Verizon cuts back on its TV expansion to focus on building out services in towns it already serves

Jon Chesto

Verizon’s top Massachusetts executive said the company will curtail the expansion of its FiOS TV service into new communities in the state in 2010 to focus on building out its network in the towns where it already has licensing agreements.

Donna Cupelo, president of Verizon’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island operations, said the company is trying to ensure it reaches every neighborhood in each city and town where it has a cable TV license within a five-year period.

Verizon entered the Massachusetts cable TV market with a license for Woburn in late 2005, and now has TV licenses in 106 cities and towns.

“I don’t think you’re going to see, in 2010, any major announcements for new communities,” Cupelo said. “The focus will truly be on fulfilling the commitments we’ve made for the 106 communities.”

Verizon officials said state law mandates that all neighborhoods be reached within five years of gaining a cable TV franchise in a particular town. Some local officials negotiate for shorter rollout periods.

Cupelo said the company will still consider adding some towns to its TV market next year, but there won’t be the same level of expansion that has existed in the past few years.

Phil Santoro, a spokesman for the New York-based company’s Massachusetts operations, said Verizon’s FiOS wires now pass more than 1 million households among the 106 communities. Generally, Verizon’s wires currently pass between 70 and 85 percent of the homes in each town with a FiOS license, he said.

Santoro said the company is still negotiating with local officials in a handful of other towns in the state for cable TV franchises.

Verizon’s rollout has so far avoided some of the region’s biggest cities, such as Boston, Quincy and Brockton. Santoro said the company is still willing to consider expanding into those cities at some point, and the company has already wired a number of large communities such as Lawrence and Lynn.

Rand Wilson, a spokesman for local Verizon union workers, said some union members reported a severe slowdown in FiOS expansion in the late summer, just before Verizon cut about 200 jobs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Everything came to a screeching halt ... right before the layoffs,” Wilson said. “It seems like a successful product (so) I don’t know why they’re holding back. ... They’re missing an opportunity that could create good jobs in Massachusetts.”

Jon Chesto may be reached