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Verizon Eyes Rapid Deployment of FiOS

Taking full advantage of that new Texas state law making it far easier and cheaper to obtain local franchises to provide TV services not dependent on the FCC,Verizon has filed for franchises to set up its fiber-optic TV service in nearly two dozen communities surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth--the launch market for its late-September rollout in the suburb of Keller (HD Notebook, Sept. 28, 2005).

Verizon also inked a deal with Scripps Networks, which will contribute HD versions of its Food Network and HGTV channel, along with DIY Network, Fine Living, Great American Country and Shop at Home (along with past Scripps programs available via VOD). Verizon already has similar multi-channel content deals (and retransmission consent access to the O&O's) of ABC Disney, NBC Universal, and other major content providers.

Besides Keller, in the past two weeks it has already received a handful of other franchises in the North Texas region, as well as in Massapequa, N.Y. Verizon last week also entered the big time as a TV provider by nailing down its first major market--Fairfax County, Va., outside Washington, D.C.

Verizon expects to hook up at least 400,000 households in the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex by the end of 2006. In all, according to published reports, Verizon is currently seeking FiOS TV franchises in no less than 250 towns and cities in at least 15 states, with more to follow. Yet it likely will not compete in all cable markets for many years to come, if at all, because of the expensive and time-delaying necessity to lay fiber.

The Texas bill making franchise attainment easier was signed into law in September. Legislation also has been introduced in Congress to make it easier for telcos and others to compete with cable TV on a national basis, although Capitol Hill is preoccupied with several major issues this fall and no fast consideration by lawmakers appears forthcoming. And both the cable and telephony industries have well-financed lobbying arms in Washington.