WOW Bowls Over Voters

Denver-WideOpenWest LLC captured the crown jewels among Colorado cable franchises last Tuesday.

By margins of nearly 80 percent, voters in Denver and Boulder approved franchises that call for WOW to introduce competition to the local telecommunications markets.

The vote was 17,035 to 4,927 in Denver, while the franchise measure passed in Boulder by a vote of 5,440 to 1,713.

WOW-which now has more than 400,000 Colorado residents under franchise-will compete against AT & T Broadband for area video, Internet-access and telephone customers.

"Denver and Boulder are recognized nationally as telecommunications centers," WOW vice president for market development Dave Haverkate said. "To have them under franchise gives us instant credibility."

Both franchises can be extended to 15 years if WOW meets certain terms.

Haverkate said the company will have crews out by next week conducting the initial engineering for a proposed 860-megahertz network.

In Boulder, WOW will also go against Qwest Communications International Inc., formerly U S West. The regional Bell operating company has a revocable permit allowing it to build a digital-subscriber-line network while it challenges the city's right to require that a proposed franchise go before the voters.

So far, Qwest has not indicated that it plans to back out of the deal struck by U S West.

"I have no reason to believe that's going to happen," Boulder telecommunications administrator Richard Varnes said. "But when a big fish eats a little fish, directions can change."