WOW! to battle Spectrum for Amherst television and Internet customers


By Jason Hawk - jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com



Good news for those frustrated with their cable service: WOW! plans to expand its operations to Amherst starting this spring.

Wide Open West, headquartered in Denver, is the sixth-largest cable provider in the nation.

The company signed a pole attachment agreement with Amherst city council at the tail end of February, signaling that it will begin installing lines in town in late March or early April.

It will take several months to wire the entire city.

No work has been done yet — if you’ve seen workers out installing cable, they’re not from WOW! They are working on a fiber optic loop that will network Amherst city hall, police, the San Spring building, and other municipal sites that need to share data.

As previously reported, residents won’t be able to tap into that fiber loop. It’s not intended for use by members of the public.

WOW! is a different story. It will soon start rolling out service to customers and the plan is to have everything in place by fall, said Michael Kaczmarski, director of operations for the Cleveland area.

A 10-year agreement lets WOW! install optical converters, remote radio units, antennas, and cable on nearly 2,500 public utility poles.

The city will receive $9.43 per year for each pole — that’s about $23,500 in annual pole rental fees.

WOW! also signed a right-of-way agreement not required by state law that gives the city some extra protections.

“The fact that the mayor was able to negotiate such a good contract is actually, in my mind, remarkable,” law director Tony Pecora said, praising mayor Mark Costilow.

The deal was fast-tracked by council in a 7-0 vote on Feb. 26.

Under Ohio law, Amherst didn’t have any say in whether WOW! could move into town, only with regard to fees for using utility poles. That’s because Senate Bill 117 allows telecom companies to wire cities for Internet and video, and the Ohio Department of Commerce issued WOW! a video service authorization renewal on Jan. 25 that includes Amherst and its surrounding areas.

Kaczmarski said he is working now to finalize an agreement with officials in South Amherst to offer service there.

Amherst Township residents will have to wait. They’re not included in WOW! build plans for 2018, though Kaczmarski said he hopes that will change in 2019 or 2020.

WOW! completed similar builds last year in North Ridgeville and Parma Heights. Growth on the east side of Cleveland has been especially brisk.

In Amherst, service will be delivered over a hybrid fiber co-axle system similar to what Spectrum is offering right now. In addition to television, the company plans to offer Internet packages with speeds of 100 MB, 500 MB, 1 GB.

Some of our Facebook readers shared their thoughts about the introduction of competition into the market.

“I would be interested. I have one TV, Internet, (and) a phone I don’t want and it costs $170,” said Cindy Woodruff Moore.

“I have always been very happy with my Time Warner/Spectrum service,” said Allison Priess Finney. “Problems were few and far between and they were usually prompt with a solution. I am hopeful that the competition might lower prices a bit, though!”

“I don’t care about WoW or Spectrum or CenturyTel. I want Internet as a utility offered by the city. Anything short of that is always going to be junk,” said John Frank.

“I cut cable a year ago,” said J Matthew Veneman. “Use an antenna for local channels, Internet only through Spectrum, a Firestick which has the Sling TV app. Much cheaper and not missing anything. In a good area to pick up all local channels.”

Wide open options was a theme repeated by Amherst officials, including Costilow. “It just brings more choice to the people of Amherst,” he said of the WOW! deal. “Hopefully this will be the newest technology out there… More choice is always good.”

Kaczmarski echoed that thought.

“Every consumer should have a choice,” he told the News-Times. “We want to be able to offer them the Internet when they want to use it and how they want to use it with no limits.”

For more information about whether your house will be serviced by WOW!, email wowisbuildingachoice@wowinc.com.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com

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