BPU Begrudgingly Renews Verizon Cable TV Franchise

Commissioners and critics raise concerns that company isn't meeting deployment deadlines in some NJ towns

Written by Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight

Verizon New Jersey has won a seven-year renewal of its system-wide cable TV franchise, but only grudgingly so from state regulators.

In approving the renewal, several commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities questioned whether the telecom giant has complied with the requirements of the original law allowing it to compete against cable companies and others providing TV programming in the state.

In the seven years since Verizon NJ was granted a system-wide franchise after a highly contentious legislative battle, its efforts to lure customers from existing cable TV providers has proved quite successful -- at least so far. Its service, dubbed FiOS (fiber optic service), is now available to 2.2 million households in 355 municipalities, according to Lee Gierczynski, a spokesman for the company.

Others view that record differently. In hearings before the BPU on the franchise renewal application last year, many residents complained why they could not sign up for the service, because it stops at a neighboring town or at Main Street. The protests resonated with the commissioners, who questioned why the buildout of the FiOS programs is not happening in every town.

“It’s very clear the Legislature tied the board’s hands,’’ said BPU Commissioner Jeanne Fox at the agency’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, echoing an argument made by other commissioners. Only half of the 70 so-called must-build towns where the company’s fiber-optic system needs to be installed had been completed by a December 31, 2013 deadline, Fox said.

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