Across the Border, Verizon Rolls On

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Verizon Communications Inc., having obtained its second and third New York franchises in the villages of Nyack and South Nyack, is in negotiations for video pacts with more than a dozen other communities in the state’s Rockland and Westchester counties.

Talks have also been initiated with an unspecified number of other Long Island communities, according to the telephone company.

Cliff Lee, the telco’s New York spokesman, said no firm launch date has been set, but television service should light up sometime next year.

In addition to its gains in New York, Verizon has local franchises in California, Florida, Virginia and Massachusetts. It has statewide franchising authority in Texas, where it has activated its FiOS TV service in Keller.

The 15-year franchise for the village of Nyack, which has a population of some 6,700, was approved by the board of trustees on Nov. 28. Trustees in South Nyack approved their deal the next night. The action came over the objections of incumbent cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp., which raised questions at the final hearing about public, educational and government channel-carriage standards, among other issues.

After the Nyack vote, Cablevision issued a statement critical of the deal.

“The proposed franchise agreement surrenders important local controls like the ability of the village to oversee construction activities in the public rights of way, [to] require the phone company to serve all residents and [to] ensure a level playing field so that all residents benefit from competition.

“The phone company pressured and rushed the village into this special deal because, without concessions, it cannot compete with Cablevision’s superior fiber network, faster Internet, better voice and the nation’s most popular digital video service,” the statement said.

Verizon’s first franchise, with Massapequa Park on Long Island, has been challenged both in state Supreme Court and before New York’s Department of Public Services, which approves all franchisees selected by local jurisdictions. The lawsuit alleges that Massapequa Park trustees violated state open-meeting laws during the final hearing on the Verizon franchise.

Asked whether the Nyack proceedings will spawn a lawsuit, Cablevision spokesman Bill Powers declined to comment.

Cablevision and the Cable Television and Telecommunications Association of New York have waged a tough public-relations battle against Verizon and its video buildout proposals. Cablevision has bought newspaper ads advising local regulators not to rush into special deals for the telephone company.

Lee classified the campaigns as just “another attempted delay” of the inevitable by incumbent cable companies. Asked directly if the campaigns have slowed talks with New York communities, he said from Verizon’s perspective, talks with local officials have been fruitful.

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