Possible Adelphia sale raises uncertainty

June Casagrande

NEWPORT BEACH -- Cable customers and city officials are taking a

wait-and-see approach to the news that Adelphia Communications Corp.'s

Southern California operations are for sale.

The cable company on Wednesday announced it would start soliciting

bids for a number of its assets, including its Southern California

operations. Adelphia is one of two cable companies in Newport Beach,

serving about two-thirds of the city. Cox Communications Inc. is the

city's other provider.

"What this all means remains to be seen," City Manager Homer Bludau

said. "There have been a lot of service issues, especially complaints

about Adelphia's Internet service. This news is probably a good thing in

the long run, but we don't yet know who we would be dealing with."

Earlier this year, dozens of residents were registering with City Hall

their dissatisfaction with Adelphia's Internet service. Some complained

that, since the company's Internet partner excite@home had folded,

connection speeds, times and reliability were poor. Others said customer

service was substandard.

Partly in response to these issues, the city is planning a series of

workshops to gather resident input on cable service. These workshops are

especially tailored to consider special programming options, such as

adding more stations for community programming and persuading the cable

companies to produce more local shows, such as "Speak Up Newport," which

is now produced by Adelphia.

The city's contract with Adelphia and Cox expires in January.

Officials say they hope to gather residents' input to help them at the

bargaining table when renewing the contracts.

The news that Adelphia may no longer be a player, though, could affect

negotiations to renew the contracts. But it's still possible that the

current contract with Adelphia could be updated and renewed. Then, when

and if another company buys Adelphia's operations in Newport Beach, the

city would have to approve the transfer of the agreement to the new

operator.

The company ordered its financial advisor Salomon Smith Barney to

solicit offers for cable systems in Southern California, Florida,

Virginia and the Southeast as a way to fix recent financial problems.

"I am confident that the steps we are taking will enable us to achieve

our objectives of reducing debt, de-leveraging our balance sheet and

creating a stronger Adelphia," Chairman and Chief Executive John J. Rigas

said in a statement.

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