WideOpenWest Hopes Votes Go Its Way

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Denver-WideOpenWest LLC expects to add two second-tier markets to its Colorado cluster this week following referendums in Colorado Springs and Greeley.

Additionally, the locally based overbuilder last week announced an agreement under which Drake Contractors Inc. will build its 11,000-mile broadband network along Colorado's Front Range.

Voters in Colorado Springs and Greeley on Nov. 7 will decide whether WideOpenWest can offer competitive cable, Internet and telephone services against Adelphia Communications Corp. in the former and against AT & T Broadband in the latter.

Also on the ballot in Colorado Springs will be the question of renewing Adelphia's franchise, which includes a unique provision dropping the traditional 5-percent franchise fee in favor of quarterly public, educational and governmental access grants.

WideOpenWest already has franchises in most of Colorado's major markets, including Denver and Boulder.

If approved in Colorado Springs and Greeley, 13 of its 21 franchises would be located in Colorado, where it plans a $500 million network covering 30 communities.

The company hopes that voters preoccupied with a presidential election will take the time to grapple with an estimated 100 statewide amendments on the ballot, said Dave Haverkate, WideOpenWest vice president for business development.

"It's a negative, really, because with all [that] the voters will have to think about, it will be easy to ignore something they're not familiar with," Haverkate said. "That's not a no vote, it's just not a vote."

With a record number of absentee ballots expected to be cast, the company has sent out a special mailing to those voters "stressing the importance of competition," Haverkate added.

Meanwhile, Drake Construction will begin building WideOpenWest's network in the Denver metropolitan area next month.

"This relationship is providing Drake Contractors with a rare opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a new, innovative and aggressive organization," said Rob Ellis, Drake Contractors vice president of operations, in a statement.

WideOpenWest spokesman Mike Steinkirchner said Colorado represented the first market the company will build, even though some early mapping and engineering work had been done in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. A five-year build out schedule is planned for the entire Front Range.

Elsewhere, Western Integrated Networks picked up a franchise in Troutdale, Ore., a suburb of Portland, Ore., and one of six area communities represented by the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission.

Troutdale will be built simultaneously with the company's system in Portland, said Western Integrated spokesman Bill Mahon. Portland officials have granted Western Integrated a special construction permits allowing it to begin building its network while it negotiates a franchise with the city.

MHCRC members that have approved franchises for Western Integrated include Gresham and Multnomah County, with Wood Village expected to act within 90 days.

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