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Verizon asks FCC to help consumers move from cable

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc has asked the Federal Communications Commission to make it easier for consumers to switch from cable television to the video services offered by telephone companies, as rivalry grows between the cable and telecommunications industries.

Traffic passes Verizon Communications Inc. headquarters in New York, February 14, 2005. REUTERS/Peter Morgan

Both Verizon and phone industry leader AT&T Inc offer high-speed Internet and video services that compete with cable, while cable providers sell phone services.

Verizon’s move on Wednesday also comes as the two largest U.S. cable operators, Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc, eye a wireless venture with Sprint Nextel Corp and Clearwire Corp, according to sources.

Verizon said consumers should be able to switch from cable as easily as they can change phone companies. Phone companies accept cancellations from rival providers, but many cable companies require consumers to submit disconnection orders themselves.

“The process to switch video providers is more cumbersome for consumers,” Verizon said in a petition to the FCC.

“This significantly complicates the process of switching video providers, thereby entrenching the cable incumbents’ dominant market position.”

Verizon is spending billions of dollars on an all-fiber network to deliver FiOS, a high-speed Internet and high- definition video service.

But the expansion of FiOS has been limited by the slow pace of regulatory approval as well as construction and installation.

Verizon also offers satellite video services through a partnership with DirecTV to consumers without access to FiOS.

AT&T, which also sells video and Internet along with its phone service, did not join Verizon’s petition, but said it looked forward to the FCC’s review.

“We certainly support the FCC in ensuring consumer choices and robust competition. We look forward to participating in the FCC review,” said AT&T spokesman Steven Schwadron.

The cable industry called Verizon’s complaint a “fairy tale,” saying Verizon had for years prevented consumers from switching to a new phone provider.

“The good news is that despite Verizon’s ongoing attempts to block phone competition, more than 15 million consumers have switched to cable’s phone service and already have saved a total of $23 billion,” the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in a statement.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; editing by Brian Moss/Andre Grenon