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Indestructable

Fios is coming...maybe..

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Here's the article from my local n.p., notice that nowhere does it mention Riverside (where I live), even though all those city's are in Riverside County. arrrrrr

Cable TV gets rival in Inland markets

11:52 PM PDT on Monday, September 19, 2005

By JESSICA ZISKO / The Press-Enterprise

Targeted cities

By the end of this year, these 22 Southern California cities and jurisdictions could be linked into a fiber-optics network.

Adelanto

Apple Valley

Beaumont

Bermuda Dunes

Camarillo

Chino

Chino Hills

Desert Hot Springs

Hermosa Beach

Huntington Beach

Indio

Lake Elsinore

La Quinta

Malibu

Murrieta

Ontario

Palm Springs

Perris

Redondo Beach

Sun City

Temecula

Victorville

Fourteen Inland communities will help decide if a new type of telecommunications service will successfully compete against the near-monopolies that cable television providers have held for decades in most U.S. markets.

Murrieta recently followed Beaumont as the second California city to approve a franchise for Verizon Communications to offer cable television on a fiber-optics network it uses for Internet and telephone service.

Primarily a phone company, Verizon wants to expand into cable by spending up to $40 billion on a network it says will reach 12 million homes by 2008. Fiber optics also will allow it to go head-to-head with established cable providers, which already offer cable, telephone and Internet services on one bill in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Verizon and some industry experts say consumers will benefit from the power of choice. They expect to see lower prices, better programming and quicker response to customer complaints by all providers. Verizon says its fiber optics line -- which uses pulses of light instead of electricity to send information -- will increase Internet speed and improve cable quality.

Too Late, Say Some

Skeptics say Verizon is getting into the market too late and is following phone firms such as Bell Atlantic Corp. that failed to grab parts of the cable market because of high costs and technical problems.

"Telephone companies have largely put their big toe in the water and pulled it away," said Bruce Leichtman, whose New Hampshire-based firm studies the broadband and cable industries. "They might have been better diving in a decade ago."

Time also is on the side of established providers who have spent millions to upgrade systems that transmit through traditional cables, experts say.

"We'll continue to compete," Patti Rockenwagner of Comcast said. "We're not bothered."

Cost Uncertain

Whether consumers will be able to afford fiber is uncertain. Verizon refuses to release the monthly cost of its "triple-play" package until it debuts in Keller, Texas, this fall. They say prices will be in line with those of other companies. Comcast, for example, offers combined basic service for phone, cable and Internet in Lake Elsinore and parts of Murrieta for about $125 a month.

Murrieta and Beaumont will get to decide when Verizon offers cable next year. A dozen other cities, including Temecula, Desert Hot Springs, Lake Elsinore and Perris, could get the service after Verizon's fiber-optic line is extended by the end of this year.

"When people ask us why the rates keep going up, we say it's because they can," Murrieta council member Doug McAllister said. "We don't have any control over it. Now, there will be competition."

The 14 Inland cities were among the first in Verizon's 29-state territory to be targeted because of ongoing growth. Company spokesman Jonathan Davies said it's cheaper to install fiber lines in construction areas where streets and homes are being built.

The opportunity is important to Murrieta's Jeri Shestag, 70, who recently switched from satellite to Adelphia, another cable provider, to get channels from San Diego, her hometown. "I like a choice," Shestag said. "Cable gives me no choice."

Judging the Value

Subscribers in Murrieta and Beaumont also will get to judge the value of fiber optics in the home.

Verizon and others say customers with home businesses will be more self-reliant. They'll be able to set up videoconferences in real time without glitches that sometimes distort video over slower copper lines. Fiber also can handle several complex programs at once with few jams.

Home entertainment will improve, Verizon says, because customers will be able to download movies off the Internet in minutes and watch television shows in better-than-DVD quality. Fiber has the capacity to send live classroom feeds to children who miss school, although Verizon has not said it will provide that service, experts say.

Cable competitors counter that their products are just as good. They already offer high-definition television, digital channels and video-on-demand, features that Verizon says its customers will get through fiber optics. In addition, the companies have launched several new features to combat the threat of satellite service and fiber.

Time Warner Cable, for example, unveiled a service in some markets this summer that displays caller ID on the television if the phone rings. A new feature in Austin, Texas, alerts customers through their televisions if they are outbid on Ebay.

Time Warner serves cities in the Coachella Valley and next year will take over local franchises held by Comcast and Adelphia, company spokesman Keith Cocozza said.

Not All Will Switch

Leichtman, the industry researcher, also sees improvement.

"It's very difficult to have a superior product to cable or satellite at this point," he said. "They are so much better than five years ago, a decade ago, that it's hard to really top them."

It's also hard to get customers to switch to new providers, especially one with little experience in television, Leichtman added.

Also important is whether the competition sets a standard for top-notch service, said Michael Render, president of Render, Vanderslice & Associates, an Oklahoma-based market research firm that studies fiber networks.

Improving Service

Companies will have to stop breaking appointments and ignoring complaints. Some already are cutting installation fees, which can run up to $1,000 for large homes, Render said.

Other phone companies will watch if Verizon's system helps recover some of the millions of customers who were lost to cell phones and cable package deals, experts say.

About 213,000 American homes are connected to the fiber network, an increase of more than 200 percent in three years.

"It's still a small market compared to the whole market, but it's rising rapidly," Render said.

Staff writer Barbara McLean contributed to this report.

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