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Verizon Gets Fla. Franchise

5/22/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Verizon Communications Inc. has negotiated its sixth competitive cable franchise, a pact with the city of Temple Terrace, Fla.

The town of 23,000, northeast of downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, became the first in Florida to approve the delivery of cable service from its dominant telephone provider.

Verizon will compete there against Bright House Networks.

BRIGHT HOUSE IN TALKS

Incumbent Bright House is currently in franchise negotiations with the city. Spokeswoman Kena Lewis said company attorneys are looking over the pact made between the city and MSO.

If any substantive differences are found in the competitor’s franchise, those issues may be resolved in negotiations, Lewis said.

Lewis said her company already faces competition from other providers. The focus for Bright House will continue to be how to provide the best possible service for its customers.

“It’s business as usual,” she said.

In a prepared statement, Temple Terrace city manager Kim Leinbach said officials were pleased to have concluded franchise negotiations with the telephone giant, adding that citizens will benefit from additional choices in broadband service providers.

But video competition may not occur until 2006. Verizon has made many programming agreements, including pacts with NBC Universal Cable, Starz Entertainment Group, Showtime Networks, A&E Television Networks, Discovery Networks U.S., Varsity TV, Gospel Music Channel, Soundtrack Channel, MavTV, GolTV, Sí TV and NFL Network.

Verizon officials said the company is close to finalizing agreements with several other major content partners. But it has also announced it will debut its video product in Keller, Texas, the place where it kicked off its fiber-to-the-home building project more than a year ago. That launch should take place late this summer.

The 15-year Florida franchise calls for cable service to be provided to all of Temple Terrace’s residents. Verizon will provide the city with a $35,000 grant, other financial support and capability for educational and government access channels, support for a future institutional network for schools, libraries and other public facilities; and free government office connections.

Bright House currently programs a government-access channel, but Bob Elek, Verizon’s spokesman, said the franchise does not require Verizon to interconnect its system with that of its competitor.

Verizon will create its own direct feed and will only pursue interconnection if that becomes necessary, he said.

Verizon is also busy negotiating franchises with Manatee and Hillsborough counties and the city of Tampa.

“It’s going slower than we’d want to see in Tampa and Hillsborough,” Elek said. “Temple Terrace just wanted to see this happen,” he said of the latest franchise.

OTHER FIOS SITES

Verizon was previously franchised in Beaumont, Calif., and Keller, Wylie, Sachse and Westlake, all in Texas.

While the operator slowly picks up franchises, it has been lobbying furiously in several states, including California and Texas, for changes in state law that could eliminate city-by-city franchise negotiations. Meanwhile, SBC Communications Inc. continues to stress its belief that it does not need local franchises for its planned video service.

September