Verizon-Backed N.J. Bill Delayed

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A franchise-reform bill backed by Verizon Communications Inc. is now unlikely to hit the floor of the New Jersey legislature until after November's gubernatorial election.

Verizon spokesman Rich Young said company officials have been discussing a potential bill for the state that would allow the company to enter the video-delivery business without seeking support from each of the cities it serves.

Unlike most states, New Jersey municipalities name their chosen vendor, then send the process to the state Board of Public Utilities, which actually grants the franchise. A bill contemplated by Verizon would allow the telephone company to go straight to the BPU for a "territorywide" franchise (Verizon does not provide telephone service to the whole state).

The "lame-duck" session, after the election, will begin Nov. 2. During the delay, Verizon will mount a multifaceted statewide education campaign to drum up support for its video business, Young said.

Karen Alexander, president of the New Jersey Cable Telecommunications Association, said the delay is the appropriate thing to do, adding that statewide franchising is not necessary as rules are in place locally to allow Verizon into the business.

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