Verizon Gets a Texas Franchise

Verizon Communications Inc. has obtained another cable franchise, this time in the Dallas suburb of Sachse, Texas.

Like its first franchise in Beaumont, Calif., the Sachse franchise covers the entire town of 15,000 residents.

Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said the telco is farthest along with its fiber-to-the-home build in Texas and California, but does not expect to be awarded any other franchises by the end of the year. Franchising has been slowed by “delaying tactics” by incumbent cable operators, he stated.

The Baby Bell has agreed to pay the city a 5% franchise fee and abide by public, educational and government access requirements similar to those imposed on incumbent cable provider Comcast Corp., said Sachse city manager Bill Atkinson.

Atkinson said he hoped Verizon and Comcast would work together to interconnect content and to develop unified channel placements for PEG outlets.

Comcast protested one element of the 15-year franchise, Atkinson said. The incumbent argued that the placement of Verizon’s equipment in public rights-of-way would allow the telco to avoid franchise fees on some interactive services.

Atkinson said that gear is deployed as part of the company’s telephone operation and is covered under federal telephony rules. Thus, it’s not subject to local regulation.

Atkinson acknowledged that Comcast has invested in upgrading the town’s cable system, work that was completed about a year ago. It now features fiber-to-the-node technology, compared to the fiber to the home Verizon promises to activate by second-quarter 2005. “I think it’s great we’ve got competition. In the end, it will help our citizens to have a choice,” the city manager said.

Comcast spokeswoman Angel Biasatti said Sachse’s decision to approve an additional franchised operator acknowledges the competitive environment. “Comcast looks forward to discussing those franchise elements with the city that can be reduced or eliminated to create parity between the franchises awarded by the city,” she added.