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Verizon cable TV plan inches toward approval

Verizon Northwest Inc. is inching forward in its quest to go head-to-head with Comcast for cable television customers in the Tualatin Valley.

In the past few weeks representatives of the Metropolitan Area Communications Commission have visited most of the 11 jurisdictions Verizon hopes to serve, seeking approval of the telecommunications company's franchise agreement.

The fate of Verizon's new venture hinges on the unanimous support of Washington County, Beaverton, Cornelius, Durham, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, King City, Lake Oswego, Rivergrove, Tigard and Tualatin.

So far, the franchise proposal has been given the green light by Cornelius, Hillsboro, Rivergrove and Tualatin.

Beaverton's City Council considered the proposal Monday and could adopt an ordinance in April giving Verizon a franchise.

The proposed franchise is also waiting for approval from officials in King City, Durham and Forest Grove.

In the meantime, Washington County commissioners reviewed the franchise Tuesday afternoon and continued a hearing on the issue until April 17, with a work session planned April 10.

Both Tigard and Lake Oswego will also consider the proposed franchise in April.

'We feel pretty confident that people in our area are going to have a second cable provider, hopefully within the next year,' said Fred Christ, MACC policy and regulatory affairs manager. 'None of the elected officials have voted negatively yet.

'That tells me that folks see the benefits of approving the competitive franchise.'

If all 11 jurisdictions approve Verizon's cable franchise, it would mark the first time two major telecommunications companies would compete for customers in Oregon, Christ said.

Comcast Cable representatives have also been busy in the past several weeks making the rounds to visit jurisdictions and chime in on the issue.

Curt Henninger, a senior vice president with Comcast, told Beaverton officials Monday that his firm was being 'held to a higher standard' than Verizon would be under the proposed franchise.

'We disagree that the franchises are reasonably comparable,' Henninger said.

Although Comcast did not oppose the move to introduce competition into the market, Henninger said his firm planned to renegotiate terms of its agreement with MACC in order to level the playing field if Verizon's plan gains the unanimous support needed to move forward.

'Comcast has made it clear that they are interested in getting an oar in the water, and we hear them,' Christ said. 'I'm sure we will be talking with them as we do on a regular basis.'