Seren Innovations Inc., the video arm of Minnesota-based
Northern States Power Co., has applied for its third cable franchise in the East Bay area
near San Francisco.
The company last week asked Danville, Calif. -- an upscale
community of 15,000 households in Contra Costa County -- for permission to offer cable,
Internet access and telephone services to 39,000 local residents beginning later this
"Danville is ripe for the kind of services and
competition we provide with our Astound Communications services," Seren CEO Glynis
Hinschberger said in a prepared statement. "Businesses and residents want a choice in
providers, they want cost savings and they want great customer service. We're pleased to
offer them all of these benefits and more."
If Seren is approved, Danville would become the third area
community where the utility would challenge a former Tele-Communications Inc. system now
operated by AT&T Broadband & Internet Services. It has similar requests pending in
nearby Walnut Creek and Concord, where it plans a $143 million overbuild.
It was not immediately clear when Danville officials would
act on the franchise request.
"We hope as soon as possible," Seren spokeswoman
Jane Palmer said, "but we really don't know for sure."
AT&T Broadband spokesman Andrew Johnson called the
Seren announcement another indication of its plans for the affluent Contra Costa County
"We're taking the competition very serious," he
said, "and we're going to do whatever it takes to hold our customer base and grow
Johnson said the MSO's Danville system remains on the list
to be upgraded by the end of 1999, when it would be able to receive a "full
suite" of enhanced offerings, including data and telephone services.
Seren is already competing with Bresnan Communications in
St. Cloud, Minn., where it recently began offering cable, local, long-distance and
Palmer said the package has found a very receptive audience
in St. Cloud.
"It's been very, very popular," she said.
"People have reacted very well to what we call 'the bundle.' It's a novelty for them
to have a choice of telephone providers in an area where the incumbent doesn't have a very
good track record."
Palmer added that the company plans to apply for franchises
in other East Bay communities in the coming weeks.
Elsewhere, recent speculation has centered around a
possible move by Seren into the Colorado cable market. The company has announced that it
plans to merge with New Century Energies, assets of which include Public Service Co. of
A Denver overbuild would set up a showdown in AT&T
Broadband's own backyard, where the MSO controls more than 400,000 cable subscribers.