Sunflower Broadband’s new owners change name to Knology

So long, Sunflower. Hello, Knology.

The new owners of Lawrence’s Sunflower Broadband officially changed the name of the service Tuesday to Knology.

The Georgia-based company — which bought Sunflower from the Journal-World’s parent company late last year — is changing signs, trucks and logos to reflect the new Knology brand name and its red corporate colors.

The company uses the Knology brand name in its 12 other markets across the Southeast and Midwest. Knology CEO Rodger Johnson, who was in Lawrence for the kickoff, said consistency is important for marketing purposes.

“But I hope everything else looks pretty much the same for customers,” Johnson said. “I hope the service and high quality that Sunflower folks established will continue. We think there will be minimal change as we go forward.”

Johnson said customers also should not expect dramatic changes in rates that are charged for the company’s cable, telephone and Internet services.

“I would expect the rate strategy would be very, very similar,” Johnson said.

He said Knology — which is a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq — belongs to the same cooperative that was used by Sunflower to negotiate fees the cable providers pay to cable networks. He said the amount of fees being asked for by regional sports networks was one of the larger issues in the cable industry. But Johnson said he absolutely understood the importance of having Jayhawk basketball on the airwaves in Lawrence.

“Now that I’m a Kansas fan, I should say I think Ohio State is overrated,” Johnson said, referring to the team that is one spot ahead of the Jayhawks in the latest basketball polls.

On other issues, Johnson said:

• The company is strongly committed to continuing the local programming on Channel 6 and the 6News broadcasts. Originally, Knology had planned to sign a contract for the Journal-World’s parent company to provide content for the 6News operations. But just prior to the closing of the sale, Knology decided to operate 6News on an entirely independent basis. Johnson said the company now is using Channel 6 to determine whether local programming could be used to strengthen their systems in other markets.

“We are very excited about both 6News and Channel 6,” Johnson said. “We’ve made a very major commitment to make that a viable piece of our business structure in town. We’re going with all guns blazing to be successful with 6News and Channel 6.”

• Local layoffs that were announced near the end of last year were part of the process of eliminating redundancies between the two companies. Johnson confirmed the majority of the layoffs were in Sunflower’s customer service call center and accounting and finance positions. Knology operates call centers in Augusta, Ga., and Sioux Falls, S.D., that serve all of Knology’s markets. Johnson said he was confident customer service would not decline as a result of the change. The company expects to have about 130 employees in Lawrence initially, and then “grow from there.” Previously, Sunflower had employed about 200 people.

• Extending broadband service to additional unincorporated areas of Douglas County will be studied. Johnson said the company since 2008 has been implementing an “edge out” strategy that attempts to broaden the geographical footprint of its markets.

“Our business is very healthy and we have the capital to consider investing in expanding the footprint in and around the Lawrence area over time,” Johnson said.

Shortly after the name change Tuesday, questions emerged about what the change would mean for e-mail users who have as part of their e-mail address. A company spokeswoman said that the addresses would continue to work, and that the company had not yet made any decision on whether it would attempt to change the addresses in the future.

“We have not finalized any e-mail migration plan, so as of today, it is just going to be business as usual,” said local Knology spokeswoman Maria Preston Cargill.