Bay State Consumers Missing Benefits of Cable TV Competition

BOSTON - Massachusetts consumers are enduring needless waits averaging 15 months, and in some cases almost two years, for cable-TV competition in their communities. Across the country, there is a trend among states to reform out-of-date cable-TV franchise rules to create incentives for broadband investment and cable competition by cutting the process to between 15 and 45 days.

Donna Cupelo, Verizon's president for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and several top business and labor leaders urged members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at a public hearing Tuesday (June 5) to support a bill to streamline the cable-TV franchise process in Massachusetts.

Cupelo said delays in the process are hurting Massachusetts residents who are seeking lower cable-TV rates and better service, slowing the development of high-tech applications that can benefit small businesses.

"Legislators, municipal officials, local access programming advocates and Verizon all agree that competition benefits consumers," said Cupelo.  "Independent studies have shown that competition in the video market brings enormous benefits to consumers in the form of reduced prices, better packages and improved service."

The bill asks the Legislature to establish a standard set of terms and conditions that enable new cable-TV providers such as Verizon to enter a market within 15 days, while preserving local community benefits and controls, including funding for local cable access programming and local cable channels.

Through the current franchising process, Verizon has attained video licenses in 49 communities in the state, but only after lengthy negotiations, some taking almost two years. "After working through the current process on these agreements, our experience tells us there's got to be a better way to franchise competitive cable service in Massachusetts," Cupelo said.

Cupelo pointed out that in other states, a TV provider can get its application approved in as few as 15 days. She noted that there is a trend among states to recognize the need for cable-TV franchise reform. She said that to date, 13 states -- California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia -- have passed cable-franchise streamlining measures, and seven more states are considering similar legislation. Massachusetts competes with many of these states for jobs, investments and talent, Cupelo said.

The bill is consistent with other legislative efforts to streamline the commercial permitting process and attract investment and jobs to Massachusetts, she said, adding: "It's a growth strategy for Massachusetts. At the same time, this bill will bring competition to consumers faster while continuing to provide communities with significant local benefits and control - and meet the goal of consumers and our communities of having a real choice for consumers. Improving the franchising process will put Massachusetts on a par with other states that have already addressed this issue to attract investment, jobs and competition." 

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 60.7 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 238,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $88 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.