Verizon Strikes Deal to Bring Fios Service to the District

Fiber optic cable will supply Internet, telephone and television service.
Fiber optic cable will supply Internet, telephone and television service. (By Damian Dovarganes -- Associated Press)
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By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 8, 2008

The District and Verizon Communications have reached an agreement that would bring the company's Fios service to the city.

Eric E. Richardson, director of the D.C. Office of Cable Television, said the agreement requires approval by the mayor's office and the D.C. Council, a process that could be completed "by the end of this year." Still, it may be some time before consumers get the service.

Verizon's Fios network delivers high-speed Internet access, telephone and television service through fiber optic cable. Verizon could not have delivered television service through such a network without reaching a cable franchise agreement with the city.

District residents have been expressing interest in Fios since the service was introduced to the area two years ago. Richardson said demand has only increased as customers in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs have gotten the option to subscribe. "We get quite a few calls," he said.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), a member of the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, agreed. "The amount of e-mails I get goes up whenever there's a spate of advertising about Fios," she said. She characterized the agreement as "a big step" toward getting Fios in the city.

Recent college graduate Jesse Van Tol, who lives in Petworth, said he was surprised when he moved to the District two years ago and found that Fios was not available. "I'm glad to hear it's coming," he said. "It's about time."

The cable television office plans to deliver the 30- to 50-page document to the District attorney general's office by this afternoon, if not sooner. After a legal review, the agreement will be sent to the mayor's office. Richardson said negotiations with Verizon took nine months.

A spokesman for Verizon, Harry Mitchell, said that his company looks forward to introducing the service soon.

"We are excited about this," he said. "Washington is a great market for us."

Mitchell did not say which neighborhoods would receive Fios service first. Some newer apartment buildings already have the fiber optic cable in place.

"In suburban areas it's relatively easier to install, because you're not working on busy city streets," Mitchell said. Deploying the network across the District could take years.

If the agreement is approved, the District would be one of the first major metropolitan areas to get the service. Verizon and New York City reached a similar Fios agreement last month.

Verizon's entry will provide competition in the District for Comcast, which has been the city's dominant cable provider.

Comcast spokeswoman Jaye P. Linnen wrote in an e-mail yesterday that "competition is not new to Comcast." According to Linnen, Comcast invested more than $290 million in its Washington-area network last year.

"The phone company is simply trying to catch up to where we have been for years," she wrote.

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