Court Denies Verizon’s Md. Injunction Request

8/08/2006 12:28 PM Eastern

A federal court judge rejected a request by Verizon Communications' Maryland division for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of franchising rules for Montgomery County, Md.

Judge Marvin Garbis also directed Verizon to work with a mediator to resolve issues arising out of the county's attempts to issue a franchise with terms comparable to incumbent video competitors.

"We're happy that the judge acknowledges the benefits that competition will bring Montgomery County residents and the need to make that happen expeditiously," Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said, adding that the judge's order "should break the logjam."

Verizon filed a lawsuit June 29 in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that the county's cable-franchising rules constitute prior restraint and delegate "untrammeled authority" to local officials to deny franchise requests at will. County officials countered that they have service standards and other local rules that must apply to all video providers. County officials are also promoting build-out requirements for the local franchise.

The county also noted that while Verizon initiated negotiations with the county in March 2005, the company has yet to actually file a county franchise application. Verizon countered that it hadn't filed because county officials said they wanted to work out operating details first.

County chief administrative officer Bruce Romer said Tuesday’s bench ruling rejecting Verizon's injunction request is a victory for consumers, as it denies Verizon's "attempt to enter the market by striking down our consumer safeguards."

While Garbis sent the parties to mediation, he retained control of the lawsuit in the event that the parties are unable to agree even with the assistance of a magistrate.