Cable vs. Telecom Advertising War Gets Ugly in New Jersey

Verizon Blasts Comcast and Time Warner as 'Un-American'

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- In an nasty battle over advertising worthy of warring political candidates, Verizon Communications is blasting cable companies as "un-American" for refusing to air its ads that criticize soaring cable prices.

Verizon is locked in a vicious marketing battle with cable companies for digital phone, TV and Internet services in New Jersey.

Attack ads
Comcast and Time Warner have been running ads "virtually nonstop" attacking Verizon's effort to offer New Jersey consumers a competing slate of TV entertainment, Verizon said in a statement. Yet, the two cable companies refused to run Verizon's TV spot urging the state Legislature to approve more competition for the cable operators. Verizon said a third cable company, Cablevision, did not respond to its advertising request.

Verizon's commercial states that cable rates have risen 86% because consumers have no choice of cable providers, and in areas where Verizon's digital fiber-optic service is offered, "people are paying less and that's good news for everybody."

"This about cable stifling debate in New Jersey," said Verizon spokesman Rick Young, "and frankly, it's un-American."

Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey, said cable operators don't want consumers to know they can pick another cable provider. "The cable industry is erecting yet another barrier to efforts to give consumers in New Jersey what they want and deserve: a choice of cable-TV providers," he said.

'Purposely misleading'
In a statement, Comcast said the cable company "will not run advertising that contains unsubstantiated, false and misleading claims." It cited a National Cable TV Association study that found Verizon's claims against the cable industry are "demonstrably false and misleading and are part of a larger lobbying effort intended to secure preferential treatment for them at the expense of consumers."

Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said the spot in question is "purposely misleading." He added: "A $90 billion phone monopoly complaining about high rates and not being able to get its message out is laughable. Is there anyone in New Jersey who hasn't seen hundreds of Verizon ads?"

The spat is emblematic of the looming fight between cable companies and telecom providers as both seek to be the one provider of services to a household with a bundle of services that includes local, long distance, Internet and TV. It comes at a time when cable companies, telecom giants and even Internet firms such as Google are invading each other's turf.

Reform legislation
Telecommunications lobbyists have been urging states to allow them access to cable customers as they install fiber-optic and other new technologies into the home. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine this month signed a bill making it easier for telecom companies to offer video service in the state. Indiana also has approved a telecom and video reform package.

Verizon's fiber-optic network will provide New Jersey communities with bundles at $34.95 a month to $179 a month for power users.

The Verizon spokesman declined to say how much was planned to be spent on the spot, but said it would be a "moderate to expensive buy." Already, the commercial is running on NBC affiliate WMGM and other executions are running on radio and in print.

McCarthy Marcus Hennings, Washington, created the ads. Zenith Optimeda is Verizon's media-buying agency.

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