Verizon’s fiber-optic network is making inroads in Atlantic and Cape May counties with the introduction of FiOS TV.

For now, the service is available only in certain areas of Mays Landing in Hamilton Township and Cape May Court House in Middle Township, Verizon spokesman Richard J. Young said Wednesday. But its reach will expand as the company builds out its network.

Verizon is under a deadline to bring the FiOS TV service, which can be bundled with Internet and phone, to at least every county seat by the end of this year, as required under the state’s franchise law. Atlantic and Cape May counties have been among the last to get the service since it was first introduced in New Jersey three years ago.

Cumberland County had a FiOS network built in early 2008, and now parts of Bridgeton, Deerfield Township, Hopewell Township, Shiloh, Upper Deerfield Township and Vineland are eligible for the service, along with five municipalities in northern Ocean County.

Verizon, formerly known as the phone company Bell Atlantic, has been touting FiOS’s high-speed technology as it competes with larger cable companies.

It has been tearing up its traditional copper lines and replacing them with fiber-optic cables containing strands of glass as fine as human hair. The new cables allow for faster Internet speeds, taking just 16 minutes to download a two-hour movie equal to 6 gigabytes, Verizon claims, as opposed to 53 minutes on a regular cable line.

Ian Olgeirson, a senior analyst with SNL Kagan in California, said traditional cable operators have been increasing their bandwidth, or the amount of data that can be sent over a network, to help customers avoid slowing connection speeds.

But with FiOS hooked up directly to one’s home, the network can provide for faster Internet use, Olgeirson said.

“Verizon has the leg up,” he said. “It will resonate with some (who use a lot of bandwidth), and for some people, it won’t matter.”

FiOS TV, meanwhile, offers consumers in southern New Jersey another option to Philadelphia-based Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, with about 24 million cable TV customers.

“The cable industry fought hard to keep choice and competition from our New Jersey customers,” said Dennis Bone, president of Verizon New Jersey. “Despite their efforts, hundreds of thousands of our customers have gladly welcomed FiOS into their homes and have said goodnight to their disco-era cable TV company.”

Nationwide, FiOS TV has about 2.7 million customers. Through 2010, the company planned to invest $18 billion in installing its FiOS web, including about $1.5 billion in New Jersey.

The growth of Verizon’s service comes as the telecom company on Tuesday announced it is settling a lawsuit with New Jersey over alleged “deceptive and misleading” marketing practices concerning FiOS. In March, the state Consumer Affairs Division had accused Newark-based Verizon New Jersey of promising promotional gifts, such as flat-screen TVs, just for signing up for FiOS, although those extras never materialized.

Customers also complained about getting charged higher prices for service than initially quoted and getting charged activation fees that were supposed to be waived, state officials said.

At the time, Verizon said most of those complaints had been resolved and it affected only a small number of customers. It has now agreed to pay the state $795,000 in civil penalties and other fees, and send $50 gift cards to the 1,160 customers who filed complaints.

Verizon is offering a different promotion to new subscribers: a $150 Visa prepaid card if they order a bundled package of FiOS TV, Internet and phone by Jan. 16. The bundle starts at $99.99 per month for the first year.

Comcast has a similar high-definition “triple play” package starting at $114.99 per month for the first year.

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