A report released Tuesday by the cable industry-backed Broadband Everywhere lobbying group asserts that the Bells are excluding some lower-income areas in their build-out of video networks.
The report comes as the House Telecommunications Subcommittee prepares Wednesday to mark up a bill that would ease telcos' entry into the video business by setting up a national franchising system.
"In an attempt to quell widespread criticism of their 'fiber to the rich' business model, the Bells have relied on a 'don’t worry, be happy' response, and a promise to a growing number of skeptics that they should just 'trust us' to eventually deploy new networks more widely to their ratepayers," Broadband Everywhere says.
Among the report's assertions:
• Over 90% of the communities to which the Bells have announced upgrades are above the national median income;
• Only 14 of the 570 announced communities have majority African-American populations, and only 10 have majority Hispanic populations;
• On average, the Bell-announced target towns are 7% African-American and only 8.3% Hispanic – each well below the national averages for each demographic.
Verizon, the most aggressive video player among the telcos, responded. "Consumer video choice is coming, and cable is increasingly nervous," said company spokesman David Fish. "They are using the franchise process -- and phoney ploys like this -- to delay choice and competition.
"Last night's unanimous vote in Hempstead, N.Y. (to approve a Verizon video franchise] shows that, when exposed to the facts, people opt for video choice over cable chicanery."