tampabay.com

Verizon stretches its cable reach

The company moves into central Pasco, widening its battle with Bright House Networks to dominate the bay area's market.

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published August 3, 2006


Verizon pushed into central Pasco County this week, making its fiber-optic television services available to nearly 16,000 households in Land O'Lakes and Lutz.

The move sharpens competition in the Pasco cable market, which officially began when Verizon won a license in May to go head to head with Bright House Networks.

Verizon's FiOS TV service, already available to 19,000 households in Wesley Chapel, has a basic package that runs $39.95 a month for 180 channels. The price for the TV service goes down to $34.95, if the buyer wants to pay more to bundle in Internet and phone services.

Bright House's basic digital cable package costs $58 for 200 channels.

Based on its success in fiber-optic Internet, Verizon has high hopes for its FiOS TV services in the area.

Compared to Verizon's other service centers in Florida, its Wesley Chapel center has the highest penetration rate for fiber-optic Internet, said Robert Elek, Verizon's spokesman.

"People up here really like cable," he said.

The fiber-optic push into Pasco reflects a larger battle across the Tampa Bay region.

A study by comScore Networks in June showed Bright House dominating 53 percent of the high-speed Internet market in the first quarter of 2005 to Verizon's 33 percent.

By the first quarter of 2006, Verizon accounted for 50 percent of the market, compared to Bright House's 37 percent.

In Pasco, Verizon has yet to conquer the coast and Zephyrhills.

"We're only two years into a 10-, 15-year project," Elek said. "The expectation is to expand through next year."

The company hopes to lay its fiber-optic network cables next year from Hudson to Aripeka, and in the Zephyrhills area. Services can be offered 120 days after the cables are laid, Elek said.

Bright House spokesman, Joe Durkin, did not reply to a call for comment Wednesday.

Information on Verizon's packages and prices are available at www.verizon.net/fiostv or 1-800-880-2941.

Information from technology editor Dave Gussow was included in this article.