Losing WINfirst

WINfirst—the start-up company that began offering packaged cable television, Internet and phone service in Sacramento—has stalled in its plans to upgrade the high-tech infrastructure throughout the area due to cash flow problems.

Through its sometimes intrusive efforts to install the wiring and transfer boxes needed for this technological leap, the company had drawn a backlash in Land Park and elsewhere in Sacramento (see “No Pain, No Gain,” SN&R, February 14).

Among the concerns raised in sometimes heated community meetings was that the company wouldn’t be around for the long haul and might leave its improvements unfinished, so its current situation is ironic, perhaps even telling.

Company officials say that a freeze in the capital markets is to blame for the decision—both to halt construction and to lay off many of its Sacramento area employees—but they will continue to serve customers in neighborhoods that have already been upgraded.

Also affected is the company’s relationship with Bechtel Telecommunications, which had teamed up with WINfirst and the Sacramento Municipal Utilites District in the construction process in Sacramento.

Chris Capra, spokesman for SMUD, said Bechtel informed utility officials that WINfirst issued “stop payment” orders to conserve cash, and as a result, SMUD will not allow WINfirst to continue work on the power poles until Bechtel employees are paid.

WINfirst officials say the company has been unable to line up additional funds to continue its expansion, which was to have wired Sacramento County for its services by early 2004.

Insurrection denied

The hopes that moderate Republicans in Placer County held for wresting control of their party from conservatives were dashed on election day when Congressman John Doolittle and his right-wing allies trounced their insurgent challengers (see “When Elephants Collide,” SN&R, February 28).

With 77 percent of the vote, Doolittle easily won the nomination over Auburn physician Bill Kirby. In addition, 18 of the 21 seats on the Placer County Republican Central Committee were won by candidates endorsed by the conservative Placer County Republican Leadership Committee, although a few had also been endorsed by moderate Republican Congress of Placer County.

Among those swept from the Central Committee were Paul Hrabal, who led the moderate effort. Yet even before the election, Hrabal had already pledged to work on uniting his party for the fall campaign.

“If John Doolittle wins the primary, I will be voting for him in November,” Hrabal said three weeks before the election. “He’s the one with the R by his name.”