Ameritech New Media has launched cable service in Westlake,
Ohio, the fourth Cleveland suburb where it will compete against Cablevision Systems Corp.
Not surprisingly, its launch in Westlake, a community of
13,000 households some 20 minutes west of Cleveland, also came with a few well-aimed barbs
at the competition.
"Like the telegraph, the buggy whip and the Model T,
Cablevision's monopoly over Westlake cable customers is now part of history,"
said Margaret Stender, Ameritech vice president of marketing, in a statement.
Stender also tweaked Cablevision by claiming that Westlake
consumers will now receive "reliable service, crisp picture and round-the-clock
Cablevision responded that it welcomes the competition.
"We note that there is no monopoly in the video
business in Westlake," said Cablevision spokesman Charlie Schueler. "We think
it's ironic that Ameritech would use that language."
Schueler said the MSO's strategy for its major
clusters calls for state-of-the-art systems capable of delivering a full-range of enhanced
services, including telephony.
"We expect to challenge them [Ameritech] in the local
telephone business in the near future," he said.
Cablevision completed its upgrade in Westlake last year. It
has been rebuilding its Ohio systems since 1995, well in advance of Ameritech obtaining
its Westlake franchise.
Ameritech spokesman Geoff Potter tried to play down the
company's shots at Cablevision.
"We're not saying that Cablevision is going to go
away," Potter said. "They remain a formidable competitor. But their cable
monopoly is history."
Potter said Ameritech has initiated service in a
"significant" portion of Westlake, with the remainder of the system expected to
be completed later this year.
The two MSOs are already competing in the Cleveland suburbs
of North Olmstead, Berea and Fairview Park.
Unseating Cablevision in Westlake will not be easy. The
MSO's 9,352-subscriber system enjoys an estimated 90 percent penetration rate in the
Ohio community, according to local officials.
"As much as everybody complains about them, they do
very well here," said Robin Leasure, West Lake assistant law director.
Leasure conceded that the number of service complaints
filed against Cablevision has dropped since the company completed its upgrade.
Nevertheless, the city council, which approved a 15-year
franchise for Ameritech last year, had been under pressure to introduce competitive cable
"Once it was announced, we had a number of residents
calling to ask 'When is Ameritech coming?'" Leasure said. "Some are
very disappointed to learn that it's going to take some time."
In an unrelated development, Ameritech announced that it
has signed its 29th franchise in the state by agreeing to terms with officials in
Whitehall, a town of 10,000 households outside of Columbus. The deal gives Ameritech
franchises covering 960,000 Ohio residents and 459,000 homes.