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Yet More Cable Franchises for Ameritech

Ameritech New Media has added four new cable franchises toits list of venues, which has grown to 70 Midwest locations covering more than 1.1 millionhouseholds.

The city of Taylor, Mich., a Detroit suburb, recently votedto grant Ameritech a 15-year cable-television franchise, thereby setting the stage for thecompany to go head-to-head against the city's incumbent operator, ComcastCorp.'s Comcast Cablevision, sometime next year. Taylor will offer telco AmeritechCorp.'s video arm access to its 70,000 residents and 25,000 households.

Taylor became the seventh area community to sign up forANM's cable service. The MSO is already marketing its Americast cable service inAllen Park, Lincoln Park, Melvindale and Southgate, and it has signed franchises inTrenton and Riverview.

"This is a good thing for our citizens and ourcommunity," said Mayor Gregory Pitoniak. "The competition will foster betterproduct and service for our cable viewers."

Comcast officials said nine out of 10 of its subscribers inthe 11 suburbs where it's competing with ANM have elected to stay with the incumbentoperator. Comcast has an estimated 300,000 customers in the Detroit suburbs.

Meanwhile, ANM picked up its second Michigan franchise lastweek when officials in nearby Hazel Park -- a community of 20,000 residents and 7,000homes -- agreed to allow it to compete for cable subscribers currently served by MediaOne.

Overall, ANM now has 33 signed franchise agreements in theDetroit suburbs, with 22 systems up and running.

Ameritech spokesman Geoff Potter said the immediate resultwill be to spur Comcast and MediaOne "to beef up the quality of their service."

"Everywhere we go, the incumbent immediately startstalking about upgrades, stepping up the quality of their service and holding the line onrate increases," Potter said. "They have to if they're going to keep upwith the competition."

Comcast Cablevision vice president of marketing Dave Belloresponded by pointing out that the company's Taylor system had been rebuilt a yearago.

"And we would have done that whether they came in ornot, or whether they stay or not," Bello said.

Moreover, Bello said Comcast's offering in Taylor willoutpace Ameritech's by six basic channels and by a combined 50 video and audiochannels.

Elsewhere, ANM added to its massive cluster of600,000 residents in the Columbus, Ohio, area when it signed deals with Grandview Heightsand Grove City -- suburbs with a combined 30,000 residents and 11,000 households.