Ottawa customers could see high-speed Internet access at speeds up to six times faster than what’s currently available through Allegiance Communications, an executive with BCI Broadband, a company in the midst of acquiring Allegiance, said this week.
While Allegiance — which provides Internet, cable TV and digital telephone services to Ottawa customers — offers high-speed Internet services at a maximum of 15 megabits-per-second, BCI Broadband, Purchase, N.Y., is planning upgrades that would boost local Internet speeds up to 100 megabits-per-second, Shawn Beqaj, BCI’s vice president of public and government affairs, told Ottawa city commissioners Monday.
That was just one example of the capital investment BCI Broadband is planning to make in the Ottawa market, Beqaj said.
“We are looking at 100 HD [cable TV] channels to make us competitive,” Beqaj said.
Beqaj talked with commissioners about the company’s successful track record in Montana, Wyoming and other regions, adding that the company’s niche always has been to serve the smaller Midwestern and Rocky Mountain markets. He said Shawnee, Okla.-based Allegiance’s non-urban broadband systems across Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma were a perfect fit for the company. He pointed out Ottawa would be among the Top 10 largest markets in the Allegiance acquisition and would be in the Top 20 percent of the largest markets the company services nationally.
“As soon as we have franchise agreements settled and FCC approval, we have crews ready to start coming in and laying cable,” Beqaj said. “We have the capital available to begin as soon as the agreement is finalized.”
City Commissioner Jeff Richards asked Beqaj if the upgrades would mean a considerable boost in the cost of services for residents.
“We are going to be very competitively priced, and offer bundle packages, because we want to recapture market share,” Beqaj said. “Allegiance’s market share has gone from 60 to 70 percent in Ottawa down to about 30 percent. We are going to be aggressive in trying to recapture that market share, and to do that it would not make good business sense to come in with big price increases.”
Beqaj cited the example of how the company laid more than 4,000 miles of cable in the first ninth months it was in the Montana market, and grew the company’s staff in Montana from about 100 employees to more than 400. He said the company that would be laying the cable has been working with BCI Broadband’s predecessor company — Bresnan Communications — since the 1980s. The same management team that ran Bresnan is now running BCI Broadband.
The BCI executive encouraged commissioners and city staff to contact any of the cities it currently serves.
“We have won every major award the cable industry has,” Beqaj said, “and we place a premium on customer service. When someone calls us and wants to start service, we want it in place within 24 to 48 hours — three or four days isn’t acceptable.”
Beqaj told commissioners he was hopeful the Allegiance acquisition could be finalized in March or April at the latest.
“We are eager to get started serving Ottawa,” he said.
Commissioners agreed to consider a resolution that would transfer the city’s franchise agreement from Allegiance to BCI Broadband at its regular commission meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.