N.Y. Won't Stop Verizon

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New York State regulators last week rejected a bid by some cities, Cablevision Systems Corp. and the state's cable association to stop Verizon Communications Inc.'s fiber-to-the-home build until the company obtains cable franchises.

In deciding a declaratory ruling request from the communities (including Babylon, Yonkers, Tuckahoe, Eastchester and Poughkeepsie) and the cable incumbent, the state Public Service Commission agreed with Verizon that the build is a plant upgrade and not a cable system, as defined by New York law.

Thus, no franchises are needed until the telco installs equipment exclusively for video delivery or begins delivering video service.

Opponents argued the buildout is illegal under state law, and that the placement of large equipment lockers poses a hazard to motorists.

Both sides found things to like in the verdict.

Richard Alteri, president of the Cable Television Association of New York, stressed that the decision was made on narrow legal grounds, and said the PSC ruling reasserted that Verizon will need franchises going forward. It also restated the rights of the cities to control activities in their rights-of-way, he added.

In a statement, Cablevision added: “We are pleased that the commission upheld the important and well-established role of municipalities in regulating the delivery of cable-television service in their communities, which we believe is an essential element of fair competition on a level playing field.”

Verizon embraced the ruling because the PSC declined to stop the fiber build. In a statement, Verizon New York/Connecticut president Paul Crotty said the company shouldn't offer cable service in selected communities until a franchise is obtained.

“We look forward to working with public officials at all levels to bring consumer choice and new economic-development opportunities to our state,” he concluded.

The PSC cautioned Verizon to adhere to local rights-of-way management requirements on the grounds of public safety and aesthetics. It also acknowledged ongoing disputes between Verizon and cable companies over “pole attachment irregularities” but urged the parties to resolve those issues on their own.

Verizon does not yet have franchises in New York, but has gained franchise authority in four Texas towns, as well as one locality in both California and Florida. The company is presently testing video with employees in Keller, Texas, eyeing a commercial launch in the fall.

It hasn't attempted a legislative remedy to city-by-city franchising in New York.

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