Glen Cove holds hearing on Verizon franchise proposal

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The Glen Cove City Council has taken the first legal step toward adding a Verizon FIOS franchise to the existing Cablevision franchise to provide an additional service choice for residents.

The council held a hearing on the agreement Tuesday and will continue to take public comments on Nov. 26 before voting.

If the council approves the franchise proposal, it then will go to the state Public Service Commission for final approval.

Verizon attorney Paul Trane told the council that his company has already wired about 85 percent of the city with fiber-optic cable. He added that if the Public Service Commission approves the franchise agreement, Verizon would start service immediately in areas already wired, possibly by January. He had no details on when the rest of the city would get service.

Trane said Verizon will offer the same deal to the city as Cablevision -- a 5 percent franchise fee on its customers.

Cablevision attorney Peter Bee said the company welcomes the competition but suggested changes in the agreement so that both companies will be working from the "same level playing field."

Bee said Cablevision's franchise agreement -- approved in 1978 and renewed in 2010 for 15 years -- calls for it to provide free cable television service to City Hall, the fire department and schools, while the Verizon agreement does not mention that. Bee said the free service is worth more than $300,000 a year and if Verizon doesn't have to do the same thing, it gives the competitor an unfair advantage.

"Put the agreements side-by-side and look at them," he advised the council after providing a four-page letter outlining provisions in the Cablevision agreement not included in the Verizon deal.

Trane said the Public Service Commission would also compare the agreements to make sure neither company was getting an advantage. He said a new franchise agreement does not have to be exactly the same as the one in place for Cablevision but has to be fundamentally equal and the Verizon agreement meets that standard. He added the commission has approved more than 180 Verizon franchises around the state already.

There was little public comment at the hearing. Resident David Nieri said "this is a win situation with competition for people in Glen Cove" that could lead to better service or rates even if no one switches from Cablevision to Verizon.

Cablevision owns Newsday.

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