WideOpenWest Gains Steam in Texas, Colo.


WideOpenWest LLC, a start-up outfit determined to compete with AT & T Broadband, is building momentum in two states.

The privately held overbuilder secured its second cable franchise in Colorado recently by signing a 15-year agreement to offer video, high-speed Internet access and phone services to 110,000 households in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Elsewhere, WideOpenWest signed an agreement last week to serve Grand Prairie, Texas, with 41,000 households, marking its first move into the Dallas Metroplex.

The company now has three franchises, including a deal with Jefferson County, Colo., the state's largest community and an AT & T Broadband stronghold with 500,000 residents.

"We are very grateful to the officials and staff at the city of Aurora for their timely response to our application," WideOpenWest CEO Mark Haverkate said in a prepared statement.

WideOpenWest spokesman Mike Steinkirchner said agreements with other communities are close. "We have a lot in the pipe," he added. "The second quarter could be big for us in terms of getting some deals done."

The company is negotiating with dozens of towns along Colorado's Front Range, including Denver, where local regulators are expected to vote this week on an enabling ordinance that would put a WideOpenWest franchise before voters in August.

Under the terms of its deal with Aurora, WideOpenWest will begin building an 860-megahertz network later this year, bringing customers online in the first quarter of 2001.

WideOpenWest's operations will differ from AT & T Broadband's in that the network nodes will serve 150 homes each, versus about 1,000 homes per node for AT & T Broadband, Aurora television and cable-services manager Joe LaRocco said.

"[WideOpenWest] also agreed to build us an institutional network at no cost, as well as to a higher letter of credit as related to our customer-service standards," he added.

WideOpenWest faces a stiff challenge in Aurora, where AT & T Broadband has undergone a 750-MHz upgrade and launched high-speed-data service AT & T@Home, digital cable and a trial of telephone-over-cable.

"It's plain [to see] that other companies have come to see the promise AT & T sees in broadband services," AT & T Broadband spokesman Matt Fleury said. "We are clearly the leader of the pack in Aurora, where we now offer voice, video and data over the broadband network."

WideOpenWest also plans to offer open access to competing area Internet-service providers that want to deliver high-speed-data services to Aurora residents. "Our company was built on open access, and our customers will have their choice of ISPs," Steinkirchner said.

AT & T Broadband has been fighting the open-access concept nationwide. It's currently awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over such requirements in Oregon's Portland and Multnomah County.

The company has said, though, that it is willing to cut business deals with other ISPs after its exclusive arrangement with Excite@Home Corp. sunsets in 2002.