Verizon, which plans to add television programming to its local communications offerings in 2008, has picked a site on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo to house a $20 million "video hub."
Verizon, which announced in September it would establish a hub in Erie County, confirmed Wednesday the television signal center will be located at 548 Elmwood Ave., near Anderson Place, at a telephone service switching site dating back to the 1930s.
When it's up and running, the hub will receive video signals and distribute them via fiber-optic cable to subscribers of Verizon's "FIOS" service. The new video service is expected to become available to several thousand Buffalo-area customers in late 2008.
A Verizon representative revealed the Elmwood Avenue plans as the telecommunications company appeared before the Buffalo Planning Board to request physical changes at the site that will lay the groundwork for the video hub.
"This is significant for Verizon in Upstate New York and for the Buffalo market," said Maureen Rasp-Glose, Verizon's Western New York community liaison. "We've been working house-to-house, street-to-street for almost two years to get ready for this."
Verizon's FIOS internet service is currently available to an undisclosed number of homes in Buffalo, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Orchard Park, Hamburg and parts of West Seneca where fiber-optic lines have been installed.
The video hub will be housed on the second floor of the three-story building. A 35-foot-tall antenna will also need to be installed at the Elmwood Avenue site to receive the digital signals.
To date, Verizon has not filed plans with the city regarding the television signal aspect of the project. However, the Elmwood Village Association, which recently got a briefing on the project from Verizon, is raising preliminary concerns about the antenna.
"A 35-foot antenna will have an impact on the community," said Justin Azzerella, executive director of the Elmwood business and community group.
Azzerella criticized Verizon for submitting plans for an underground diesel fuel tank and ventilation equipment at the site, without unveiling the bigger plans for the video hub installation.
"It's tied to the ultimate use," Azzerella said. "But they didn't bother to give you the bigger picture."
Verizon representatives confirmed the larger plan during the public session only after the Elmwood Village official noted his concerns about the antenna.
"We have provided the Elmwood Village Association alternatives on where the antenna will be placed. We are very willing to meet with them again to discuss the project," Rasp-Glose said.
The antenna was described as similar in style to the "old TV antennas" that were ubiquitous in the days before cable, satellite dish and fiber optic television connections.
The Planning Board tabled action on the tank and ventilation work at 548 Elwmood Ave., asking that it be put in context of the larger project.
Nationwide, Verizon has about 515,000 TV customers and more than 1 million FIOS Internet subscribers. The telecommunications company will need to sign franchise agreements with local governments here before it can start selling TV signals over its fiber network.
Verizon's "Premier TV" package would deliver 200 channels for $42.99 a month, or a package of voice, phone and video services for monthly fee of $95 a month, before taxes.