The Star-Ledger

Tuning In To Competition

The Star-Ledger — Monday, July 31, 2006


Lawmakers sent Gov. Jon Corzine a bill last month that will make it easier for Verizon Communications and other phone companies to offer video programming in competition with cable television operators. A spokesman for the governor said then that Corzine was "going to take the time to review the details" before deciding whether to sign the measure.

He's still reviewing, and his time is running out. The governor has until Thursday to sign the bill, veto it outright, demand changes through a conditional veto, or do nothing, in which case the cable bill automatically becomes law.

So far, his office isn't giving any indication of the governor's thinking on this issue, aside from saying that Corzine believes in competition. That's good, because competition for television service is sorely needed. Few towns have more than one cable provider, and satellite hasn't proven to be the price-reducing factor that consumers had hoped.

Critics have been pushing for Corzine to require changes to the law that would help ensure Verizon and other phone providers wire all the state, not just the richest towns or the most densely populated regions.

The bill now allows an exemption for areas where installing cable is not "technically feasible." There is a fear that the verbiage is vague enough to allow Verizon or other companies a loophole to get out of offering service as broadly as possible.

If Corzine believes it is impossible for all the state's residents to enjoy the benefits of competition without tightening the language, then he should insist upon it, even though that will mean a delay to give the Legislature time to make revisions. Short of that, he should sign this bill and let the race begin to give consumers a choice.

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