Cablecos weigh in on AtHome ruling, most still talking
On the heels of Friday's ruling allowing ExciteAtHome to renegotiate cableco contracts, the company says it is doing just that — save for AT&T Broadband.
Meantime, other cable companies say they're switching customers over to semi-complete networks, and are negotiating to keep the others up and running on AtHome's systems.
Friday, a bankruptcy court judge ruled that the cablecos must renegotiate their master service agreements with AtHome, and said AtHome could shut down service if required.
Over the weekend, AtHome issued a statement that it was negotiating with all cablecos except for AT&T, regarding continuation of service. "After determining that it would not be able to reach agreement with AT&T, the company terminated service to AT&T," it says in a statement.
An AtHome spokeswoman did not return calls by CEDaily's deadline, but her voice mail message read the statement, issued Saturday, and indicated there was no further comment.
As of Saturday, AT&T Broadband had moved about 86,000 customers in Oregon and Vancouver, Wash., to its own network, it said in a statement. AT&T had 1.4 million broadband Internet customers, it said, about 850,000 of whom were on AtHome's network.
This morning, AT&T reported it had moved about 330,000 cable Internet customers to the new network, including some in Dallas. The company says it will move customers in San Francisco and Illinois to the new system, for a total of 657,000 by tomorrow. It expects to switch most other customers within the next few days.
AT&T has come under fire for a $307 million bid it made for AtHome's assets when AtHome filed for bankruptcy. AT&T recently pulled several members from AtHome's board, leaving two.
An AT&T spokeswoman says the asset offer was the company's first phase. AT&T was still negotiating, she says.
Charter Communications Corp. says it's transitioned 90 percent of its 145,000 AtHome customers over to Charter Pipeline, but is still negotiating to keep two systems in the Northwest running on AtHome's system.
"We're negotiating with AtHome this morning to come up with an agreement until we can get the circuits we need," says Charter spokesman Andy Morgan. "The equipment is in place in the (two) headends, but they're saying it could be a week to four weeks to get (the needed circuits) from the phone company."
Morgan wouldn't say how much the company invested in its network, nor would he comment on the "significant payment" the company says it paid earlier when AtHome threatened to shut off service to new customers. He also did not know if a payment would be involved in today's negotiations. "There more than likely will be," he says.
Morgan says Charter stepped up work on its network after AtHome's bankruptcy.
"We've essentially accomplished in nine to 12 weeks what would have taken a year," he says.
About 20 percent of Charter's 145,000 high-speed Internet customers were on AtHome's system. The company started warning customers via e-mail, calls and regular mail that the switch could take place, and last week, mailed out CDs to help customers with the switch. It also hired an outside customer service firm to help handle calls about the conversion, Morgan says.
Meantime, other cablecos are issuing statements and assuring customers that interruptions will be minimal, if they occur at all.
Rogers Cable says it has an alternate network up and is ready to migrate customers, if negotiations don't succeed.
Cox Communications said last week it was accelerating work on its network, while Comcast Cable Communications said Friday it was continuing talks with AtHome and hoped there would be no interruption in service. The company recently sent a letter to subscribers detailing the problems and potential service shut-down, and outlined steps to take to ensure continued service. Cox likewise posted an emergency plan on its site.
A Comcast spokesman could not be reached by CEDaily's deadline.