Massapequa Park Residents Back Verizon Cable Franchise Agreement

BY Keiko Morris, Staff Writer

Massapequa Park residents turned out in force last night to give a thumbs up to Verizon Communications' proposed request for a cable service franchise license, expressing the sentiment that competition is good.

"I think competition is excellent," John O'Brien, a former Massapequa Park trustee and a resident for more than 50 years, told trustees at a public hearing. "Living in the town of Oyster Bay with Teddy Roosevelt as a founder of this community, he broke up monopolies when he was president, and this is just a continuation of that."

Village trustees are considering a license for Verizon's new FiOS TV service -- an action that would make Massapequa Park the first municipality in the state to grant the company a base to launch its service. They took no action last night and set a second hearing for Sept. 26.

Cablevision Systems Corp. attorneys said they were at last night's meeting not to oppose competition, but because the proposed agreement had "deficiencies" that could give Verizon an advantage.

Michael Olsen, vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for Cablevision, said the wording in the agreement would eliminate some of the village's authority over right of way. "The question is not whether competition will be good," he said, "but whether it will be fair."

Village Mayor James Altadonna Jr. has received many letters from constituents in support of the Verizon franchise, village administrator Peggy Caltabiano said before the hearing.

"The mayor is looking for his residents to have a choice and he feels that by offering Verizon he will give them a choice," Caltabiano said. "He will increase customer service and introduce competition in the cable market."

She added, "As much as he [the mayor] wants to offer competition, we also have to be very careful that both franchise agreements are negotiated on ... a level playing field."

The Verizon agreement, like Cablevision's, would run for 10 years. Verizon has been pushing for legislation that would allow it to get statewide franchise licenses to offer the FiOS TV cable services; so far, they have only succeeded in Texas. Verizon has received local franchise licenses in 10 communities in California, Texas, Virginia and Florida.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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