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Verizon Begins Roll Out

After months of laying fiber-optic wires, Verizon rolls out FiOS TV, its new technology.

Blocking off roadways to crawl into manholes or rise above telephone wires, Verizon utility workers have been busy in Herndon over the last few months.

Moving quickly to intertwine the company's new fiber-optic network with existing copper telephone wires, the work has paid off.

Almost four months after a July 19 Town Council approval of a 15-year cable franchise agreement with Verizon, the company announced the roll-out of its latest product, FiOS (Fiber Optic Services) TV, last week.

"This is an event and an offering that's a milestone in Verizon's existence," said Harry Mitchell, spokesman Mid-Atlantic bureau, Verizon Communications.

Along with being a milestone for Verizon, the roll out also offers an advantage to Herndon customers; positioning Verizon as a competitor to the existing Cox Communications cable franchise agreement with the town.

With two cable franchises in town to choose from, residents can be certain prices will remain competitive and not escalate over the next 15 years.

"First and foremost, this [roll-out] gives residents long-awaited competition and choice for their video programming," said Mitchell. "Customers haven't had that option. Now they will."

THE SECOND COMMUNITY to receive FiOS TV, Herndon residents will have the opportunity to switch over to Verizon in the next few months.

The service, which according to Verizon offers an "outstanding, superior alternative to video entertainment," first debuted in Texas this September.

Since then, Verizon has fixed kinks in the new programming, and felt it was time to bring the new cable technology to Herndon after laying the wire, said Mitchell.

Initially only dealing with telephone service, Verizon has stepped into the broadband and cable realm with its new product. Starting with increasing Internet connections through the FiOS — a term derived from fiber-optic services — technology, the company has now begun its reach into the cable television industry.

To create the new technology, Verizon took the speed and capacity of fiber-based broadband and combined it with the power of broadcast television. The end product is touted by Verizon to be a competitor to cable and satellite providers.

The increased connection speed is achieved through Verizon's new fiber-to-the-premises, or FTTP, network. By laying the fiber-optics over the last four months, the company has set up its system to deliver sharp pictures and sound and has increased its capacity to transmit high-definition programming. Because the programming is a combination of broadcast and Internet protocol technology, it offers on-demand channels at a quicker speed, and provides a faster way to search for listings, according to the official Verizon Web site.

"This is a superior product because of the fiber-optic network," said Mitchell. "It makes available a tremendous amount of capacity to customers."

And, the increased capacity means reliability, according to Mitchell. Reliability in basic phone service, an increase in Internet connection speed and large number of channels for the television, he said.

The network currently offers 330 channels varying from national programming to smaller cable networks and caters to various demographics. Customers can request specific programming, including many Hispanic network channels for Herndon's Spanish-speaking population, said Mitchell.

"WE'RE DELIGHTED to have Verizon and their programming in town," said Mayor Michael O'Reilly. "We hope it will be a success and keep the cost down for town residents and provide better services for citizens."

When council initially reviewed the franchise agreement, it was questionable if it would be approved.

Council members Steven Mitchell and Dennis Husch were the most vocal about their disappointment, saying Verizon could have done more with the agreement.

The dissatisfaction came from existing Verizon overhead wires in town, and the laying of the fiber-optics.

Under a town ordinance, any new facility, like a cable or telephone service, must be run underground. This ordinance was created to reduce the amount of wires hanging from poles throughout town.

Because Verizon had an existing telephone franchise with the town, telephone poles holding Verizon wires were already in place. To lay the fiber-optics for the FTTP service, Verizon intertwined those wires with the existing copper telephone wires, to provide cable service to residents. This resulted in the overhead wires remaining, even though a new franchise service was awarded.

Before voting on the agreement council also addressed concerns raised by Cox Communications that the proposed franchise agreement was not equal to its own existing agreement with the town.

For council to consider approving Verizon's contract, it had to ensure the proposed services did not surpass the existing Cox services. After sending the agreements to a contracted attorney, the contracts were deemed equal.

And although Cox and Verizon representatives agree that competition in the cable market is good and ultimately benefits the consumer, Cox representatives are currently working with Richard Kaufman, town attorney, to update their franchise agreement, said O'Reilly.

"We hope by January to afford Cox the relief they have requested," he said. "We are hopeful that an amicable resolution will be reached."

In the meantime, Verizon will continue the roll-out of its FiOS TV over the next few weeks until every house that has requested it receives the service, said Mitchell. From there the company plans to expand into other communities in Verizon's service area.

"This is a transformational event," he said. "We have gone from being a phone company, into the telecommunications industry."