Verizon Seeks Pact in Sizable N.Y. Town

Verizon Communications Inc. is going after a bigger fish on Long Island as the next market for its FiOS TV service, requesting a video franchise in Hempstead, N.Y.

Hempstead, home to some 760,000 people, is the latest New York-area community -- and by far the largest in the nation to date -- to consider allowing its fiber-to-the-home-driven FiOS TV to compete with Cablevision Systems Corp. for TV customers.

The Hempstead town board will hear the franchise proposal at a meeting Tuesday, and it could make a final decision at a hearing set April 4.

Verizon already has franchise agreements in place for Massapequa Park, also on Long Island, as well as South Nyack and Nyack townships in Rockland County, also in the New York City suburbs. Massapequa has a population of 17,000, while South Nyack and Nyack have 3,400 and 6,700 residents, respectively.

The township of Upper Nyack, with 1,800 residents, approved a FiOS TV franchise Thursday.

If Hempstead approves the franchise, Verizon would still need approval from the New York Public Services Commission. If the franchise process follows the pattern for Massapequa Park, Nyack and South Nyack, the state commission should hear the franchise proposal this summer, and TV service could roll out in late summer or early fall.

A potential complicating factor is that about one-third of Hempstead consists of 22 smaller, semi-autonomous villages that must separately approve the FiOS TV franchise.

Construction on the FiOS fiber network is already under way in Hempstead, and plans are to extend the network to 65%-70% of the town by year’s end.

Cablevision contended that Verizon should be required to offer service to the entire town.

“The phone company should not be allowed to rush through a special deal in the Town of Hempstead that lets it deliver new services to some neighborhoods, while leaving others behind,” Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said. “The phone company should focus on competing fairly on a level playing field, which, for some reason, it has been unwilling to do.”

Hempstead communications director Mike Deery said the town board will consider coverage issues. “We expect that Verizon would serve all of our customers if there were approval for franchise. I would imagine it is customary for cable providers who roll out,” he said.