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Smaller MSOs detail $500 M efforts in FCC briefing

Mon, 02/04/2002 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

Amid so much talk of taking broadband to rural areas, a handful of medium and small cablecos want the policy-making sector to know: Been there, done that, invested the millions.

At a briefing for U.S. Federal Communications Commission staff and commissioners, arranged by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CEOs of seven MSOs detailed the nearly $500 million they've invested between them.

Sjoberg's Inc. President and CEO Richard Sjoberg noted his company has invested more than $5 million in advanced broadband technologies for 8,400 customers in 33 rural towns in northwest Minnesota. The company offers high-speed Internet to 75 percent of the 10,500 homes it passes, with the rest scheduled for access by the end of the year. Sjoberg says cable modem service is more popular than digital video service.

For its part, Mediacom Communications Corp. sank $280 million in broadband services last year for 1.6 million customers, 85 percent of whom are in areas with 2,000 or fewer subscribers. The investment covers 23 states, including Georgia, Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota. Of its homes passed, 54 percent have access to broadband Internet, and the company's plans call for 80 percent by the end of 2002.

Susquehanna Communications weighed in on the $114 million it invested in bringing cable modem service to more than 73 percent of its customers, via its seven cable systems in Pennsylvania, Maine, Indiana, Illinois and Mississippi.

Likewise, US Cable Corp. dropped about $10 million a year for three years in parts of Minnesota and New Mexico; Midcontinent Communications slated $8 million of its $23 million infrastructure development for Internet and cable telephone service in the Dakotas; Millennium Digital Media has put a total of $55 million into broadband access for homes in Maryland, Michigan, Washington and Oregon; and Eagle Communications sank $1 million in five years to take broadband to 13,000 customers in six Kansas areas. Gans Multimedia Partnership invested an undisclosed amount in broadband services to customers in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

NCTA spokesman Marc Smith says the MSOs were "very encouraged" by the response and the ability to tell their stories to policy makers.

"Cable operators — even those serving mid-size and rural markets — are widely delivering on the deployment of high-speed Internet service and other broadband services," said NCTA President and CEO Robert Sachs, in a statement. "We think it's critical that the public policy community in Washington hear first-hand of those efforts."

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