Verizon Introduces Fiber Optic TV Service
By KEN BELSON
September 23, 2005
Verizon Communications began taking orders yesterday for its new television service, which the company hopes will draw business away from cable and satellite providers.
As part of a national strategy, about 9,000 Verizon customers in Keller, Tex., 30 miles west of Dallas, will be the first to subscribe to the television service, called FiOS TV. The service includes more than 180 digital video and music channels, 20 high-definition channels and video-on-demand for $39.95 a month, carried over fiber optic cables that were installed to replace older copper lines.
The service in Keller is part of Verizon's plan to compete head-on with cable companies that in the last 18 months have started selling digital phone lines. To keep customers from defecting, Verizon and SBC Communications are starting to sell digital programming to complement their phone and broadband services.
The companies have taken different routes. Verizon is spending billions of dollars to run fiber lines all the way to customers' homes - lines that also carry phone calls and broadband connections. SBC, by contrast, is running fiber lines to neighborhoods and using existing copper lines to reach homes.
Either way, the phone companies are trying to assemble bundles of phone, high-speed Internet and television services that match what the cable industry offers.
Verizon's new television product will include more local channels not often found on satellite systems, and customers can order additional programming based on a genre, like sports and movies.
"This is just the beginning of TV that rides on a wave of light into people's homes," Steve Banta, president of Verizon's southwest region, said.
The company plans to introduce FiOS TV in six other markets, including several in Florida, Virginia and California, by the end of the year, when its fiber optic network will be available to three million homes.
Verizon has signed deals to obtain programming rights from most major television and movie studios. The company also signed franchise agreements with individual municipalities in Texas before the state government passed a law this summer that would allow Verizon and others to obtain agreements from the Texas Public Utility Commission. Instead of negotiating with towns for an agreement, which can take up to 18 months, Verizon can get approval from the commission instead.
Texas, however, is the only state to pass such a law, which means Verizon must still negotiate deals with individual cities in other states.
Verizon expects to sign up 20 percent of homes that can receive FiOS service in Keller by the end of the year, according to Bob Ingalls, the president of the company's retail group.
* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company