Verizon: FiOS TV Launch Is ‘Seismic’

Comparing their company’s entrance into the multichannel-video business to innovations like color broadcasts and the remote control, Verizon Communications Inc. executives Thursday marked the commercial launch of FiOS TV in Keller, Texas.

“This represents a seismic shift in pop culture,” Bob Ingalls, Verizon’s president of retail markets, said during a launch ceremony that was broadcast on the Internet.

The executives said they will pass 3 million homes with their fiber-to-the-premises plant by the end of this year, and they will utilize the infrastructure to launch in six markets before the end of December.

Verizon executives were joined at their announcement by Republican state Rep. Phil King, who led the fight for the telecommunications-reform bill -- now being challenged in federal court -- that will allow Verizon to apply in the future for a statewide franchise. He defended the bill against criticism by the cable industry that the legislation was passed under questionable circumstances.

Telecommunications reform was raised in committee two years ago, he said, and hundreds of hours were spent discussing the issues of a very complex bill. Although Gov. Rick Perry called special legislative sessions to deal with education funding, the governor allowed the legislature to make effective use of downtime by acting on bills that had nearly passed the regular session.

“We passed a really good bill,” King added.

Perry was not at the press conference, as the state is preparing for the landfall of Hurricane Rita. His representative, Secretary of State Roger Williams, said the Verizon launch signaled that “Texas is wide open for business” to the telecommunications sector.

The telco executives touted their programming lineup of 330 channels, saying that they’d crafted deals with all major program providers. The most recent additions: a large array of channels and on-demand services from The Walt Disney Co. Holdouts, though, still include Viacom Inc. and Fox Networks Group channels, although Fox has said that a deal is close to being completed.

Verizon is describing Keller as a programming template for the national rollout, with a few additions at the local level, executives said. But they would not comment on whether the pricing offered today in the Fort Worth suburb will be the price in other markets.

Keller residents can order broadcast basic, including community channels and video-on-demand access, for $12.95 per month. Verizon’s lead offer, an expanded-basic package, will include 180 video and music channels and cost $39.95. Customers at this level can access 600 on-demand channels, a library anticipated to rise to 1,800 by the end of the year, executives said.

A 140-channel Spanish-language tier is available for $32.95. Premium programming will range from digital sports tiers at $5.95 to a suite of all Home Box Office and Cinemax channels at $24.95 per month.

Verizon's channel lineup also includes a gaudy 22 HD channels, including eight broadcast stations, eight premium networks and six other networks, such as Turner Network Television and Discovery Channel.