White Knights Eye WINfirst

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Several contenders have surfaced as potential white knights for bankrupt overbuilder Western Integrated Networks, which does business as WINfirst.

Last Thursday, two companies received conditional cable licenses for Sacramento, Calif., the only community where WINfirst was able to start construction and roll out service.

Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Commission director Rich Eposto said the licenses are contingent on the applicant's acquisition of WINfirst's assets. (Unlike other cities, Sacramento has a simple licensing procedure for all operators, rather than a franchising process.)

The contenders are the previously identified SureWest Communications, the state's third-largest competitive local-exchange carrier; and Orange Broadband, identified by the city as a group of investors from J.P. Morgan Partners, MC Venture Partners and Columbia Capital.

SureWest already provides broadband services in the Sacramento suburbs, while the major Orange Broadband investors are current investors in the bankrupt operator.

If one of the new licensees is successful in acquiring WINfirst's assets, it would compete with incumbent AT&T Broadband, which has more than 500,000 customers in the state's capital.

Also at that cable commission meeting, the city and county agencies delayed consideration of transfer of ownership of AT&T Broadband's Sacramento system to AT&T Comcast Corp. The commission still needs more information on the merger before it will vote.

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