As expected, Verizon announced today that its FiOS service, which includes data and video services, has launched in Comcast’s hometown of Philadelphia.

Verizon said FiOS was available in parts of Chestnut Hill, south Philadelphia and north Philadelphia, with more neighborhoods slated to launch before the year is out.

"The superb picture-and-sound quality of FiOS TV will enable consumers to watch the parade and football on Thanksgiving Day as they've never watched those events before," said Mary Yarbrough, vice president of marketing and sales operations for Verizon's Mid-Atlantic region. "Now FiOS TV-eligible consumers in Philadelphia join consumers in hundreds of communities across Pennsylvania who are enjoying the vast benefits and superiority of this service."

In an online video, Yarbrough touted Verizon’s 130 HD channels, which the company said was more HD channels than Comcast is offering; the ability to send video uncompressed over its fiber-optic network; and features such as multi-room DVR.

Verizon has been using promotional pricing in direct mail advertisements in an attempt to win subscribers over from Comcast.

Philadelphia residents who are FiOS TV-eligible can sign up for a bundle that includes FiOS TV, FiOS Internet and voice service for as little as $99.99 per month with a price guarantee for 24 months.

Customers who sign up for a qualifying FiOS service before Dec. 19 may be eligible for $150 cash back and a free Home Media DVR for three months. Verizon also offers a "quad-play" bundle of FiOS TV, FiOS Internet, home phone and wireless service starting at $105 per month, plus the cost of the Verizon Wireless plan.

Minus the promotional offerings, Verizon’s pricing is comparable to Comcast’s.

Earlier this year, Philadelphia’s city council and Mayor Michael Nutter signed off on granting Verizon a 15-year franchise agreement in the same city where Comcast is headquartered.

While Verizon hasn’t confirmed the figure, the cost of the Philadelphia build-out has been reported in various media outlets as $800 million to $1 billion. As part of the franchise agreement, Verizon said it would make FiOS TV available throughout the city over the next seven years.

Verizon started working on the franchise agreement in June, but some council members expressed concern over which neighborhoods would receive the service first. In response to the city council members’ concern, Verizon came up with a detailed plan that would rollout FiOS in neighborhoods across all of the city council districts.

In the past, Comcast has expressed concern that Verizon would “cherry pick” the more affluent neighborhoods for its FiOS services, while ignoring lower-income areas.

Comcast already competes with Verizon in various suburbs of Philadelphia, so the competition is nothing new.

“As the phone company announces service for small pockets of the city, we’ll continue to innovate and expand and offer all products to every part of Philadelphia,” said Comcast spokesman Jeff Alexander in an e-mail to CED. “We love our competitive position due to the strength of our offerings, from 18,000 on-demand and 2,600 HD choices to a variety of bundles suited for all preferences and price points.”

While Verizon is gearing up in Philadelphia, the company has acknowledged it would be slowing the rollout of FiOS in other parts of Pennsylvania. For example, last month Verizon broke off franchise agreement talks with Harrisburg’s city council.

More Broadband Direct 11/23/09:
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•  Verizon launches FiOS in Philly
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