Verizon to expand its cable reach

Published January 27, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - City officials and Verizon have reached an agreement that would allow the telecommunications giant to offer its fiber optic cable services to city residents.

If the City Council approves the deal in the coming weeks, it would mark the first time New Port Richey residents have had a choice on their cable provider.

Verizon has spent the last year trying to break into a Pasco County market long dominated by Bright House Networks.

The company has already secured franchise agreements with Pasco County, Port Richey and Zephyrhills, said Verizon spokesman Bob Elek.

City Manager Scott Miller said the proposed 15-year agreement includes giving New Port Richey its own public access channel, which could be used to air city meetings and announcements.

"This is just another way of keeping people notified of what's going on with the city," he said.

Verizon provides television services and high-speed Internet through a fiber-optic network, which is powered by laser-generated pulses of light traveling along hair-thin strands of glass fiber.

Even if the city does approve the franchise agreement, city residents may have to wait a year or more before they can get Verizon cable services. That's because the company is still in the process of laying its network cables throughout the county, said Elek.

Wesley Chapel, Land O'Lakes and Seven Springs homes already have access to Verizon's cable services.

Verizon's basic cable package costs $42.99 a month. Service is cheaper if the customer wants to pay more to bundle Internet and phone services.

Cable providers give local governments a certain amount of money based on formulas set up in the franchise agreements.

Under the proposed agreement with New Port Richey, Miller said Verizon would pay the city $2.40 a year per customer for the first three years and $2.04 a year per customer in the remaining years.

Bright House Networks pays the city less per customer - $1.50 a year through 2008 and $1.10 after that - but also gave the city a one-time grant of $20,000, which Verizon did not do, said Miller.

Last year, the Bright House agreement resulted in an $8,152 payout to the city, a drop in the bucket for a government that spends more than $60-million a year. More significant than money for city coffers, said Miller, is the possibility that residents will see lower cable bills because of a second player in the market.

"It provides competition," he said.

Jodie Tillman covers New Port Richey. She can be reached at 727 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.