Competition Set to Bowl Over Boulder


Denver-The city of Boulder, Colo., which already has two authorized telecommunications-service providers, moved closer last week to a full-scale competitive brawl in its local market.

The Boulder City Council held a first reading on a revocable permit and proposed cable franchise that would allow WideOpenWest LLC to compete with AT & T Broadband and U S West for local video, Internet and telephone customers.

A second reading will be held June 5, and the deadline for getting the two proposals on the ballot is Aug. 8, Boulder telecommunications coordinator Richard Varnes said. "This will be a significant step forward for telecommunications in our community," he added.

The revocable permit would allow WOW to start constructing its network-an 860-megahertz system that will deliver at least 80 channels of analog cable programming and provide the city with an institutional network (I-net) connecting government, schools and cultural facilities.

The franchise calls for WOW to pay a franchise fee equal to 5 percent of gross revenues, along with 75 cents per month, per subscriber for PEG-access (public, educational and government) equipment and 15 cents per subscriber, per month for the community to utilize the I-net.

WOW officials were unavailable for comment at press time.

The overbuilder will also offer open access to area Internet-service providers, allowing unaffiliated ISPs to deliver high-speed-data services in the community of more than 100,000.

"At first, we weren't sure on what side the city would come down on open access," Varnes said. "But as it developed at the Federal Communications Commission, AT & T began to shift its position and we became more knowledgeable, we decided, Yeah, this is important.'"

AT & T Broadband has agreed to negotiate with independent ISPs once its exclusive carriage agreement with Excite@Home Corp. expires in 2002, but remains opposed to government-mandated open access.

In the meantime, AT & T Broadband is racing to complete an upgrade of its Boulder system. The MSO has already introduced digital cable in the community, and recently introduced its high-speed AT & T@Home Internet service to 11,000 area homes.

"AT & T is leading the way in Boulder," AT & T Broadband spokesman Matt Fleury said. "We are the first broadband company to begin rolling out 200 video channels and high-speed cable Internet service. We have a very aggressive time line to offer these services, as well as a local phone choice, to Boulder."

In addition to AT & T Broadband, WOW will also be chasing U S West, which received its permit and franchise in Boulder several weeks ago.

U S West spokeswoman Anna Osborn said the regional Bell operating company-which proposes to deliver video-digital-subscriber-line cable service over enhanced copper phone lines-expects to sign its first customer later this year.