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Friday, February 08, 2013 10:28 PM

City OKs switch for cable, Internet provider

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer

Ottawa residents soon will have a new company to consider when it comes to selecting a service provider for many of their communication needs.

Ottawa city commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday to transfer the city’s franchise agreement from Allegiance Communications to BCI Broadband, Purchase, N.Y.

The Shawnee, Okla.-based Allegiance, which provides Internet, cable TV and digital telephone services to Ottawa customers, has seen its local market cut in half in recent years.

Allegiance and BCI representatives told city commissioners at their study session Monday it was a trend they hoped to turn around.

“We are going to be very competitively priced and offer bundle packages, because we want to recapture market share,” Shawn Beqaj, BCI’s vice president of public and government affairs, told city commissioners. “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.”

BCI Broadband, which is in the midst of acquiring Allegiance, said BCI is planning upgrades that would boost local Internet speeds up to 100 megabits-per-second, compared to Allegiance’s maximum speed of 15 megabits, Beqaj said.

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,” he said.

The Allegiance acquisition, which requires FCC approval, should be completed in March or April, Beqaj estimated.

Beqaj talked with commissioners Monday 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 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.”

Bob Bezek, city attorney, told commissioners Wednesday night he had reviewed and made some revisions to the language of the agreement and was satisfied the city’s interests were protected. He recommended the commission approve the franchise transfer agreement.

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