Written by Jill Nossa Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00
franchise agreement in a 5-2 vote after a nearly two-hour public hearing held at City Hall—the third public hearing held on the subject since last fall. Representatives from both Verizon and Cablevision presented their cases, allowing council members and the mayor to ask questions before the meeting was opened up to the public for comment.
“As a municipality, we have to give the people choices,” said Mayor Reginald Spinello before casting his “aye” vote. “I’d like to thank every council person...they all put in a lot of time and work on this.”
This was the third public hearing held regarding the franchise agreement over the past few months; the resolution had been tabled previously due to Cablevision’s contention that the agreement did not put the two companies on a “level playing field.” Attorneys representing the company once again warned council members that entering into this new agreement with Verizon violates the current contract the city has with Cablevision.
Jeffrey Forchelli, an attorney representing Cablevision, read from the contract, a 15-year agreement signed by former Mayor Ralph Suozzi in 2009, stating that if the city enters into an agreement with a competitor, “it shall not grant more favorable terms” to the company, and if it does, Cablevision “may ask the city to level down their agreement.”
Cablevision has been providing free service to the city’s public buildings including City Hall, the schools, police department and fire department. The new agreement with Verizon does not require the same level of service for FiOS.
“It is fundamentally unfair to Cablevision,” said Cablevision Vice President Adam Falk. “It’s not about keeping the competition out...it’s about having a fair and level playing field.”
Cablevision committed to a $100,000 grant, whereas the initial Verizon FiOS contract was for $21,000. However, during the meeting, Mayor Spinello got Verizon to commit to an additional $21,000.
Cablevision Systems Corporation issued the following statement: “Cablevision competes effectively in Glen Cove and every other city and town where we operate, and while we welcome competition, we note that this agreement shortchanges Glen Cove residents by excluding them from the benefits that Verizon provides to every other franchised community on Long Island. As such, we will continue to compete vigorously and also take the necessary steps to ensure that competition is on a level playing field.”
Representatives from Verizon contended that the agreement does meet the definition of a fair and level playing field and that “any disputes would be brought to the Public Service Commission.”
Councilmen Tim Tenke and Michael Famiglietti were not comfortable with breaking the city’s contract.
“I wasn’t crazy about proposing this agreement...my hope was that (Verizon) would present a more equitable agreement, and that didn’t happen until tonight,” Tenke said. “You’re asking us to break an agreement...I can’t imagine what kind of message that sends to other businesses we have contracts with...I’m obligated as an attorney to vote no.”
“I don’t believe this is on a level playing field and I am also not comfortable breaking the contract,” said Famiglietti.
“The vote is about choice and availability,” said Councilman Tony Gallo. “The choice for the people trumps all other issues.”
“I believe Verizon put us in a position we shouldn’t have been in,” said Spinello, noting that reaching the agreement was a “tough battle.” He also said, “Cablevision has been a good friend to the city.”
Most of the residents present at the meeting were also in favor of allowing Verizon to offer service to residents. The term of the contract is for 12 years, and will allow about 80 to 85 percent of residents to have FiOS; some areas of town still do not have the infrastructure in place, and at this time, it is unclear when and if they will.