Verizon Pushing Its Way Towards National Video Franchising in Massachusetts

In an article titled, "Telecom tries to tweak TV rules" Andrew J. Manuse, reporter with The Metro Daily News, reports that Verizon "filed a petition with the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) requesting a 90-day deadline for towns to accept or deny new franchise agreements. The DTE has yet to respond."

In this debate, is the question of whether or not telephone companies, like Verizon, entering the video service market should be held to the same standards as cable providers in negotiating video franchise agreements with cities and towns across Massachusetts.

Manuse reports Verizon Spokesman Cliff Lee "said the company sees franchising as 'a three-front effort — local, state and federal — in terms of trying to streamline franchising.'"

In Natick, another town dealing with video franchise negotiations, Hank Szretter, chairman of the Cable Advisory Board, tells Manuse, "'Any company that applies for a license, we expect them to have the same commitment to public access as our other license holders,' said Szretter. 'Verizon wants to operate under a different set of rules, but have the same benefits. It’s not a fair thing. Why should they get a better deal than the other providers?'"

"Szretter said about 5 percent of Comcast and RCN’s revenue from Natick goes back into services the town provides, such as its public cable access program."

"'Without it, it wouldn’t exist', Szretter said about the Pegasus system, which allows residents who are members of the nonprofit organization to make films or record public events and show it on TV."

On Newton's negotiations with Verizon, Mancuse reports

"'We require our current providers to support our cable access network and give seniors a discount,' said Jeremy Solomon, a spokesman for the city. 'There is some question whether a national or statewide franchising policy would enable us to include these elements that are important to us within a contract.'"

Manuse writes Verizon Spokeman, "'Lee would not respond to questions related to comments from town officials, saying the towns’ concerns would be dealt with in the public hearings for franchise licenses."

Read the entire article here.

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