Despite running virtually nonstop TV commercials attacking Verizon's efforts to speed choice and competition in New Jersey's cable TV market, two of the nation's largest cable companies are refusing to run a paid TV commercial from Verizon that asks consumers to support video choice. A third cable company did not respond to Verizon's request.
In separate responses, managers and account executives at Comcast and Time Warner said they are unwilling to accept the paid TV commercial sent by Verizon. Account representatives at Cablevision did not respond to Verizon's e-mails seeking placement.
"These cable companies use their operations to present only one side of the issue because they don't want consumers to know there could be a choice for cable TV in this state," said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. "The cable industry is erecting yet another barrier to efforts to give consumers in New Jersey what they want and deserve: a choice of cable TV providers."
The 30-second spot, titled "CPI," has a simple message. It states that, since 2001, cable prices have increased four times as much as the Consumer Price Index. "While prices in some industries have actually gone down, cable rates have risen 86 percent" since 1995, according to the FCC, as stated in the commercial.
Bone said, "The cable industry knows that consumers are sick and tired of seeing big hikes in their cable TV bills year after year. As we've clearly seen in other states, when Verizon brings FiOS TV to the market, the cable industry slashes rates. Unfortunately for consumers in New Jersey, cable wants to maintain a go-slow approach and delay choice and competition here."
Cable's refusal to run the ad comes as the Legislature is now debating legislation to streamline New Jersey's outdated video franchise process. On Monday, March 13, the state Senate Economic Growth Committee unanimously approved S-192, which would create a systemwide franchise process in New Jersey. Under current rules, Verizon must seek individual franchise agreements in each of the state's towns in which the company is building its network. Verizon serves 526 communities in New Jersey. Since March 2005, Verizon has announced construction of its FTTP (fiber to the premises) network in 123 communities in New Jersey. Under the pending legislation, deployment would be ensured in many more communities within a few years.
As the Verizon commercial states, "Today, most Americans have no choice of cable providers. But in places where Verizon has been allowed to offer its all-digital fiber-optic TV, people are paying less. And that's good news for everybody."
Said Bone, "The cable industry has been running virtually endless commercials in New Jersey attacking Verizon, yet they refuse to allow us to buy time on their channels to give another side of the story. It's outrageous."
While the commercial will not be seen on Comcast and Time Warner cable channels in New Jersey, residents in parts of South Jersey can see the spot on WMGM-TV, a local NBC affiliate just south of Atlantic City. In addition, the commercial can be seen on Verizon's Web site: www.tvchoicenj.com. With cable's refusal to run the commercial, Verizon is now considering running the spot on broadcast TV stations in New York and Philadelphia.
"Consumers are telling us over and over again they want choice and competition in New Jersey's cable market and they want it now," said Bone. "It's time for the cable industry to get out of the way compete on a level playing field."