It Was a Quiet Week, Except in Lenexa

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City officials in Lenexa, Kan., will welcome two new cable competitors to town, while leaders in Charlotte, N.C., have scheduled a vote on a new franchisee in that city for this week.

Charlotte's City Council will mull approval of Carolina Broadband Inc. as the new kid in town in votes scheduled Sept. 11 and 25. The overbuilder will duel with Time Warner Cable, the local cable incumbent, and telephony provider BellSouth Corp. Time Warner currently has about 150,000 customers there.

City officials hope to complete the franchise process this month for a competing system that will provide Internet connections, phone and cable service.

If approved this month, Charlotte-based Carolina Broadband will start the permit-application process in October with the goal of starting construction in February. The system will cost the company an estimated $300 million.

The company is in pre-construction in Raleigh, N.C., where it recently earned a franchise. It has also targeted Durham, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., and Columbia, Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C., for franchises.

In Lenexa, meanwhile, an ordinance granting cable franchises to Everest Connections Corp. and Digital Access Corp. passed unopposed last week, setting up a showdown with incumbent Time Warner.

"There was almost no comment, so the council adopted the ordinance," Lenexa assistant city attorney Eric Arner said.

About the only issue raised was Time Warner's desire that subcontractors employed by Everest and Digital Access be clearly identified so that any construction problems are not blamed on Time Warner.

Both companies had previously been awarded telecommunications franchises allowing them to challenge Southwestern Bell in the local-exchange market.

The new cable franchises will expire in 2007, which coincides with the expiration of Time Warner's deal with the city, Arner said.

For Digital Access, the Lenexa deal represents another 17,000 households under franchise, and it comes one week after the company signed an agreement in Indianapolis. Overall, it has close to 500,000 households under contract in four states.

Everest president and chief operating officer Michael Roddy said the company has filed franchise applications with 20 communities in the Kansas City metro area, which would potentially give it 450,000 homes passed if each one comes through.

Having already begun construction of its network, Everest could have its first customer online by year's end, he added.

In the Midwest, Texas-based Grande Communications has crafted a deal with Qwest Communications International Inc., a Denver-based telephony concern. The telecommunications overbuilders have agreed to share their phone and data plant.

The 25-year deal, worth an estimated $3.3 million to the companies, calls for Grande to route traffic through Qwest's 104,000-mile fiber optic network in San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Qwest will use parts of Grande's network in San Antonio once it is constructed.

Also, one competitor has announced a change in its identity: SIGCORP Communications Services-which designs and operates high-speed broadband facilities for municipalities-said it has changed its name to the catchier Vectren Communications.

Vectren is designing a municipal network in Alameda, Calif., and conducting a feasibility study for the municipal utility in Eugene, Ore.

The SIGCORP name will be phased out by the end of the year, due in part to a merger with Indiana Energy.

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