IPTV Takes SUPERCOMM Center Stage

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Chicago-- To Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, it was almost hard to tell whether the SUPERCOMM exhibit floor here was really the one from January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

While video dominated much of the booth activity, the need to obtain local cable franchises to deliver video services was the topic of much of the talk in the halls.

Verizon Communications Inc. CEO Ivan Seidenberg addressed the issue head-on in his June 7 keynote address. He told some of the 25,000 SUPERCOMM attendees that Verizon is willing to pay local governments franchise fees, but he added that placing the same full franchise agreements on the second, third or even fourth wireline franchise operator was unfair.

“This is not an issue of us paying our fair share,” which Verizon is willing to do, he said. “It’s bizarre to ask us to file for a franchise under the same terms as the first provider did, as a monopoly. We need to simplify and reform the franchising process that is acting as a barrier to video competition.”

Still, Verizon executives indicated that the telco would continue to seek franchises beyond the six they’ve already signed.

Meanwhile, SBC Communications Inc. executives shrugged off the news that software delays are causing it to push off its full consumer Internet-protocol-TV launch date until 2006.

“This is a massive program,” SBC vice president of product and strategy Jeff Weber said. “The real challenge is to bring it all together,” and software integration is just one piece of that, he added.

Similar comments came from Microsoft Corp., which was the subject of reports that its IPTV software was not ready for customer Swisscom AG.

“We’re one piece of a big puzzle,” Microsoft TV director of marketing Ed Graczyk said. While their have been minor delays, he added, “Nothing is hugely off schedule.”

For more from SUPERCOMM, please see Matt Stump’s story on page eight of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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