Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sunflower Broadband acquired by Georgia-based company

August 4, 2010

— In the beginning there was the vision. Forty-five years later, it was a spectacular reality. Today, the baton is being passed to a new owner.

Knology of Kansas Inc., a newly formed part of West Point, Ga.-headquartered Knology Inc., will acquire Sunflower Broadband from The World Company. Sunflower employees were told Wednesday morning about an agreement signed Tuesday that will end a chapter in Lawrence history that began in the late 1960s. That’s when Dolph C. Simons Jr., then publisher of the Journal-World, returned from a meeting of the American Newspaper Publishers Assn. At the meeting he’d learned of something called community antenna television (CATV). He was intrigued by this “cable television.”

He invited Bill Daniels, then the nation’s foremost authority on cable TV, to Lawrence to help evaluate the city as a cable market. Daniels drove all over town. He took note of the many rooftop antennae, and the fact that television signals from both Kansas City and Topeka were available off the airwaves. His decision was that Lawrence was not a suitable market for cable.

Dolph Jr. has recounted many times the visit he then had with his father, Dolph Simons Sr., who was in charge of The World Company. “I told him that the man who’s the expert says he wouldn’t invest in cable here. But I said I thought we should go ahead.”

Dolph Sr. told his son that if that’s what he believed the company should do, they would do it.

“I’d rather have tried it and failed than to have let somebody else come into my home town and try it and succeed,” Dolph Jr. says, outlining a philosophy that governed many company decisions.

That cable system, initially known as Sunflower Cablevision and today as Sunflower Broadband, became an award-winning industry innovator through its locally originated programming and its versatile adoption of emerging technology, making it an Internet provider and a telephone company, in addition to its television programming offerings.

Knology is a telephone, Internet and broadband provider operating in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and South Dakota. Ironically, the World Company was represented in the transaction by RBC Daniels, the legacy company of Bill Daniels, who said cable never would work in Lawrence. Managing Director Randall Wells led the RBC Daniels effort. Knology sources valued the transaction at $165 million and said closing is expected in the fourth quarter.

The new owner is acquiring a system that went on the air Jan. 5, 1972, with Max Falkenstien—yes, the same Max who was the voice of the Jayhawks so many years—as general manager. He started in May of 1971 and left at mid-year in 1972, turning over the managerial reins to John Dennis, who had led construction of the plant for Jerrold Electronics.

Since that time, the operation has grown to serve more than 33,000 basic video customers in three counties, more than 28,000 Internet customers and more than 15,000 telephone lines.

World Company personnel will provide 6News programming under a contract with Sunflower’s new owners.

The World Company publishes the Lawrence Journal-World and weekly newspapers in Baldwin City, Basehor, Bonner Springs, Shawnee and Tonganoxie, plus various Websites, including kusports.com,

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