Verizon is close to locking up a high-profile franchise for video service in Fairfax, Va., the Washington suburban county boasting over a million residents, including high-profile legislators and policymakers.
According to the county, staffers have struck a deal with the telco that would allow its Fios TV service to compete with cable operator Cox Communications.
Verizon has submitted the deal to the board.
Board member Sharon Bulova told B&C she expected the board Aug. 1 to approve publishing the proposal for public comment--"I have not heard any colleagues express any disapproval"--and from her vantage saw no reason why it would not be approved in September. "We've been looking forward to competition," she said.
Bulova said the franchise is essentially the same as Cox's, adding "what county staff has been adamant about is having a franchise that comes before the board that provides a level playing field between Verizon and Cox, and anyone else who wants to get into the business."
Verizon already has two Northern Virginia franchises: Herndon, Va., and TV service at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
The company is working to secure franchises in more than 200 other Virginia municipalities, but is is also hoping to get some regulatory relief in the form of legislation that would establish a state or nationwide franchising scheme, or that might do away with franchises entirely, as would a bill introduced last week.
Telcos argue that not having to seek individual franchises will allow it to more quickly provide more competition in the multichannel video market, one of the Bush administration's and Congress's stated priorities.
Cable argues that if the franchising process is to be streamlined or short-cut, the same advantages should apply to cable.
Both the cable and telephone industries support the franchise-buster bill, introduced by by Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) that would virtually eliminate the need for multichannel video providers, cable, satellite or telco or anyone else, to get local or state franchises.