Portland, Denver Suburbs OK Newcomers

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Suburbs of Denver and Portland, Ore., last week became the latest municipal franchising jurisdictions to introduce cable competition.

Lakewood, Colo., a community of 60,000 households west of Denver, granted WideOpenWest LLC a 15-year franchise that would bring new cable, high-speed Internet access and phone services to consumers now served by AT & T Broadband.

The competition will be immediate in Lakewood, where AT & T has upgraded its local system, which has led to the introduction of a first wave of new telecom services.

"We are very pleased to finally be able to offer Lakewood residents a choice in cable providers," said Joni Inman, Lakewood's director of citizen relations. "WideOpenWest has been very open and accommodating during the franchise negotiations, and I think this is a good indicator of how they intend to treat their customers."

Meanwhile, Western Integrated Networks, a Denver-based startup headed by long-time cable executive James Vaughn, picked up franchises in the Portland suburbs of Gresham and Multnomah County.

The Lakewood deal gives WideOpenWest eight franchises in the Denver metropolitan area, for a total of 560,000 households under contract along Colorado's Front Range. Overall, it has 14 signed agreements totaling 1.1 million households in four states.

With about 20 area communities left on his Colorado wish list, Dave Haverkate, WideOpenWest's vice president of market development, said he hopes to have up to 900,000 metro-area households under contract by year's end.

The company could get a major boost in its Colorado franchising efforts this November, when residents of Colorado Springs and Greeley vote on WideOpenWest franchises for those communities.

"The early indications are that people are pretty excited about us coming into their communities," Haverkate said.

The Colorado Springs initiative will be unique in that Adelphia Communications Corp., the town's incumbent operator, will have its proposed renewal up for approval.

For Western Integrated Networks, the Gresham and Multnomah County franchises continued a process that began when the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission approved and recommended a uniform franchise for its member communities.

WIN vice president Bill Mahon said the nearby communities of Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview are expected to follow suit by the end of next month.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia-based Digital Access Inc. received a boost last week when the Tennessee Regulatory Authority granted the company local-exchange-carrier status.

The company has franchises for Brentwood, Franklin and Williamson County, Tenn., and plans to add an agreement with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. It expects to begin building its area network by year's end, with the first customer activated in the second quarter of 2001.

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