Adelphia Has New Rival Near Buffalo

A firm that has previously limited itself to private-cableoperations in apartment buildings and small developments will take a run at head-to-headcompetition with Adelphia Communications Corp. in a small village near Buffalo, N.Y.

Intertech Private Cable has obtained a waiver from thestate Public Service Commission, which regulates cable throughout the state, to launch ahardwire cable operation in the village of Kenmore, which has a population of 8,000.

It will be the first completely competitive franchise inthe state, according to the PSC.

Intertech's choice of a location is not an obviousone: Adelphia has rebuilt its system there to 750 megahertz, and it currently offers cablemodems with a telephone-return path. That, too, will be upgraded within two months, totwo-way-via-cable plant. The system will also deploy Scientific-Atlanta Inc.'sExplorer 2000 set-tops.

"It's one of our most advanced systems ... so Ithink that we're ready," said Thomas Haywood, Adelphia's regional generalmanager. He added that the village reported a complaint rate of 1.2 percent.

Although the plant has been upgraded, Adelphia does nothave a refranchising agreement at the moment and, in fact, it has been operating under atemporary franchise extension since 1995.

Adelphia, as a company, has balked at paying franchise feeson high-speed-data revenue, Haywood said -- a position that it only recently reversed.Haywood added that he anticipates completion of a refranchise agreement within threeweeks.

That will trigger Intertech into action, too, said NoelDill, Intertech's vice president. The village is prepared to offer the competitor thesame franchise terms as the incumbent.

Dill said the 13-year-old firm selected Kenmore because itis dense -- only 1.25 square miles -- and it is "in our own neighborhood" --Intertech is based in Lockport, N.Y.

Intertech will also build a 750-MHz plant and offer morechannels (72 versus Adelphia's 62) at a price $5 lower than Adelphia's monthlyfee for basic and expanded basic.

"We know that we'll have to win each customerover. It will take some time," Dill said.

Although the village is close to Buffalo -- a communitythat has bitterly complained about Tele-Communications Inc. (now AT&T Broadband &Internet Services) -- it is unlikely that Intertech will expand into that city. (Buffalois now served by a partnership between AT&T Broadband and Adelphia, with the latter asthe local manager.)

"It would make a great story, but it's notrealistic," Dill said, noting that the franchise serves approximately 300,000customers. "We recognize that we are not Adelphia Cable. It's smarter to [serve]niche cities, except for the private market."

Intertech does currently serve some apartment complexes inBuffalo.

Some expansion beyond Kenmore is possible, but it wouldmore likely be to towns the size of Tonawanda, another Kenmore neighbor, Dill said.

The earliest feasible date for launch to some customers inKenmore is next January, he added.