WideOpenWest Gets Dallas-Area Franchise

WideOpenWest LLC, a Denver-based start-up with designs on the Texas telecommunications market, has signed its first major cable franchise in that state.

Its 15-year agreement with the city of Irving is the second such deal involving the Dallas metroplex, a strategic market where WOW is busily negotiating with another 24 contiguous communities, including Dallas and Fort Worth.

The company recently announced that it was dropping plans to enter the San Antonio and Austin markets in order to concentrate on building its Dallas cluster.

In Irving, WOW will offer cable, Internet and telephone services sometime next year to 78,000 households currently served by Time Warner Cable. It now has agreements covering 120,000 homes in Texas, with plans to ultimately offer broadband services to 1.25 million households throughout the lucrative Dallas market.

"The Dallas metroplex is rapidly becoming a technology corridor," WOW senior vice president and general manager for Texas Julia McGrath said. "Consumers are prepared to spend for a bundled package of services, which makes Dallas a great place to be."

Sources in Houston confirmed that the company is "one meeting away" from finalizing a deal that could be presented to city officials for approval within 60 days.

In Dallas, months of informal talks have set the stage for both sides to begin hammering out a franchise agreement this week.

Eric Kaalund, head of the city controller's office, said he hoped to have a final draft of a WOW franchise to the Dallas City Council by the end of August.

Fort Worth hopes to strike a deal with the company by the end of this month, assistant city manager Pat Svacina said.

Competition comes at a bad time for incumbent Charter Communications Inc., which wants to swap its Fort Worth operation for AT & T Broadband systems in St. Louis.

Svacina said Charter has not yet applied for a transfer, speculating that the AT & T Broadband swap is on hold.

A Charter spokeswoman said the swap has moved slowly, but the MSO has been in constant contact with the cities involved.

"Nobody ever expected it to be a real quick process," spokeswoman Anita Lamont said. "It's only been six months, although I'm sure it feels like a year. There is no specific issue holding it up. It's just a big machine."