Seren Grows Near Home, Gains 5th Franchise

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Seren Innovations Inc., the video arm of Minnesota's largest investor-owned utility, last week picked up its fifth cable franchise in its home state.

By a vote of 5-0, the St. Joseph Township Board granted the subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Co. a 15-year cable franchise that allows it to offer video, Internet and phone services in the village of 1,098 residents.

"We're excited to provide a competitive choice in cable, Internet and phone services to the citizens of St. Joseph Township," Glynis Hinschberger, Seren's CEO, said in a statement.

Seren also has a pending franchise in the town of St. Joseph, Minn., a hamlet of just over 700 residents.

The company is already offering its high-speed broadband services in St. Cloud, Sartell, Waite Parke and Sauk Rapids, Minn.

Spokesman Pat Petschel called the St. Joseph Township franchise a "natural" extension of the St. Cloud network, the first community in which Seren offered cable in December 1996.

"These are neighboring communities where residents want Seren to come in," Petschel said.

So far, Petschel said, Seren's penetration rate among area cable subscribers has reached 30 percent, exceeding its original projections. "And that's just during the first sweep through the neighborhoods."

Meanwhile, Seren has started activating its Concord, Calif., network on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. It will compete against AT & T Broadband for an estimated 24,000 cable subscribers in the East San Francisco Bay community.

Seren has also started a network in nearby Walnut Creek, Calif., another AT & T stronghold with some 19,000 customers. It hopes to activate its first Walnut Creek subscriber later this year.

"We've got crews working very hard to build our Walnut Creek system," Petschel said.

With franchises pending in the neighboring communities of Pleasant Hill, Clayton, and Danville, Seren may soon have a cluster of 155,000 area residents under contract in one of the nation's most affluent regions.

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