Denver -- WideOpenWest LLC, a closely held outfit headed by
former RCN Corp. executives, was awarded a competitive cable franchise last week by
Colorado's largest county.
Jefferson County -- with more than 500,000 residents in 25
communities west of Denver -- approved a 15-year deal that allows WideOpenWest to offer
cable, Internet and telephone service in competition with AT&T Broadband &
"Our schedule is to talk to the first customer later
this year," said WideOpenWest president Mark Haverkate, who, as an RCN executive,
helped to launch a similar overbuild in Boston.
With plans to spend some $500 million along Colorado's
Front Range, Haverkate said, the company is actively talking with some 40 communities in
the state. "This is our first official franchise, but we have a lot of things in the
works, and we hope to have multiple announcements in February," he added.
In announcing its Jefferson County franchise, the company
reiterated its plan to offer open access to unaffiliated Internet-service providers,
thereby putting additional pressure on AT&T Broadband, which has been battling the
issue nationwide for more than one year."We're excited to take the marketplace lead
on the issue of open access, and we are confident that our new network will service our
customers well," Haverkate said.
AT&T Broadband officials said the MSO remains
"well-positioned to compete" in metro Denver, where a massive upgrade is under
way that will allow it to offer a package of digital video, local telephone service and
high-speed Internet services.
"While we continue our efforts to offer excellent
video options for our customers, we are also entering new competitive markets with local
telephone and high-speed Internet products," AT&T Broadband spokesman Matt Fleury
WideOpenWest's entry into Jefferson County is the latest
development in a Colorado telecommunications market that is rapidly heating up.
U S West recently announced that it had secured cable deals
in Douglas County and Boulder, Colo. -- area communities where it will use
video-digital-subscriber-line technology to offer similar services over enhanced copper
telephone lines. The agreements are expected to set up a showdown with AT&T Broadband
by this summer.
Meanwhile, WideOpenWest is in the process of wrapping up
franchise negotiations in Portland, Ore., where it proposes to spend $250 million building
a system that will go head-to-head with AT&T Broadband in the market where the
open-access controversy originated.