Looks like Verizon FiOS service will hit Chester before Philadelphia
by Mike Armstrong, Posted: December 17, 2008
Chester City Council today approved a franchise agreement with Verizon Communications a day after the District of Columbia council also acted to encourage the phone company to brings its FiOS TV and Internet service.
Under the new agreement, Verizon plans to begin offering FiOS service to more than 3,600 households in parts of Chester later this month. Service would be available to all households in the city within six years.
There's a danger in making too much of this, but Philadelphia could have been making a similar announcement by now.
Instead, Philadelphia City Council slowed down the review of the franchise agreement, which calls for FiOS to be fully available in seven years. No action is expected until January.
Sure, Chester is much smaller than Philadelphia - six square miles vs. 135 for its neighbor up Interstate 95. So there's less turf to argue over.
But the District of Columbia is an urban area with an estimated 580,000 residents in less than half of the real estate of Philadelphia. Its leaders found a way to hammer out a 15-year franchise deal that calls for FiOS to be rolled out over a nine-year period.
In the past, Verizon has been criticized for not rolling out FiOS in lower-income towns in the Philadelphia suburbs. Chester City certainly qualifies as a distressed community, so Verizon appears to be taking steps toward avoiding the appearance of "cherry picking."
Franchise agreements are not one-size fits all. Municipalities have different priorities. But companies do have finite capital resources available in a given year.
Sure, Verizon is chomping at the bit to compete with Comcast in the town that's home to its corporate headquarters. But let's recognize that Philadelphia is also in competition with other metro regions to get FiOS service. That $700 million that Verizon says it would spend wiring up Philadelphia could go elsewhere.
Yes, Verizon should not get preferential treatment in any franchise agreement with the city, unless City Council extracts some amazing concession like funding all libraries for 20 years.
But add too many hurdles and restrictions and the city risks losing out on some new competition for cable TV and Internet service.