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Texas PUC OKs Verizon Franchise

As expected, the Texas Public Utility Commission Friday approved Verizon Communications Inc.’s application for a franchise to serve 21 communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with its Verizon FiOS TV service.

The regional Bell operating company formally filed for the state franchise Oct. 3, and the PUC said then that it would review the application and issue a franchise within 17 business days.

Fellow RBOC SBC Communications Inc. filed for a state franchise Oct. 11 to become a video-service provider, designating 21 communities in and around San Antonio.

And cable overbuilder Grande Communications Networks Inc. made a similar move Oct. 5, taking advantage of an exception in a new Texas law that allows current cable competitors with low penetration to rescind their local contracts in favor of statewide licensing.

The Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association filed suit in federal court last month challenging the new law, calling it discriminatory and harmful to consumers.

Verizon already had pre-existing franchise agreements with the Texas cities of Keller, Sachse, Westlake and Wylie, and it launched FiOS TV in Keller Sept. 22.

All of the communities targeted for service are in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex -- markets currently served by incumbents including Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc.

Those cities are Allen, Carrollton, Colleyville, Coppell, Denton, Double Oak, Flower Mound, Garland, Grapevine, Hebron, Highland Village, Irving, Lewisville, Lucas, Murphy, Parker, Plano, Rowlett, Southlake and St. Paul.

Verizon said Friday that by the end of 2006, FiOS TV will be available to nearly 400,000 north Texas households with more than 1 million potential viewers.

“Since we began selling FiOS TV in Keller Sept. 22, customer response has been outstanding, and we expect that to continue as the service becomes more widely available,” Verizon Southwest-region president Steve Banta said in a prepared statement.

“In fact, the response to our 100% fiber-optic suite of services continues to be so positive that we plan to hire 150 and possibly more union-represented fiber-network technicians in north Texas over the next several months to provide our customers with continued excellent service,” he added.