Wanted: FiOS TV in Brookhaven


By GRANT PARPAN |EDITOR

It was like a scene out of an old Western. A wanted poster hung in the hot July sun. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko approached the microphone like a sheriff about to engage in a gunfight, other Town Board members at his side like a pack of deputies.

"When I was a federal prosecutor, we would put out our 10 most wanted lists," Mr. Lesko said. "Well, today in Brookhaven we're making our own list and [on that list] is FiOS TV."

OK, so maybe a municipality taking on a cable provider isn't as dramatic as a showdown at the OK Corral, but the Brookhaven Town Board wanted to make sure everyone knew it meant business when it displayed a wanted poster at a Tuesday press conference held to clear the air about its current feud with Verizon, which does not provide FiOS TV service to all town residents.

The entire Brookhaven Town Board attended Tuesday's briefing following constituent complaints that Verizon employees are telling town residents that they can't receive FiOS TV service because the town hasn't come to the table to reach a franchise agreement.

"That's simply not true," said Brookhaven Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who represents northwestern Brookhaven and is the Town Board liaison to cable television. "For multiple years now, I've been trying to get them to sit down with us to talk about a franchise agreement."

Mr. Fiore-Rosenfeld said he believes a major reason FiOS TV is not available to all Brookhaven residents is that Verizon cannot guarantee that all the necessary infrastructure would be in place within five years -- a standard set by the NYS Public Service Commission -- in a town as large as Brookhaven.

"They've said they're overwhelmed, maybe not using that word exactly, but they're more or less overwhelmed with the build-out of Nassau County and Western Suffolk," Mr. Fiore-Rosenfeld.

Making matters worse for residents, the councilman says, is that Verizon already has negotiated with several Brookhaven villages to hammer out franchise agreements in those smaller communities. He said Old Field residents already have FiOS TV service, and the Port Jefferson and Poquott village boards are in talks with Verizon. So while Old Field residents have a choice between Cablevision and Verizon, residents nearby do not.

"That's ridiculous," Mr. Fiore-Rosenfeld said.

He said resident dissatisfaction is compounded further when Verizon FiOS commercials appear regularly on Cablevision.

A phone call seeking comment from Verizon's media relations department was not returned before press time.

The Town of Brookhaven currently is in negotiations with Cablevision to renew a 10-year franchise agreement that expired last year. Holding up those negotiations is a dispute over Cablevision's recent change of services, said town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. All town residents are supposed to receive the local government channel free, but the town claims they don't when they're forced to pay extra for additional cable boxes, Mr. Molloy said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fiore-Rosenfeld said he believes the holdup with Cablevision also has been a factor in keeping Verizon from coming to the table. "Nobody wants to be the first to negotiate," he said.

But Mr. Lesko said he wants desperately to meet with Verizon in order to provide town residents with competitive options for television service as soon as possible.

"And we're going to keep this wanted poster here until we're contacted," he said.

gparpan@northshoresun.com