March 8, 2006 1:19 PM PST

Verizon to offer Fios to apartments

Verizon Communications said Wednesday that it will soon serve people living in apartments, condominiums and cooperatives with its fiber-to-the-home network, Fios.

Verizon has already deployed fiber-optic lines near more than 3 million homes in 18 states and roughly 800 communities. It plans to add another 3 million homes to its fiber network by the end of 2006. It has already begun offering TV service over this network to people in 24 communities in several states, including Texas, New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida and Virginia.

But until now, Verizon has sold service only to people living in single-family homes. That will soon change, according to Verizon executives. The company has already negotiated agreements for more than 57,000 apartment units. And it expects to triple that figure for 2006.

"Verizon has made a clear commitment to serving multi-dwelling buildings," said Eric Cevis, vice president of Verizon's Enhanced Communities group. "We are intensifying our effort, begun last year, to get Fios services into the MDUs (mutli-dwelling units), and we expect this year to dwarf last year's MDU sales penetration."

Verizon will initially concentrate sales efforts in places where it has already begun building Fios. It will also look for opportunities in some densely populated cities, such as New York City, where it has not yet deployed fiber. In some instances Verizon will negotiate exclusive arrangements with building owners, so offerings from cable operators won't be available. This has long been a common practice of cable operators, which have negotiated deals to exclude competitors from some buildings.

Verizon announced on Wednesday the first contract with the Huntington Landmark, a 1,238-unit senior-citizens complex in Huntington Beach, Calif.

In the past, cable companies, such as Cablevision in New York, have suggested that Verizon wants to serve only high-income residents. Some have implied that the fact that Verizon had not been offering service to apartment buildings was evidence that intended to exclude lower-income customers.

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