RealTime IT News

Virginia is For Video Via Verizon

Taking its battle against cable operators into Virginia, Verizon Communications has secured a video franchise agreement with the town of Herndon.

The 15-year pact, which was unanimously approved by the Town Council, allows the regional telecom carrier to offer its Fios TV service to 22,000 residents over a new fiber-to- the-home network.

Verizon will pay a franchise fee of 5 percent of gross subscriber revenues, plus a governmental grant of 3 percent of gross subscriber revenues. It will also provide financial and technical support for Herndon Community Television and other local access channels.

"The Washington metro area is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, and it's a primary market for Verizon," Harry J. Mitchell, a Verizon spokesman, told internetnews.com. "It's also a primary market for competitors like Comcast and Cox."

In nearby Maryland, Verizon has applied for franchise agreements in Howard County and the city of Bowie. It talking with several other cities and counties in Maryland and Virginia and expects formal applications to be filed in the near future, Mitchell said.

Fios TV will provide hundreds of digital video and music channels, high-definition programming, video-on-demand content, an interactive programming guide. Verizon recently signed a content deal with Turner Broadcasting System and is with other content providers.

The Herndon deal is similar to pacts Verizon has negotiated with cities and towns in California, Florida and Texas.

But at time that it is pursuing the time-consuming process of hammering out terms at the local level, Verizon is also pushing for state and federal regulatory changes that would streamline the process for rolling out video-over-fiber.

In Texas, Verizon and SBC Communications successfully lobbied state lawmakers to pass a bill that would grant it a statewide video franchise.

The measure was passed in a special session over the objections of cable companies, which argued that it provides telecoms with an unfair edge.

A final version of the bill, which will reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions, is being worked out, said Gene Acuna, SBC spokesman. The governor is expected to sign it.