By Keith Reed, Globe Staff | October 30, 2005
Comcast Corp. wants to make sure Verizon Communications Inc. hears its
message: The cable giant is not about to cede its prized turf to the
phone company quietly.
Comcast earlier this month sent letters to about 20 municipalities in
Massachusetts warning them it expects Verizon to be held to the same
terms spelled out in its contract with those communities. Verizon is
getting into the lucrative cable business and could pose to a big
threat to Comcast if its service gains a foothold.
In one letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, Comcast
reminded Winchester's board of selectmen of a clause in its cable
license that guarantees a 'level playing field' with a newer
competitor; that is, Verizon or any other competitors' licenses should
be similar, if not identical, to Comcast's, or Comcast would be put at
Already one Massachusetts community has inked different terms with
Verizon. Early this month, Woburn granted Verizon a cable license but
gave the phone company an escape clause that the city does not have in
its contract with Comcast. The cable company worries that the Woburn
deal will set a precedent that will allow communities to negotiate all
manner of special deals with Verizon.
Comcast spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said the letter to the other
Massachusetts communities reinforces 'our expectation that any new
provider seeking a video license should operate under the same set of
rules as Comcast.'
Comcast acknowledged that it cannot stop Verizon from becoming a
competitor. Moreover, communities generally cannot refuse to license
any new cable competitor unless they have some compelling reason.
But Woburn gave Verizon a clause allowing the phone company to pull
out after three years if it decides it doesn't have enough video
customers. Comcast has complained that the clause is unfair because
its licenses don't include the same escape provision.
Mayor John Curran acknowledged Woburn's other licensed cable firms --
Comcast and RCN -- don't have such a clause, but said it isn't a big