Copyright 2005 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)
May 6, 2005 Friday
The battle between Verizon Communications and Cablevision heated up yesterday over the telephone company’s Internet and cable TV plans.
Verizon announced it is rolling out its higher-speed fiber-optic lines to 10 more Long Island communities, including the first five in Suffolk County, for a total of 39, and it accused Cablevision of trying to block its plans to launch cable TV service.
Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp., meanwhile, said Verizon’s rollout is having very little effect on the fight for market share of high-speed Internet customers.
“The impact that they’ve had in their marketing where they have activated has been almost completely insignificant, and it makes you wonder why that kind of capital is being spent,” Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge said during a conference call with analysts.
Verizon, which is based in Manhattan, is rolling out the fiber-optic lines to homes in parts of 14 states, including New York. The lines will allow much faster Internet access as well as cable TV service, which Verizon expects to start offering in the second half of this year in some of the communities where it obtains franchise licenses to compete with cable TV companies.
Verizon spokesman Mark Marchand said Cablevision, which itself has signed up 400,000 customers for its digital phone service, has been asking the state Public Service Commission to stop Verizon from building a fiber-optic network that will allow it to offer cable TV service.
“Cablevision has a scorched-earth policy to get us to stop,” Marchand said. “They are indeed afraid of competition.”
Rutledge said that in Syosset, although Verizon has launched two direct-mail campaigns and taken out two newspaper ads, it has attracted only 48 customers for its extra-fast Internet service, called FiOS. Verizon charges phone customers $44.95 for download speeds up to 15 megabits per second, the same price Cablevision charges cable TV customers for speeds up to 10 mbps.
He said Cablevision has Optimum Online customers in 56 percent of the 9,272 homes in Syosset and cable TV customers in 78 percent.
Marchand, who declined to provide Verizon’s own numbers, said it is too early to judge how well its new service is doing in Syosset, since it started marketing there only in February.
Verizon has obtained cable TV franchises in four communities in Texas and one in California, he said. One of them is expected to be the first in which Verizon launches cable TV.
The newest Long Island communities where Verizon is rolling out fiber-optic lines are Huntington, Huntington Bay, Poquott, Lake Grove and Smithtown, all of which are in Suffolk County, plus Baxter Estates, Bayville, Centre Island, Cove Neck and Lynbrook in Nassau County.
Verizon reportedly plans to offer a package of more than 100 cable TV channels for about $40 per month and a package of more than 150 channels including premium channels from Starz and Showtime for $50 to $55 per month.