MA: Hundreds fill State House to oppose Verizon’s special interest bill

Posted on June 5, 2007 - 9:32pm.

from: Keep us Connected

For Immediate Release
Contact: Cort Boulanger
Cell: 339-222-2442

Hundreds fill State House to oppose Verizon’s special interest bill

Local officials, consumers, access groups call for rejection of “bad piece of legislation”

State House, Boston – June 5, 2007 – Local officials, local-access programmers and consumers filled Gardner Auditorium to standing-room-only Tuesday, in a successful effort to make it clear that Massachusetts should not allow the telecommunications giant Verizon to rewrite cable television regulations in the state to meet its hunger for profits.

“The very fact that this legislation has been written by a single corporation, and is designed to benefit a single corporation, should be enough to make the Legislature and the public extremely skeptical about the value of the bill and the motives of its corporate sponsor,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone in testimony before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. “Despite all its claims of open competition and its expensive ad campaigns, Verizon simply has no intention of serving many Massachusetts cities and towns for the foreseeable future.”

Calling Verizon’s bill “a bad piece of legislation,” Curtatone, who serves as president of the Mass. Mayors Association, said that Somerville was the first community in the state to provide cable competition. He noted that Verizon has nearly 50 existing franchise agreements and the company has a “standing invitation from nearly fifty more communities – including Boston and Somerville – to begin immediate negotiations to establish additional license agreements across the state.”

The auditorium was filled with local officials but also local-access programmers, who had traveled from across the Commonwealth to fight for the future of cable access programming.

"In today's climate of media consolidation and a 'bigger is better' mentality, the loss of local control of cable franchising would be a travesty,” said Terry Duenas, president of Mass Access and executive director of the Cape Cod Community Media Center. “Local franchising works for Massachusetts and protects the free speech public, educational and government access provides in our cities and towns."

Consumer advocates questioned Verizon’s repeated claims that scrapping local control would system create real competition and benefit consumers across the state.

“While Verizon argues the process of negotiating franchise agreements is the barrier to consumer choice, it simply does not appear to be the company’s true experience,” said MASSPIRG Consumer Advocate Eric Bourassa. “In fact, nothing prevents Verizon from accepting the same franchise agreement that the existing provider or providers have already negotiated. The truth is that Verizon does not want to commit to the same requirements and consumer protections that other providers have already done.”

With Tuesday's showing at the State House, the growing network of advocates for local control made it clear that Massachusetts communities are unified in their opposition to Verizon's special-interest bill and will continue to defend the existing cable franchise system and the rights of communities and consumers.

Keep It Local MA is a growing network of concerned citizens, local organizations, Public, Educational and Government Access Centers and municipalities working to ensure equal access and fairness for all in the delivery of cable television service across the Commonwealth. Keep It Local MA is an informal network, without any membership or dues. Any expenses the network incurs are paid for by the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association. To learn more visit