Comcast May Have New Rival in Indy

Indianapolis - Comcast Corp., which just consolidated its power in the market here through the conclusion of some system swaps, may soon find that it doesn't have the market to itself, after all.

Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Co. and Utilicom Networks of Evansville, Ind., have approached the Indianapolis Cable Franchise Board to initiate proceedings for a system to deliver high-speed data, voice and cable TV. The partnership is known as "TOTALink."

TOTALink already operates in Evansville, Ind., where the venture has 11,000 customers. It spent a reported $70 million for the network there, where it competes with Insight Communications Co. Inc.

Utilicom announced in February that it had gotten a cash infusion from Blackstone Capital Partners of New York. The $100 million investment should help the venture with its expansion plans.

The partnership is interested in facilities-based competition in second- and third-tier cities. It has targeted 22 potential start-ups in 30 cities.

TOTALink indicated that it is interested in building a system throughout Marion County, Ind.

Cable regulators welcomed the prospect of competition, noting that they have logged many complaints regarding Comcast.

As in other cities recently, TOTALink will be in a race to gain approvals and get built. In December, another wireline competitor, Digital Access Corp., announced its interest in the Indianapolis market.

EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network further broadens the field. Earlier this month, the direct-broadcast satellite service said it will deliver local signals in Indianapolis.

The new providers will have to go through the franchise process, but regulators have taken notice of the competitive pricing for consumers that are now available in the Evansville market.