N.J. State-Franchise Bill to Assembly


The New Jersey Senate approved its version of a state-franchising bill, moving the fight over regulatory reform over to the Assembly side, which has a vote scheduled on its version Monday.

The Senate version was approved Thursday by a 27-7 vote. If the Assembly follows suit, the state Board of Public Utilities has 45 days to approve applications for statewide certification.

A build-out schedule is included, but it remains controversial because the terms favor communities in the north of the state. The bill requires new applicants -- such as bill promoter Verizon Communications Inc. -- to begin commercial service within three years of certification. The telco would have to serve every county seat in its service territory, but other than that, service is mandated to communities with populations of more than 7,111 per square mile.

Within six years, video service must be made available to all municipalities where Verizon has a central office.

In response to concerns over economic red-lining, the bill mandates fines of $50,000-$100,000 per instance if a provider is found to discriminate deployment on the basis of the economic status of a potential consumer or neighborhood.