Copyright 2002 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER…02/27/2002
Bellevue and Seattle officials who were hopeful they’d found a company to bring competition to the dominant cable provider, AT&T Broadband, were disappointed yesterday at news that indicates it’s not likely to happen.
WINfirst, a Denver company that signed a contract with the city of Seattle last March to provide extremely fast fiber to the homes of Seattle citizens, was overdue on payments to several utilities in Sacramento, Calif., according to Rich Esposto, the executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Commission.
Sacramento’s electric utility, as well as the local telephone company, told Esposto they would not issue new permits to WINfirst until the telecommunications company caught up on its bills. Besides the overdue payments, WINfirst’s general manager told Esposto that the company would not continue to work with Bechtel Telecommunications, which Esposto said he found alarming.
“Bechtel was an investor and the first strategic partner and the construction manager, so to me it was significant for Bechtel to stop working with WIN in Sacramento.”
Neither WINfirst nor Bechtel could be reached yesterday.
Seattle and Bellevue officials said they thought it unlikely WINfirst would be building cable to Puget Sound-area homes any time soon. Consumers are stuck with dominant providers, they said.
WINfirst had promised Seattle officials it would spend $500 million to build a citywide cable network of fiber-optic connections directly to homes with speeds up to 10 Mbps — much faster than existing systems in the city.
Furthermore, the company was going to pay the city $545,000 to create an expanded municipal cable channel.
WINfirst is required to have its cable system available in 10 percent of Seattle’s households by March 2003 or face stiff fines.
WINfirst had signed deals with 14 cities, but Tony Perez, director of Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications, said a WINfirst representative told Seattle in December that it was going to suspend work in all except Sacramento.