Colorado Cities OK WOW Franchises

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DENVER -A recount wasn't needed here last week, as voters in Colorado Springs and Greeley have enthusiastically authorized cable franchises for WideOpenWest LLC.

With its win in Denver last August and Aurora earlier this year in the bank, WOW now has its trifecta of franchises in Colorado's top three markets.

The vote to bring competition to Adelphia Communications Corp.-controlled Colorado Springs was 40,708 to 27,403, or 58 percent to 42 percent.

In Greeley, where AT&T Broadband rules the roost, it was a slam dunk. The ballot initiative passed 18,326 to 5,664, or by an approval margin of 76 percent.

"I was hoping for Denver [78-percent margin] or Boulder [76-percent margin] numbers in Colorado Springs, but I wasn't sweating the win," said Dave Haverkate, WideOpenWest vice president for market development.

Both communities offered 12-year deals, with incentives that extend the agreements to 15 years if WideOpenWest activates its first customer within 12 months and completes construction within four years.

WideOpenWest now has 13 Colorado franchises covering 760,000 households. It will offer cable, high-speed Internet access and local and long-distance phone service.

Colorado Springs voters also signed off on a non-exclusive franchise renewal for Adelphia, although the final vote was only 37,183 to 32,403, or 51 percent to 49 percent.

Haverkate speculated that the company benefited from a "carryover effect" of favorable votes in Denver and Boulder.

"I think people realized what those communities did and thought 'Competition is good, why should I vote against it?'" he said.

Colorado Springs spokesman Ron Mitchell said the close count of the Adelphia vote was surprising.

"I don't know what voters were thinking, but there was no concerted effort to oppose the Adelphia franchise," Mitchell said.

The renewal of Adelphia's franchise comes a year after local voters vetoed a proposed deal for the MSO, which became the incumbent after buying Century Communications Corp. last year.

Unlike the year-ago agreement, this one does away with the traditional 5-percent franchise fee, replacing it with quarterly grants that will support the community's public, educational and governmental (PEG) access channel.

Haverkate said the close margin of the vote on Adelphia's deal indicates that area residents have not forgotten last year's election. "I think people still had a bad taste in their mouths for cable," he said.

But Mitchell said Adelphia generally receives good reviews for its service.

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