Seren, WideOpenWest Add Franchises

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Seren Innovations Inc. hopes to add to its San Francisco cluster after filing for cable franchises in the communities of Martinez and Pittsburgh, Calif., last week.

If approved, the two East Bay communities will join Concord and Walnut Creek as part of Seren's Contra Costa County network, giving the video arm of Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Co. a cluster of almost 400,000 residents.

Martinez and Pittsburgh have 33,788 and 52,743 residents, respectively.

Franchises in each location will pit Seren against AT & T Broadband, which, as the San Francisco area's dominant cable operator, has operations in both communities.

"The cities of Martinez and Pittsburgh are natural extensions of our network," Seren president and CEO Glynis Hinschberger said in a prepared statement. "We're looking forward to giving residents and businesses there a viable, competitive choice in telecommunications service providers."

Seren currently offers cable, Internet and both local and long-distance telephone services in Concord, while continuing to build in Walnut Creek, spokesman Pat Petschel said. Walnut Creek and Concord are home to approximately 45,000 AT & T Broadband subscribers.

Meanwhile, Seren also has franchises pending in the nearby communities of Danville, Pleasant Hill, Clayton and unincorporated Contra Costa County.

AT & T Broadband spokesman Andrew Johnson said the MSO is well-positioned to handle competition in the San Francisco suburbs as it pursues its plan of upgrading the majority of its systems by the end of next year.

The MSO has already upgraded its system in Martinez, where digital cable and high-speed-data service AT & T@Home have been introduced, and it plans to follow with telephony later this year, Johnson said.

Both digital cable and AT & T@Home have been unveiled in Pittsburgh, where work on upgrading the system to 750-megahertz capacity continues.

Also last week, WideOpenWest LLC signed on to offer broadband services in Loveland, Colo., a community of 17,000 households north of Denver.

The Loveland franchise is WOW's fifth such deal along Colorado's Front Range, giving it nearly 250,000 area residents under contract.

Unlike most Colorado communities, where WOW will compete against AT & T Broadband, Loveland is currently served by Comcast Corp. The two operators will compete for area cable and Internet-access customers, with WOW also planning to offer Internet protocol-based telephony service.

Under the terms of the 12-year deal, WOW will receive a three-year extension if it completes construction of its network within 24 months. It will get a one-year extension if the project is completed within 36 months, Loveland assistant city attorney Adele L. Reester said.

The company has agreed to offer open access to local Internet-service providers.

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