Fort Worth Cluster Gets More Wide Open


WideOpenWest LLC added almost 34,000 households to its Fort Worth, Texas, cluster last week when it agreed to a franchise in the northeast suburb of Lewisville.

Lewisville is WideOpenWest's seventh area suburban franchise; it now covers some 400,000 households.

The overbuilder is currently in negotiations with another six communities, including Arlington, which would add another 285,000 households to its cluster.

"We're getting close to our plan for a cluster in this area," said Julia McGrath, WideOpenWest vice president and general manager for Texas.

McGrath said Lewisville is demographically "right where we want to be." More than 56 percent of the homes in the community are considered heavy Internet users.

Meanwhile, Fort Worth assistant city manager Pat Svacina said WOW's overbuild of Charter Communications Inc. is on track to begin in early 2001.

"I expect the dirt to start flying after the first of the year," he said.

Svacina said Charter has responded to the WOW threat by stepping up its marketing of digital cable and high-speed Internet access.

The city also is about to begin negotiations with Western Integrated Networks, a Denver-based start-up that had also targeted the Texas market.

Elsewhere, Everest Connections Corp. and Seren Innovations Inc. last week won the first competitive cable franchises ever granted in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis.

The Northwest Suburbs Cable Communications Commission, a consortium of nine communities with a total of 120,000 households, voted to approve both franchises and them to its members for consideration. Everest had already received a franchise in the town of Chanhassen.

"These franchises mean we can stay on schedule with plans to provide ultra high-speed and superior service packages to customers in the Twin Cities," said Michael Roddy, Everest Connections' president and chief operating officer. "For some customers that day will come soon, as we anticipate providing service to some communities by mid-2001."

Meanwhile, the Northern Dakota County Commission recommended that its six Minneapolis area members grant franchises that would allow Everest to offer cable, high-speed Internet and telephone services to 50,000 homes currently served by AT&T Broadband.

"Most of those communities have meetings set for December, so we expect those franchises to be done next month," Roddy said.

The 10 Minneapolis franchises already in the bag give Everest contracts that cover more than 120,000 area households. Ultimately, the company hopes to sign another 40 contracts for an additional 630,000 households in the Twin Cities region, including Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"It's a big market," Roddy said. "We're expecting a 15,000- to 20,000-mile buildout."

Everest currently has 25 franchise scattered throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Michigan, and has started construction in Kansas City.