Before going on, let me clarify that that when I say Rockville, I'm referring to the City of Rockville. It is only in the city limits that residents have been unable to get FIOS. (Outside Rockville, county residents are of course still at the mercy of Verizon's installation schedule but that's a separate issue.)
I don't avidly watch Rockville politics but I have attended council meetings on occasion so I'm familiar with how interesting (to put it politely) their behavior can be. A candidate debate seemed to promise an evening even more entertaining than professional wrestling - with an equal amount of simulated grappling.
Although it was called a debate, it was nothing close. Organized by the Rockville Chamber of Commerce and intended to focus on business interests, 14 candidates stood on stage, each starting with a two-minute position spiel. Questions were then doled out to each candidate round-robin. They had 90 seconds to answer their respective questions. This was repeated again with an additional round of questions. So although questions were solicited from the audience (and I submitted one about Verizon), there was no debate and no opportunity for followup or rebuttal.
My question: Please address why the city has been unable to come to terms with Verizon for FIOS internet and TV service and how your approach would differ.
Although only two candidates got the question on-air, I did also speak to several other candidates afterward and put the question to them as well. All in all, I was disappointed by the responses - only one candidate expressed any grasp of the details of the issue - and even his grasp was tenuous, seemingly accepting of a large portion of the current position held by Larry Giammo, Mayor of Rockville. The best that could be said was that the candidates understood that it was a valid issue.
What I'd like to do at this point is contact all the candidates, give them time to look into the issue and provide their position. We'll then be able to compare them.
For candidates who would like a little background, it will be helpful to read what I wrote earlier about the fee situation.
Besides fees, the other big issue appears to be the provisioning schedule. I have never addressed the schedule before but I understand that the Mayor is still insisting on 100% coverage in 3 years. To be blunt, Rockville is simply wrong to demand this. By comparison, the MC franchise provides staged service areas which factor in density and other issues. That seems much more reasonable.
If Verizon was being granted monopoly status, I would make a different argument but since Verizon is entering the field as a competitor and since Rockville has done little but postured for coming on two years now, Rockville has little basis for its schedule demands. Frankly, if Verizon stuck Rockville at the end of their current schedule, it would be justified. But it's worth looking at Verizon's county-wide schedule that was created during the county-wide negotiation. Notice that Rockville falls in what's termed the Middle Service Area.
According to the MC franchise, the middle service area is provisioned as follows:
3.1.2. Middle Service Area: In the Middle Service Area, the Franchisee shall offer Cable Service to significant numbers of Subscribers in residential areas within three (3) years of the Effective Date of this Franchise, to at least fifty percent (50%) of the residential areas within the Middle Service Area within four (4) years of the Effective Date of this Franchise, and to all residences within the Middle Service Area at which such service is requested within five (5) years ofthe Effective Date of this Franchise, except as specified in Section 3.2. If Franchisee is unable to reach agreement with the City of Rockville to obtain construction permits for the FTTP network under reasonable terms and conditions, as determined by Franchisee, by December 31, 2007, these timeframes shall not apply to Franchisee's provision of Cable Service to residences served by Franchisee's Rockville and Montrose wire centers. Instead, Franchisee shall offer Cable Service to all residences served by the Rockville and Montrose wire centers at which such service is requested within four (4) years of obtaining construction permits for the FTTP network from the City of Rockville, except as specified in Section 3.2.The referenced section 3.2 deals with density requirements and related issues as I mentioned earlier.
Go ahead and attach a comment to the blog (or email me) if I've overlooked any related issues that the candidates should also address. At the end of the week, I'll contact each candidate for a response.