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Virginia Beach seeks cable concerns

7/7/2014, 1:41 p.m.
Verizon will continue placing boxes, cable wires and other equipment for its FIOS service on public and private property where the city has easements granting access.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all lied about how much idle time we really spend in front of the television at one point or another to seem more intellectual. Currently, Virginia Beach wants to know of its residents’ couch potato tendencies as it is conducting a Cable TV Community Needs Assessment Survey to gather feedback.

The survey includes questions such as: How many televisions do you have? How much time do you spend watching them each day? What type of programs would you like to see more of: cooking shows, religious programming, sports? How do you feel about the price?

The survey, which you can find at vbgov.com/cablefranchise, will be live through the end of July, said Kevin Fairley, the city’s information services administrator. The responses will help guide the city’s negotiations as it renews its cable franchise agreement with Verizon, according to a news release last week.

That 10-year agreement, which expires in 2016, allows Verizon to place boxes, cable wires and other equipment for its Fios service on public property and on private property where the city has easements granting access.

In exchange, Verizon provides three channels for the city’s government, educational and public programming, such as broadcasts of City Council meetings. It also pays a franchise fee of 5 percent of its gross annual revenue on cable services, plus 22 cents per subscriber per month in other fees, according to the agreement.

Some of those costs are passed on to customers.

Cox has a similar agreement, which also expires in 2016. The city collected $7.2 million from both companies combined in the 2013 fiscal year, Fairley said.

Residents of Virginia Beach chimed in on how they feel.

Don McMillan has been a Fios subscriber for four years and says he’s had a mixed experience with them.

“I think Verizon’s service is good, the Internet is fast, the TV picture is clear and the outages few and far between,” said McMillan. “In the past when I have had issues, technicians were quick to resolve them.”

Wanda Knight is also satisfied with her Verizon package and was impressed with the company apparently being military-friendly.

“A friend of mine who’s also a Fios subscriber experienced a problem with her cable box and the wiring,” said Knight. “She told me a technician came to her house and fixed the problem for free after finding out her husband was in the Navy and was away on assignment.”

Not all customers have been elated with the Verizon experience.

“Their service is a bit expensive to me, my bill averages about $170 a month and all I have is the basic cable, Internet and phone package,” said Kyle Payne. “That includes $1.19 for city fees.”

Ronneka Rhodes admits getting annoyed by Verizon pestering her to upgrade her services via emails, mailers, calls to her cell and home phone, and even text messages.

“This persists despite me constantly saying no,” she said.

Though both favorable and disparaging, this is the type of information the city is seeking.