Verizon Sues Maryland County Over Franchise


Verizon has sued Montgomery County, Md., saying it is making unreasonable and illegal demands in negotiations for a video franchise there.

Among those: collect fees on broadband Internet service, 65 channels set aside for government use, attorneys fees, plus cash and free services. The county switchboard was closed at press time.

In the suit, Verizon alleges that the county's demands violate antitrust laws and FCC regulations and effectively protect the incumbent cable operator.

Verizon wants the court to enjoin current county franchising laws and direct the county to negotiate a franchise on lawful terms within 60 days.

Verizon first asked for the franchise for its FiOS multichannel video service in May 2005.

Verizon points out that it has been able to strike deals with neighboring Howard County and, by next week, with Ann Arundel County, Md., as well as the Cities of Bowie and Laurel.

The suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., is against a Washington suburban county that is home to numerous legislators and comes at a time when Verizon and other telcos are arguing for passage of a national video franchise bill in part by saying that unreasonable franchise demands are holding up the roll-out of broadband.