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Verizon Seeks TV Franchise in Washington, D.C. Suburb

Some critics of cable TV have long argued the only problem with the proverbial cable guy is that he has no real competition. This is especially true, some observers note, when you consider that not everyone is capable of receiving DBS, where a clear line-of-sight to the southwestern sky is usually a prerequisite.

So more competition to provide HD, VOD and other DTV services to more than a million residents of Fairfax County outside Washington--one of the nation's wealthiest counties and home-away-from-home for many members of Congress--will be closely monitored, if and when it becomes reality. On Aug. 1, the county board gave its consent to entertain the question at a public meeting in September to allow Verizon to take on Cox as a TV service provider; Cox is already well established in the Virginia suburb.

Verizon's initial success in Fairfax County comes at a time when the phone firm apparently is wearing two hats--one as a grateful fledgling TV provider, and the other as a disgruntled telco. At that same meeting on Aug. 1 when the county board encouraged Verizon's inclusion as a cable competitor, a board member chastised the telco for placing what he called misleading newspaper ads stating that Verizon would lower county tax bills for consumers.

Verizon (the TV side) serves a couple of smaller franchises in the Virginia suburbs--the town of Herndon and the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico. The telco is working feverishly to set up its TV shop in scores of other Virginia communities, where it first must receive the official blessing of local jurisdictions. A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in late July would do away with the often tedious and costly process of securing local franchises--a move that cable, telcos and the Bush Administration all appear to favor.