MD: Towson, Cockeysville up first for Verizon cable?

Posted on February 10, 2007 - 8:05pm.

from: Towson Times

Towson, Cockeysville up first for Verizon cable?

by Bryan P. Sears

Cable competition is coming to Baltimore County.

The County Council is expected to vote March 5 on a 15-year cable franchise contract negotiated with Verizon.

"Baltimore County residents are very anxious for this competition for Internet and telephone service," said Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, who negotiates cable franchise contracts for the County Council.

By law, the council regulates cable franchises in the county.

Verizon's cable television service, which it calls FiOS, will reach about 90 percent of county residents.

Service will be offered in four phases, according to Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents the 2nd District, which includes Owings Mills, Pikesville and Ruxton.

Catonsville, Reisterstown, Owings Mills, Cockeysville, Towson, Parkville and Essex will receive service in the first three years of the contract.

Randallstown, Pikesville and Hunt Valley follow in the second phase, which runs from the third to the fifth year of the contract.

Arbutus, Woodlawn, Perry Hall, White Marsh, Chase, Dundalk and North Point will receive service from years five through nine.

Parkton and Fork should come on line in the 10th and final year of the build-out.

Kamenetz said he negotiated with Verizon to ensure that service would be rolled out equitably to all areas of the county rather than allowing the company to roll it out to neighborhoods that might be more economically desirable -- a practice called cherry-picking. The negotiations also ensured that each of the seven council district would receive the new service in the first two phases.

The new service, as with Comcast's, will not be available to those who live in the most rural portions of the county.

Verizon has 10 years to build its system, but Kamenetz said he expects communities to come on line faster than projected.

It is unclear how much the increase in competition will affect the price of cable television and high-speed Internet services in Baltimore County.

Kamenetz said the council has not studied the issue and said that there may not be a price drop, "but an increase in service."

Verizon will not provide the county with so-called "givebacks" as Comcast does. In addition to cable channels for county government, the schools and community college systems, Comcast also provides the county with a fiber-optic network that will set the stage for services such as video bail review.

Verizon refused to negotiate additional services with the county, Kamenetz said. In lieu of the additional services, Verizon will pay the county a fee between 66 and 88 cents per user per month. Those fees ultimately will increase county revenues generated from county cable franchises from $9 million to about $11 million annually.

A public hearing on the contract will be held Feb. 27.

( categories: AT&T | Comcast | MARYLAND )