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FiOS Hits Houston, But Without TV

Verizon Communications Friday will begin to push fiber-optic FiOS service to residents in the Houston area, but for now, the telco is offering Internet and voice services around the Bayou City, not video.

Spokesman Bill Kula said the company will decide later in 2007 when to offer video service in the Houston market. He added that in order to offer TV service, the company would have to build a video-hub office in the area, which it has not done yet. “We wanted to get into the Houston market as quickly as we could,” Kula said.

Verizon announced that FiOS Internet and voice services will be available starting May 25 in League City, Texas, to be followed in the next few months by the areas Verizon serves in nine other cities near Houston (Bacliff, Baytown, Dickinson, Friendswood, Hitchcock, Kemah, La Marque, Mont Belvieu and Texas City).

Kula said 17 construction crews are laying the fiber in the Houston area in greenfield communities, both single-family housing and apartments.

The launch comes as Comcast prepares to rebrand the cable system in Houston next month, which it acquired from Time Warner Cable as part of the Adelphia Communications transaction. Comcast also faces competition in the market from AT&T, which began offering U-verse TV service there late last year.

“Our long-term plan is to first start offering the voice and data service … and then make a decision on additional capital spending for the Houston area that could include building out the fiber network in existing communities, as well as offering our video service to compete directly against Comcast,” Kula said.

Verizon’s expansion of FiOS into Houston is the second major market in the state where it is introducing the services. The telco first offered FiOS service in late 2004 in north Texas, where it is now available to nearly 400,000 households and apartments. At the end of the first quarter of 2007, according to Verizon, 34% of all Verizon wireline customers in 30 north Texas cities were using FiOS Internet service.

In Texas, Verizon offers three tiers of broadband service: 5 megabits per second downstream and 2 mbps upstream ($39.99 per month with an annual service plan); 15 mbps/2 mbps ($49.99); and 30 mbps/5 mbps ($179.95).

Verizon also added two New York communities to its FiOS TV video-franchise list: Westchester County’s Mount Pleasant and Long Island’s Sands Point.

The franchises -- approved by the two communities’ respective Boards of Trustees -- are subject to review by the New York State Public Service Commission.

Verizon will compete with Cablevision Systems in both communities.

And the Board of Selectmen in Southborough, Mass., approved a FiOS TV franchise, bringing Verizon’s total number of communities to be served in the state to 48. The telco will compete with Comcast in Southborough.