Upgrade Wont Make Aurora Woes Vanish

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Denver -- Alleged franchise violations by AT&TBroadband & Internet Services will not simply disappear with the just-completedupgrade of the MSO's network in Aurora, Colo.

The city said it will pursue breach-of-franchise chargesagainst AT&T Broadband, despite receiving fewer complaints since the upgrade of its58,000-subscriber network was completed two weeks ago.

"Frankly, the complaints had little to do with thebreach issues, even though many occurred during the upgrade," Aurora television- andcable-services manager Joe LaRocco said. "And complaints have dropped off since theircrews left town, but that doesn't mean they've stopped."

AT&T Broadband said last week that it had completed a750-megahertz upgrade of the Aurora system a full six months ahead of the March 2000deadline contained in its new franchise.

However, LaRocco said, most of the franchise violationscommitted by the MSO involved failure to restore public and private property during theupgrade, safety issues arising from not obtaining necessary work permits, neglecting towarn homeowners before entering their property and not submitting reports detailingservice outages and complaint numbers.

"These are issues that just can't stop with therebuild," LaRocco said. "We want to ensure going forward that they will abide bythe rules and regulations stated in their franchise."

At this time, he added, the city's options are anegotiated settlement or public hearings -- something AT&T Broadband is unlikely towant as it begins marketing new services in the Denver suburb.

"Our primary goals were to complete the upgrade so ourcustomers can have these improved services and to work with the city to resolve anyoutstanding issues," AT&T Broadband spokesman Matt Fleury said.

With the upgrade complete, all of Aurora can now receivemore than 222 cable channels, including the AT&T Digital package. The company recentlyannounced that it had signed up its 100,000th digital customer in metro Denver, making itonly the second community in the nation to reach that milestone.

Meanwhile, the company plans to have its AT&T@Homehigh-speed-data service available citywide within two weeks, Fleury added.

Elsewhere, financial-disclosure statements filed last weekrevealed that AT&T Broadband has spent $186,000 in the past two months on a campaignto renew its franchise in Denver.

With the deal scheduled to go before the voters Nov. 2,opponents want Denver residents to reject the franchise unless the MSO agrees to anopen-access provision allowing unaffiliated Internet-service providers to use its networkto deliver their services.

The access issue, of course, is a contentious one thatAT&T Broadband is facing in various markets across the country, where localgovernments have tried to tack that requirement onto franchise transfers or enact thecondition into law.

Most notably, the company is battling a Portland, Ore.,open-access law in federal court.