WOW's Latest Deal Raises Questions


WideOpenWest LLC is back in the news, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

After inking its deal to acquire 310,000 Ameritech New Media cable customers
from SBC Communications Inc. in three states in May, WOW was issued a franchise
for Hillsdale, Mo. -- a St. Louis suburb in search of a broadband competitor for
incumbent Charter Communications Inc.

The move raised questions about WOW's plans for communities where it has
either signed or pending franchise agreements that predate the ANM deal. Paul
Martin, a St. Louis-based attorney who represents Hillsdale, said as many as 40
Gateway City-area communities are in such a position.

'What I told Hillsdale is that WOW's intentions are very much in doubt,'
Martin said. 'An agreement was negotiated, but we have not received any executed

WOW began its push into St. Louis County last year. Its first deal was with
24,000-household St. Peters, Mo., where municipal officials believe the project
is still on track.

A St. Peters spokeswoman said the ANM deal does not affect WOW's agreement
with the city, and officials aren't interested in delaying the project.

WOW president Mark Haverkate declined to discuss whether plans for any of the
overbuilder's new franchises would have to be put on hold while the company
concentrates on the former ANM.

'I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss it until we've talked to
the cities and come to some kind of understanding,' Haverkate said. 'It's a
question of timing. We want to meet with these cities, discuss these franchises,
tell them about our circumstances and find out what works for them and what
works for us.'

Meanwhile, WOW announced that it had filed for franchise transfers in 115
towns served by ANM. Over the next few weeks, its senior management team will
meet with officials in each community.

Haverkate said meetings have already been scheduled with 80 of 115 towns. He
continues to expect the transfers to be approved by the fourth quarter.

'We're very confident of our qualifications to own and operate these
systems,' said Haverkate, a former RCN Corp. executive who helped to launch
overbuilds in Boston and San Francisco. 'Our top priority is to ensure a smooth

Haverkate said WOW has been greeted enthusiastically in each of the ANM
communities it has approached, especially those starved for high-speed Internet

'They're excited about the competition and like what they've seen on our
[transfer] applications,' he added.

Once the franchises are transferred, WOW hopes to begin rolling out
high-speed-data services in the first quarter of next year. But industry sources
believe getting the ANM properties transferred by year's end will be a

One source said legal consultants are already out promoting business by
contacting municipal officials and urging them to use the transfer process to
renegotiate their current franchises.