Broward Rescinds Void Access Law

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Broward County, Fla., ordinance 1999-41 no longer has access: As part of a settlement of its lawsuit with Comcast Corp. and Advanced Communications, the Broward County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday (May 22) unanimously rescinded the county's open-access law.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Middlebrooks ruled the county law violated the operators' First Amendment rights. It was the only open-access litigation to be overturned on Constitutional grounds.

Initially, the county intended to appeal the ruling, but ultimately decided to settle when attorneys for the cable operators indicated they would waive their claim to attorney's fees.

Comcast and Advanced were represented by outside attorney Terry Bienstock, who argued that data-over-cable service is akin to a newspaper. He also said the ruling provides a precedent allowing cable operators to argue that the U.S. Constitution pre-empts the Federal Communications Commission from forcing cable operators to open their high-speed-data platforms to outside companies.

"Cable has had no success in 10 years arguing its First Amendment rights, outside of content-regulation cases," he said.

The county resolution said the open-access law "is not effective at this time and should be repealed."

The once-hot issue was not subject to public comment, aside from the vote, according to a county spokeswoman.

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