Altrio’s new deal: That’s Intertainer

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Broadband services provider Altrio Communications has chosen Intertainer as its video-on-demand content supplier.
Altrio, which plans to offer digital cable television, high-speed Internet and telephone services to customers in Southern California over a fiber-optic network, took a major step on Aug. 13 toward its long-anticipated service launch when the city council in Pasadena, Calif., granted the company a key regulatory approval.
Once the company clears similar regulatory hurdles in nearby municipalities and finishes constructing its fiber network, Altrio plans to offer Intertainer’s video-on-demand service alongside its suite of digital offerings.
The Pasadena City Council voted unanimously to grant Altrio a franchise to construct and operate an open video system in the city, which is located in the San Gabriel Valley just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The city granted the franchise for an initial period of 10 years, with a possible five-year extension taking effect if Altrio finishes building its infrastructure within the next five years.
The open video franchise, which was introduced as an alternative to traditional cable franchises under telecommunications reform legislation Congress passed in 1996, is designed to facilitate telephone companies’ entry into the television video markets, said Lori Sandoval, information technology planning and project manager for the city of Pasadena.
“Open video system operators have an obligation to make space available on their system if [another party] wants it,” Ms. Sandoval said, adding that Congress intended that open video system operators would receive rapid approval of their franchises in exchange for their acceptance of the franchise’s terms. “I think Altrio has gone this route to try to expedite the process,” she said, noting that most municipalities have not instituted a procedure for approving open video franchises.
During the Aug. 13 approval hearing in Pasadena, multiple system operator Charter Communications submitted several comments expressing opposition to Altrio’s franchise application, Ms. Sandoval said. Charter currently serves customers in Pasadena and will compete with Altrio when the broadband provider commences service in the city.
Altrio is also said to have submitted a similar franchise application to the city of Monrovia, Calif., which lies to the east of Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley. In addition, the broadband provider has filed applications with Los Angeles and the cities of Burbank and Glendale, which are in the San Fernando Valley north of downtown Los Angeles. Altrio is said to be engaged in active negotiations with all those municipalities.
However, Altrio Chief Technology Officer David Large declined to comment on those pending applications. “Any of our franchising activity is not for public consumption,” Mr. Large said.
Altrio leaped into the broadband video market aggressively last year, winning $125 million in equity financing last October. In July 2000, the company was awarded regulatory franchise approval by the city of Arcadia, which is located just east of Pasadena. And the Federal Communications Commission granted Altrio permission last November to operate open video systems in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.
Although Altrio is rumored to be considering whether to include voice-over-Internet-protocol (telephone services delivered over broadband pipes without the assistance of costly telephone switch hardware) in its service package, Mr. Large declined to confirm whether the company has any plans to test or deploy voice-over-IP.
Mr. Large also said that even though the company has tentatively selected a digital cable set-top box vendor, Altrio is “very open to what [set-top] we end up using.”