Concord, Calif., last week authorized Seren Innovations
Inc. to launch an overbuild of AT&T Broadband & Internet Services in the San
Francisco East Bay community.
A 15-year franchise granted to Seren sets up a showdown
with AT&T for roughly 24,000 local cable subscribers in the affluent town of 104,000
The video arm of Minnesota-based Northern States Power Co.,
Seren plans an 860-megahertz hybrid fiber-coaxial network capable of delivering a
discounted package of cable, high-speed Internet access and telephone services.
"People want a choice in their cable provider, and
we're delighted to offer them a highly cost-competitive one," Seren president
and CEO Glynis Hinschberger said in a statement.
Seren spokeswoman Janey Palmer said construction on the
Concord system could begin as early as this week and the first subscriber will be
activated by year-end.
"We've been getting a lot of e-mail from the East
Bay area from people asking 'Hey, when are you coming here?' " Palmer said.
The company's plans to offer Internet and telephone
services received a boost recently when state officials designated Seren as a certified
AT&T, meanwhile, has vowed to "do whatever is
necessary" to protect its local subscriber base.
The MSO plans to upgrade its local network before Seren
completes construction of its own system, thereby allowing it to offer its own suite of
On the customer-service front, AT&T has brought its
telephone-response time into line with industry standards, which require that 90 percent
of all in-bound calls be answered within 30 seconds, implemented seven-day-a-week
installations and expanded its summer hours.
Meanwhile, Seren has franchises pending in the nearby
AT&T communities of Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, Danville, as well as in
unincorporated Contra Costa County.
If approved, the six franchises would give it a cluster of
some 155,000 households in the area. It's already offering service in St. Cloud,
Minn., an AT&T stronghold outside of Minneapolis.
The East Bay promises to be a lucrative area for Seren,
which is concentrating on medium-sized markets with attractive demographics.
In Contra Costa County, it will compete with AT&T for
well-educated residents, living in an area with computer penetration rates in excess of 70
Palmer said the company plans to file for seven additional
franchises in the near future.