NJ: Verizon faulted over lack of access

Posted on August 16, 2007 - 7:05am.

from: NorthJersey.com

Verizon faulted over lack of access

CLIFTON -- If you pick Verizon, you won't get City Council meetings. Or Board of Education meetings. Or any other event transmitted over Clifton's public access channel.

Several residents are complaining to city officials that Verizon employees have been saying that if they switch to Verizon's FiOs TV Service from Cablevision they will get local programs, said Councilwoman Gloria Kolodziej.

The city recently sent a letter to Verizon asking the company to stop the misinformation, she said.

Verizon doesn't yet offer public access channels in New Jersey, Heather Wilner, a company spokeswoman said in a telephone interview from New York Tuesday. The telephone and high-speed Internet access company expanded in January to offer television service across the state but hasn't completed interconnection negotiations with local cable television service providers, which would allow Verizon to broadcast public access programs, she said.

According to Mayor James Anzaldi, Verizon has told the city it will offer public-access television services in October at the earliest. Clifton's Channel 77 broadcasts local public meetings and emergency messages, and events such as the annual city picnic, local parades, and images of animals at the city animal shelter to be adopted, Anzaldi said.

Wilner said Verizon has instructed its salespeople to tell prospective customers that public access channels will not be offered immediately. Verizon has tried to negotiate interconnection agreements with companies including Cablevision, but they stalled, Wilner said. In turn, Verizon has asked the state Board of Public Utilities to intervene, she said.

Cablevision and Verizon are competing in New Jersey to offer telephone, television and Internet service in a package called "triple play." Verizon's triple-play package starts at $94.99, Wilner said. As of late June, Verizon offered its triple-play service to 196 of New Jersey's 566 municipalities, she said. The company will roll out the service to more municipalities as it completes its new fiber optic network.

Cablevision has offered cable television service in New Jersey since the 1970s, said Patrick MacElroy, company spokesman.

Patty Kehlbeck came to the City Council to complain about misinformation she said she got from a Verizon salesman.

Kehlbeck, of the city's Allwood section, not only attends City Council meetings regularly -- she usually speaks during the public portion. She said she called Verizon two weeks ago, interested in its triple-play package. She calculated that the all-in-one service would save her $18-$23 a month. Also, she wouldn't have to deal with multiple bills. Verizon employees were to set up service at Kehlbeck's home several days later. Luckily, she heard in the meantime from the mayor that Verizon didn't yet have permission to offer Channel 77, she said.

So she canceled the planned Verizon installation, she said.

Kehlbeck uses Channel 77 to watch planning, zoning and school board meetings, as well as reruns of council meetings to review her own delivery at the microphone.

"I watch my mistakes, just in case. Little things that mean a lot to me," she said.

( categories: NEW JERSEY | State Franchises | Verizon )