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Verizon may lobby states on TV service rules

NEW YORK -- Verizon Communications Inc.'s lead lobbyist said the company is likely to abandon efforts to pursue federal rules to ease the sale of television service if pending legislation fails this year.

The second-largest US telephone company will instead focus on obtaining statewide agreements in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, lobbyist Tom Tauke said. Legislation that would help phone companies including Verizon and AT&T Inc. is pending in Congress.

``It is unclear whether there will be an opportunity" this year, said Tauke, a former Iowa congressman. ``I do not expect we will mount an effort for federal legislation in 2007."

Verizon is spending $22.9 billion to build a fiber-optic Internet and television network and is succeeding in getting approval to sell TV service at state and local levels. Should the federal bills die without a Senate vote this year, Verizon will put its resources into more statewide campaigns in its largest markets, Tauke said.

Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania are the largest Verizon markets without statewide franchises in place to help it sell TV service without having to get permission and negotiate deals with each municipality, Tauke said. The company has secured agreements in Texas, New Jersey, California, Virginia and Indiana.

Phone companies are fighting for the right to sell TV service and spending billions to build new networks in an effort to compete with cable-TV providers such as Comcast Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp., which have begun selling phone service in packages with Internet and TV.

The US House approved national video-franchise rules June 8. The Senate version is waiting for action.

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