Verizon fights to get cable bill passed in Tallahassee

04/25/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Today, Florida legislators in the Senate began debating whether telephone giants Verizon and AT&T should be able to offer cable television and related services such as broadband Internet access without having to negotiate individual agreements with each city or town.

A proposal sponsored by Tampa Republican Trey Traviesa passed the House earlier this session.  

But yesterday Bradenton Republican Mike Bennett removed language requiring companies entering a cable TV market to offer services to 50 percent low-income residencies.

 

That’s important, because so-called “Buildout” is considered the crucial part of whether or not the bill will pass this year.  Buildout means that video providers MUST place their cable lines to they do not deny service to lower-income or rural neighborhoods.

 

Bob Elek is a spokesman for Verizon.  He says that his company has already laid cable lines down in low-income areas of Tampa, where they are providing television and cable service (roll tape#1 o.q.”   simply not true”)

 

Furthermore, Elek argues , that with the cost that Verizon is incurring in laying cable lines throughout the Tampa Bay Area and nationally, they can’t afford to be picky with customers.

 

But 1 critic says that if Verizon ends up offering their services to everybody throughout Florida, it might be the first time a telephone company has ended up doing that in the country.

 

Amina Fazullah is an attorney with US Public Interest Research group, or PIRG -  based in Washington.  She says phone companies have started offering services in the last few years in Texas, California,   Michigan and New Jersey, and have yet to see any type of real ‘build-up’. (roll tape#2 o.q.”huge numbers of customers”)


Fazullah says the real problem with cable companies not building out is that it further increases the digital divide, where lower income people don’t get internet services

(roll tape#3 o.q.”come with that”)

 

Verizon is now providing cable and broadband service in 5 counties in the Tampa Bay Area.  WMNF asked if Verizon is already providing such service without getting franchise authority from the state, why do they need the law changed? Again, spokesman Bob Elek (roll tape#4 o.q.”to save money”)

 

US PIRG”S Amina Fazullah says they don’t to change the law (roll tape#5 o.q.”communities”)

 

Certainly an argument for having Verizon and ATT get into the cable and internet market in the Tampa Bay Area that they will provide competition to Brighthouse – which theoretically should bring down prices.

 

Verizon’s Bob Elek says that Brighthouse is very ‘responsive’ to Verizon’s pricing.

(roll tape#6 o.q.”it definitely does make a difference”)

 But for consumer groups, it all comes down to whether Verizon will provide services throughout the state.  And that issue is seriously in question after Senator Bennett’s removal of mandating that they and AT&T provide services to 50 percnet of low income residencies.

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