Verizon's FiOS Franchise Moves Closer to Approval in Philly


Verizon's Philadelphia FiOS franchise should pass its
second-to-last hurdle Thursday, as the agreement is scheduled to be vetted by
the Public Property and Public Works Committee.

But as it goes through its final stages, the fiber-optic video franchise agreement
is still the subject of criticism by public access activists who say they
weren't part of the negotiating process, and the local Digital Justice
Coalition which, according to press reports, wants assurance in the agreement
that Verizon's infrastructure and grants will be used to close the digital
divide in the city.

Public access advocates are closely following the process because Philadelphia may be the
largest city without public access programming. The franchise of the incumbent,
Comcast Corp., was amended in 2007 to create $6.7 million over the next eight
years for public access and an access corporation has been formed, but no
studio has been set up to date.

The contract before the city council committee would require Verizon to pay
into the public access coffers, but not until the fifth year of its franchise.
After that date, Verizon should pay grants of $1 million for educational
access, $1.5 million for government access and $2.7 million for public access.
The contract also calls for Verizon to wire City Hall, the city's Board of
Education building, its community college and three colleges and universities:
Drexel, LaSalle and Temple.
PEG operating funds of $500,000 a year should be paid after the fifth
anniversary, also.

If the committee approves the pact, it still faces a vote of the full council,
scheduled for Jan. 29.