No Love For Verizon—Yet—in Philadelphia

It appears Verizon won’t gain entry into Philadelphia as a competitive video provider until early next year.

At a Dec. 3 hearing, city council members who comprise the Committee on Public Property and Public Works delayed a vote to approve a franchise negotiated by staffers for Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Council members indicated they needed more time to digest the franchise details before approving a 15-year deal for the telecommunications provider.

Verizon officials, testifying at the hearing, stressed their financial commitment to the City of Brotherly Love, which is also the headquarters of its chief cable rival, Comcast Corp.

“We at Verizon are eager to bring cable TV competition to the city,” said Tabb Bishop, Verizon Pennsylvania vice president for external affairs, in testimony submitted to the committee. “We know customers want a new alternative for cable TV, and we agree with them that the time is now.”

Verizon has negotiated a tentative agreement with the mayor’s office that calls for a $2 million payment to the city for a technology and education fund; a payment of $9.2 million in grants to support public, educational and government access television, and up to 15 channels to telecast that content; and to adhere to “an extensive and appropriate” set of customer service standards.

The company pledges to construct its all fiber optic plant to reach 30% of the city within three years. Penetration will grow to 70% within five years of franchise approval, and reach 100% within seven years.

“The agreement before you is fair,” Bishop told the committee, adding the tentative franchise “offers the right means of opening the door to cable TV choice and competition” in the city.

But since the committee did not vote to move the franchise along through the process, it is unlikely approval will come before the end of the year. The council committee is scheduled to hold another public hearing on the application on Dec. 11.

Verizon already has franchises approved to serve communities in four neighboring counties in Pennsylvania, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery.