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Verizon Closer to Montgomery County Franchise

Federal court-mandated mediation resulted in a tentative franchise agreement between Montgomery County, Md., and Verizon Communications.

The agreement still needs to be approved by a vote of the county's council, but the agreement agreed upon by staff and the company would give the telco a 15-year franchise in the county.

Verizon sued the county earlier this year, arguing that its multistep franchising process, including public hearings, constituted a barrier to entry. The county countered that while Verizon proposed serving the community, it never actually submitted a proposed franchise.

The federal judge in the case issued an order Aug. 8, sending the parties to mediation administered by James Bredar, a magistrate judge. The lawsuit was stayed while the parties sought an agreement. Verizon officials said the lawsuit will be dismissed if the agreement is approved by the council.

Harry Mitchell, director of media relations for Verizon's mid-Atlantic bureau, called the pact a "compromise agreement," containing customer-service provisions demanded by the county.

"It's an agreement certainly that Verizon can support. This was our intent all along," he added.