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Verizon Still in Local Calif. Franchise Talks

Despite the fact that implementation of statewide-franchising rules is less than two months away, Verizon Communications is still negotiating local franchising agreements in California.

The telco received franchise approval for the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, southeast of Los Angeles, Nov. 14. Verizon already has agreements for its Verizon FiOS TV service with several cities within the county, including Beaumont -- the first city in the state to grant the telephone company a video franchise -- Chino, Lake Elsinore, Murrieta and Temecula.

Verizon already had a fan on the Riverside Board of Supervisors, which approved the pact. Supervisor Jeff Stone noted at the meeting that he subscribes to Verizon’s fiber-to-the-home-delivered services at his residence in Temecula. He praised the clarity of the signal and stated that competitive services will be a boon to consumers.

The telco will compete with four incumbents in the county, the largest of which is Time Warner Cable.

Verizon also completed franchise talks with Chino Hills in that region. In Los Angeles County, the city of Redondo Beach approved a franchise on a first reading of the ordinance. The pact has to be approved during one more vote before it becomes city policy.

Jon Davies, media-relations manager for Verizon California, said the company opted to continue to negotiate in good faith in cities where talks had begun before the introduction of the state-franchising bill. Verizon will adhere to the local agreements, which are different in their terms from the state pact rules, after the state law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Davies noted that state regulation would not, in effect, begin Jan. 1. Regulatory authority has been handed to the state’s Public Utilities Commission, and that body must determine how it will handle a wave of initial applications, both from potential new video providers and from incumbent cable operators that are working under expired local franchises. Completing local agreements that were already on the table “allow us to get out there just a little bit faster” than waiting for the PUC, he added.

Verizon is not, however, initiating negotiations with any new cities.

In other FiOS TV news, the company announced new franchises in Westchester County’s Tarrytown and Long Island’s Freeport, N.Y.; and Palmetto, Fla.

And Verizon launched FiOS TV in the Long Island villages of Farmingdale and Valley Stream; the Town of Huntington hamlets of Centerport, Cold Spring Harbor, Greenlawn, Huntington Station, Huntington and Melville; and the Town of Smithtown hamlets of Hauppauge, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma, Nesconset, Smithtown and St. James.

In Westchester County, FiOS TV is now available in Irvington.