Verizon files for N.J. video franchise


TRENTON, N.J. -- Verizon Communications Inc. Thursday became the first company to file for permission to sell cable TV in New Jersey under a new law that bypasses the time-consuming process of obtaining a local cable franchise in every community.

Verizon, the state's dominant telephone company, sought state regulators' approval to offer television in 316 New Jersey communities with 2.1 million homes, or 70% of the state's households. It hopes to begin offering the service in late December and have it available to 500,000 homes by March.

The Board of Public Utilities has 45 days to act on Verizon's application.

Many states, including California, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, have or are set to enact laws providing for state-wide video franchises. Cable companies have fought them, saying telephone companies looking to enter the video market should have to go through the same process the cable companies had go through when they built out. Verizon and AT&T, which is rolling out its own video services, have countered that a streamlined process would more quickly usher in badly needed competition.

As the phone companies encroach on the cable market, the cable companies have started competing with the phone companies by offering phone service over cable lines.

Via its new fiber-optic network, Verizon plans to offer nearly 200 digital channels, more than 20 high-definition channels and a video library with 3,000 titles.

Verizon already offers television programming in parts of Texas, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Virginia, covering about 3 million households. It recently received approval to begin offering it in Delaware.

Verizon has more than 1,000 technicians building the fiber network in New Jersey and expects to hire additional technicians in the coming months.

"Our plans put New Jersey at the forefront of fiber deployment," said Dennis Bone, Verizon New Jersey president. "This will lead to access and availability of the most cutting-edge broadband products available anywhere in the nation."