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Verizon Seeks NAB Support on Franchises

4/18/2005 10:28 AM Eastern

Las Vegas -- Verizon Communications chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg Monday asked TV stations around the country to help his company find a way to eliminate the need to obtain local approval to provide video in competition with cable incumbents.

Addressing the National Association of Broadcasters convention here, Seidenberg called the local-franchising requirement an unnecessary entry barrier that slowed Verizon’s investment in a fiber-to-the-home network with lighting-fast download speeds and vast capacity for video-programming services.

“We ask you to lend your persuasive voice in support of clearing away this barrier to video competition and speeding the day when America’s communications companies can use our fantastic resources to offer your content and provide a true and compelling competitive alternative to cable,” Seidenberg said.

Verizon is working at the state and federal levels to remove the local-franchising requirement. The company has committed to pay fees on its video revenue, as cable does now, to local governments.

An NAB spokesman said local TV stations wanted to work with Verizon on mutual concerns.

“Local broadcasters are very encouraged about Mr. Seidenberg’s remarks. Stations want our programming on as many platforms as possible,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.

Verizon’s new network will pass 3 million homes by the end of this year, offering 30 megabits per second downstream and 5 mbps upstream for data and 100 mbps downstream and 15 mbps upstream for video, Seidenberg said.

Content from local TV stations, he added, was vital to Verizon’s video success. Because Verizon’s network would have so much capacity to deliver the services provided by local TV stations, carriage fights that marred broadcasters' relations with cable operators would not become an issue with his company, Seidenberg said.

“This is where our fiber-based system really changes the dialogue from a conversation about scarcity to one about abundance,” he added. “We believe we can effectively address all of these issues in a way that expands the market for both of us.”

SBC Communications Inc., which is also deploying a new fiber network with video capabilities, has claimed that it does not need cable franchises.

Although Verizon has decided to seek local approval, Seidenberg called it “a slow process that presents an unnecessary impediment to consumer choice in video.”

September