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NEWARK, N.J. - New Jersey residents want choice and competition for cable TV.
In a poll commissioned by Verizon, an overwhelming number of respondents expressed strong support for updating the state's antiquated franchise laws.
"New Jersey residents want choice for cable, and Verizon wants to make cable compete," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon in New Jersey. "We aren't surprised by these poll results. We know there is a thirst among consumers for a better alternative."
Current law, in place for 30 years, requires a company seeking to compete against a cable TV provider to obtain a franchise in each municipality in which the company seeks to offer cable-TV service. Verizon serves 526 municipalities in New Jersey with voice and data services.
The survey, conducted in late May for Verizon by the Benenson Strategy Group, is based on 796 telephone interviews. All respondents were 18 year of age or older, as well as registered voters and homeowners in the Garden State.*
The purpose was to measure attitudes toward - and perceptions of - communications companies among consumers throughout the state.
Not surprisingly, almost seven in 10 homeowners (67 percent) strongly agree that it should be easier for companies to compete to provide television service in New Jersey. Seventy-five percent of respondents generally support a proposal that would allow telephone companies to offer television service in areas where they already offer phone service, without requiring them to again go through a local authorization process.
When told about Verizon's plan to provide consumers with innovative cable television service, support rose by 8 percent, to a total of 85 percent, including 48 percent who strongly support the law change.
At the root of this sentiment is consumers' strongly held belief that the cable industry today is a monopoly. In fact, 70 percent of respondents describe cable television service as a monopoly "with no choice for consumers."
After hearing that some people have proposed changing the law to let telephone companies offer television service in areas where they already offer phone service, 79 percent of Comcast cable customers and 74 percent of Cablevision customers supported such an initiative.
A remarkable 51 percent of respondents strongly disagree with the cable companies' argument that because the current law has been in effect for so long, it should remain unchanged. In fact, respondents indicate in their answers that the age of the current law is evidence that the cable industry has been blocking competition and choice for 30 years.
"The survey also shows that New Jersey residents understand that technology has changed since the laws regulating cable television competition were written," said Bone, who pointed to the 90 percent of respondents who agree that technology has changed, and that it is time to modernize the laws to bring competition and options to New Jersey residents.
Over the past 10 years, cell phone providers like Verizon are seen, according to the survey, as having provided significantly greater technological advances than either cable or telephone companies. "That's why support increases from 75 percent to 85 percent when respondents are told of Verizon's specific plan to change the antiquated legislation," Bone explained. "The fact that support for changing the legislation is strong underscores the intense desire New Jerseyans have for choice in this category.
"Updated, streamlined franchising rules will speed more choice and more value for cable TV services, while providing municipalities with even more revenue," said Bone. "This survey quantifies in a dramatic way, the overwhelming support New Jerseyans have for choice and competition."
Joel Benenson, president of the Benenson Strategy Group, said of the outcome of the survey conducted by his company: "New Jersey residents are among the most technology savvy in the country, so it's not surprising that the results of this survey show an intense desire for choice in TV service providers. "These results demonstrate clearly that the sentiment in New Jersey overwhelmingly favors changing state law to create choice in the state's cable-TV marketplace."
* The margin of error for the entire survey sample is plus or minus 3.47 percent and is larger for subgroups. To see the a summary of the survey or to see how you can help speed choice for cable TV in New Jersey, go to www.TVChoiceNJ.com.
With more than $71 billion in annual revenues, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon has a diverse work force of 212,000 in four business units: Domestic Telecom provides customers based in 28 states with wireline and other telecommunications services, including broadband. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 45.5 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.