics of Verizon's approach say the company hasn't always been as interested in working with local authorities as it purports to be now.
"Eighteen to twenty months ago… they were not aggressively seeking franchises," says Lori Panzino-Tillery, the division chief for franchise programs for San Bernardino County. "What they were doing is offering templates -- take-it or leave-it agreements -- that sometimes were contrary to state and municipal codes."<./p> O'Connell, in her testimony before the FCC, countered it was the local officials in some cities that were making unreasonable network build-out requirements, thus slowing down Verizon's market entry. "These requirements would force us to build to imposed locations on an arbitrary schedule, even requiring building to the incumbent cable provider’s service area or to the local authority’s jurisdictional boundaries, rather than to our own. Such requirements can make deployment uneconomic."
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading