A Texas-based company called Sage Telecom has broken the SBC/ Pacific Bell monopoly and will be offering local phone service in Chico. We’re among the several small markets in California in which the private company can deal, following approval Sept. 16 from the California Public Utilities Commission.

People can sign up starting around Oct. 14 or 15, said company spokeswoman Nancy Kennedy.

The company, which has 400,000 residential and small-business customers in Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, says it offers competitive rates and includes deals on long distance and such calling features as Caller ID. Sage Telecom does most of its marketing through direct mail. Kennedy said that unlike the other little companies that popped up and quickly died after the telecommunications industry was deregulated by Congress in 1996, “We’re doing all of our growth from profit and we’re not leveraged in any way.”

Along with Chico, Sage Telecom will first offer service in Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton, which are considered among the rural, suburban and agricultural marketplaces the company targets. “We’re just going up the valley,” Kennedy said. “Then we’ll go wide after that.”

Stringing along

Chico is winding up (heh, heh) for the National Yo-Yo Contest, which for the 10th year is being hosted Oct. 5 by the National Yo-Yo Museum, located inside Bird in Hand in downtown Chico and directed by store owner Bob Malowney.

“Chico is extremely well-respected in the yo-yo community,” Malowney said. Players come from all over the United States, with each of nine regions sending two finalists to compete for the national championship. There’s also a “sport” division for the less-seasoned players. Last year, Chico State University student José Madrigal won that division.

“These players become famous,” said Malowney, mentioning that the competition is broadcast live over the Internet. Nickelodeon, ESPN and CBS News have come to Chico for the event in past years, and there’s a rumor rolling around—Malowney will believe it when he sees it—that MTV wants to come this year as someone tries to get the longest “sleeper” into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Many of the competitors are in their mid-teens, from 13 to 16, which Malowney said is when many players peak, largely because they devote two to three hours a day to practicing their techniques. “A lot of the kids here play in the championships.”

They haven’t dropped the “big yo-yo” (the museum has the largest wooden one in the world, and it takes an 80-foot crane to do the deed) since 1996. While they’re not going to do so this year, Malowney said it shouldn’t be long before Chico sees that feat again.

You can also pick up the official Yomega 2002 National Yo-Yo Contest commemorative edition yo-yo for $16.95.