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Verizon Can Hear Protesters Now

5/24/2006 10:39 AM Eastern

New York -- Chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, greedy telcos have to go,” about 75 public-access-programming advocates rallied in a protest outside Verizon Communications Inc. headquarters here Wednesday.

Organized by SaveAccess.org, the protest was one of several held Wednesday outside buildings owned by AT&T Inc., Verizon, BellSouth Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. in Chicago, Boston, New York and San Francisco.

The groups were protesting legislation proposed in the House and Senate that would grant telephone companies national video franchises. They argued that a national-franchise law would threaten funding for PEG-access (public, education and government) channels.

“These phone companies want to replace local franchises with a national franchise, which would mean taking oversight away from local municipalities. We see that as very damaging for local communities,” Betty Yu, an outreach coordinator for Manhattan Neighborhood Network, said after the protest that she helped to organize here.

A few Verizon executives quietly watched the protesters outside of their headquarters building as one protester took the microphone to shout, “Verizon, can you hear us now?”

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo countered that proposed national-franchise legislation would protect PEG channels and prevent telephone companies from only offering video service in wealthy neighborhoods.

He called the New York protesters -- which included representatives from the Communications Workers of America, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and Community Voices Heard -- a “mish mosh” of groups that have gripes with Verizon.

September