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Phone Companies Eye Cable TV's Local Territory

The nation's cable companies have heard for many months now from telephone companies how they're going to offer their own television programming one day. Now, with a critical mass of optical fiber installed by the phone giants, phone companies are beginning to make their first competitive inroads into local communities with hopes of eventually signing them up for TV service.

The rollout of Verizon Communications in the Boston area is illustrative. "We will be approaching local officials very soon to begin the franchise process," Verizon spokesman Jack Hoey told the Boston Globe this week.

Verizon, the country's largest telephone company, is using its fiber rollout to directly confront Comcast, the country's largest cable company, in the region.

Like Verizon, SBC Communications and BellSouth are also rolling out fiber. The fourth former Baby Bell, Qwest Communications International, however, has eschewed the technology so far, saying fiber to homes doesn't make economic sense.

Public officials in Boston-area communities seem to like the idea of competition--and also that their communities might get a small cut of the proceeds. The mayor of suburban Lynn, Edward J. Clancy Jr., said he was "pleased and excited" that Verizon is installing fiber throughout the city.

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