BOSTON - Massachusetts consumers are enduring needless waits of up to 1½ years for cable-TV competition in their communities because of an antiquated licensing process that no longer works. As a result, the Bay State is missing out on a host of technological and economic benefits.
John Conroy, vice president of regulatory affairs for Verizon, and several top business and regulatory officials delivered that message today to officials of the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy at a public hearing on Verizon's proposal to streamline the cable-TV franchise licensing process in Massachusetts.
Conroy said delays in the local cable-TV franchise licensing 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, and costing jobs.
"We've seen cable rates decline when wireline cable competition is introduced around the country," Conroy said, pointing to a study by the Phoenix Center that estimates that just a one-year delay in video franchise reform costs Massachusetts consumers $165 million in lost savings. "Consumers are losing money while cable monopolies are raking it in," Conroy said. "Every day the giant cable monopolies can keep a competitor out of the market is a great day for them and a bad day for consumers."
Verizon's proposal asks the DTE to establish a 90-day timeline for negotiating a franchise contract between the company and a city or town. The proposal does not take any authority away from a municipality, nor does it affect the fees and public access benefits a community receives.
Conroy pointed out that in other states, a TV provider can get its application approved in as few as 17 days. He noted that Texas, Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, North Carolina and New Jersey have passed cable-franchise streamlining measures. Massachusetts competes with these states for jobs, investments and talent, Conroy said.
A number of consumer advocates and business leaders spoke in favor of Verizon's proposal at today’s hearing, including Alan McDonald, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Ray Campbell, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium; and Deborah Lathen, former chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Cable Bureau.
"You have a unique opportunity to make a positive statement on behalf of consumers and our state's infrastructure and economic health," Conroy told DTE officials. "You have the ability to bring the many benefits of competition to tens of thousands of citizens in the commonwealth and provide the right incentives for expanded broadband deployment and infrastructure investment."
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), a Dow 30 company, 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 nearly 55 million customers nationwide. Verizon Business operates one of the most expansive wholly-owned global IP networks. Verizon Telecom is deploying the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network to deliver the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services to customers. Based in New York, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 252,000 and generates annual consolidated operating revenues of approximately $90 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.