Verizon's North Jersey cable debut looms

Posted on December 16, 2006 - 11:15am.

from: North

Verizon's North Jersey cable debut looms
Saturday, December 16, 2006


TV viewers in many North Jersey towns could get a choice of cable TV provider as early as next week.

Verizon Communications said it will turn on TV service in about 100 towns -- 40 of which are in Bergen County -- following state regulators' approval Friday of its request for a statewide video franchise.

The unanimous vote by the state Board of Public Utilities brings a new competitor to a market long dominated by a single cable operator and satellite providers, and -- officials hope -- lower cable bills.

The vote comes after a lengthy lobbying battle that ended in August with Governor Corzine signing a law that allows any cable provider to apply for a statewide franchise and bypass the lengthy town-by-town negotiating process.

"This action should mean greater choices for consumers," said BPU president Jeanne Fox.

The move also is likely to result in a pitched marketing battle for customers as rival Cablevision fights to keep customers from migrating to Verizon. Both companies will now sell three services: phone, TV and Internet.

Turning on
Verizon will begin its FiOS TV service next week in the following counties. Individual towns will be announced next month. Customers seeking information about the service in their town can call 888-GET-FIOS (438-3467) or check online at

Bergen: 40 towns

Morris: 14 towns

Passaic: 2 towns

Camden: 10 towns

Middlesex: 3 towns

Monmouth: 23 towns

Somerset: 9 towns

New Jersey becomes the fourth state to pass a video franchise law (Texas, Kansas and Indiana have passed similar measures).

Although it will roll out the service next week, Verizon said it will wait until January to announce the towns where it will begin to offer service over its new fiber network (FiOS) that also provides high-speed Internet and phone service. The company's initial application covers 316 towns in the state, which represent 70 percent of the state's population, and the company says it will apply next year for more.

Verizon's initial offer in New Jersey is 200 digital channels for $42.99 per month including 20 high-definition channels and access to approximately 4,000 on-demand titles, 60 percent of which are free. Cable companies, whose rates vary, have argued with Verizon over who has the best deal.

"I don't expect to see prices fall like a rock yet, but this coming year, 2007, will be the year that the prices stopped their annual climb," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. "As telephone companies compete in more markets, the prices will get more competitive from the cable industry."

Cablevision, which has a million customers in North Jersey and has had success selling phone service, lost little time issuing a statement criticizing the Verizon plan.

"Cablevision customers already receive New Jersey's best digital television, fastest Internet and most valuable phone service, all delivered over a fiber-rich network that is here today and was built to ensure enormous capacity for tomorrow," the company said. "Verizon plans to sell a me-too television product that offers nothing new to consumers, and all of its services are subject to the substantial hidden fees and taxes that people have come to expect from the phone company."

Verizon is spending close to $23 billion nationwide to build the new network, which can deliver television and high-speed Internet service as well as phone service, allowing it to compete with cable companies that already offer customers a triple-play package.

Verizon had 118,000 FiOS TV customers in parts of seven states at the end of the third quarter. Verizon has reached a 10 percent penetration rate for its TV service across all markets, with the service available to 1.2 million premises as of the end of the third quarter, the company said recently.

While the law spells out certain requirements for the company to provide service in rural parts of the state as well as multiple dwelling units, some opponents said Friday they are still concerned that Verizon will "red-line," avoiding low-income areas.

A number of New Jersey ministers, including the Rev. Jonathan Whitfield of Trinity Baptist Church in Hackensack, attended the BPU meeting and later voiced their concerns. They said they feared Verizon would ignore low-income neighborhoods and people living in cities in multiple-dwelling units.

Board officials said they believe sufficient measures are in place to guard against red-lining, including a requirement that Verizon provide maps to the BPU of its deployment plans.

"Red-lining will not occur," Fox said during the hearing. "Verizon will be held to the same standards cable will be held to."

Verizon President Dennis Bone pointed out after the hearing that his company's plan to sell TV in 316 towns includes all the state's major cities.

Bone also said his company will continue to sell residents a low-priced package of about 30 channels for $12.95 per month. Under federal law, when Verizon begins to sell its TV service in a town, the state will no longer have the ability to regulate rates for the basic lineup of channels.


( categories: NEW JERSEY | State Franchises | Verizon )