Verizon sues county over TV franchise

In a case the company will surely hold up as proof of the need for new Telecom Bill, Verizon sues a Maryland county saying its demands amount to antitrust and free speech abuses.

This is rich. Verizon has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Montgomery County, Md., for delaying its expansion plans, Reuters reports.

The No. 2 phone company claims the county is violating antitrust and communications laws, as well as the company's free speech rights under the First Amendment.

In a press release, Verizon lawyer John Frantz asserted "the county's unlawful demands leave us no other choice" than to sue.

Verizon complains that the county is illegally asserting a right to reguate Verizon's phone, Internet and future video businesses; demanding that Verizon set aside 65 channels for public access programming; that Verizon cover the county's legal and consulting fees to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars; and demanding extra money for the license.

"We're frustrated at the lack of progress in these negotiations, because the inordinate delay benefits only the monopoly cable incumbent," said Frantz. "Meanwhile, Montgomery County residents continue to suffer, held hostage to Comcast's ever-rising cable rates."

Verizon certainly will hold this up as proof of the need for the Telecom Bill that just passed the Senate Commerce Committee, without net neutrality provisions. The bill allows companies to negotiate franchises with states rather than multiple municipalities. But the bill may not see the light of day this year, as net neutrality advocates placed a hold on the bill, which can only be overturned by 60 votes, reports RedHerring.com.

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