Wisconsin Wireless vanishes

Wisconsin Wireless vanishes

Cahalan, Steve

Wisconsin Wireless Cable TV at 335 Lang Drive apparently has closed, leaving Jennifer Sovereign of La Crosse and other subscribers frustrated.

Sovereign said Thursday she was watching television at home last week, when the screen went blank.

“I believe it was on Thursday,” she said. “All of a sudden, I had no cable channels, only my local channels.”

Since then, she has been able to get only local TV stations through her Wisconsin Wireless converter box. Sovereign said no one has answered the phone at the company’s office. Her husband made four trips to the office in the past week, each time finding the doors locked and the lights off.

“It was really frustrating, because they never sent any notification,” Sovereign said.

A chamber staff member said the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce has received four to six phone calls in the past few days from Wisconsin Wireless subscribers who wonder why they lost their cable channels and why they can’t reach the company.

The chamber, which has been making its own inquiries, has given callers a toll-free number for the Better Business Bureau in Milwaukee.

“We attempt to assist the public in any way we can,” chamber President Dick Granchalek said. “Many times, when people close their doors, we have (only) limited knowledge” of what happened.

Mayor John Medinger said he had not heard that Wisconsin Wireless may have closed.

A Tribune check of federal bankruptcy court records found that Wisconsin Wireless’ parent company, 5th Avenue Channel Corp. of North Miami Beach, Fla., filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on Feb. 21 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Florida.

In a Dec. 6 press release, 5th Avenue said it had completed a number of steps in the restructuring of the company, “including the sale and closing of substantially all of its subsidiaries and a significant reduction in corporate staff and overhead. “

In the press release, 5th Avenue said it had entered into an agreement with Go2America Internet, LLC, canceling its previous purchase of Go2America. It also said that subject to execution of definitive agreements and approval from the Federal Communications Commission, it will transfer its Wisconsin Wireless Cable Television subsidiary to Go2America in exchange for $374,000.

The head of Go2America was not available for comment Thursday at that company’s Wausau, Wis., headquarters. Officials at 5 th Avenue also could not be reached for comment.

In the annual report it filed in March 2000 with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, 5th Avenue said its La Crosse wireless cable TV system began transmitting programming in December 1994. In the report, it said the La Crosse system had about 800 subscribers and offered 22 channels, including 17 wireless cable channels and five local off-air broadcast channels.

Unlike conventional cable, wireless cable involves transmitting signals over the air to small antennas placed on homes and other buildings.

Copyright La Crosse Tribune Mar 22, 2002

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