Florida County Wants Open Cable Access

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Add Broward County, Fla., to the ranks of local governments
that want cable's high-speed-data platform opened, for a fee, to other providers.

The county commission there recently held hearings and
entertained an ordinance that would require cable-TV franchisees to provide such access
"on rates, terms and conditions as favorable as it gives itself." The ordinance
would also create a cause of action for enforcement by the county.

But rather than approving the legislation now, the board
voted for further study for 60 days. Members said they deferred approval in hopes that the
parties -- including local Internet-service providers and MediaOne Group Inc., the
dominant cable operator in the area -- would privately negotiate a compromise.

The resolution caused disagreement among commission
members. A minority, including chairwoman Ilene Lieberman, wanted a delay of only 30 days
before the commission acts. Six months delayed is six months denied, Lieberman said.

The commission became interested in regulating the
high-speed platform after attending a seminar with providers such as BellSouth Corp., she
said. The companies complained that data providers don't have the same point-of-service
choice requirements that telephone companies have.

"Now, it seems like the telephone companies are buying
cable to avoid the same requirements they once complained about," she added.

Broward County has held hearings on the issue, and
Lieberman believes an open platform is technically feasible. "This is an incredibly
technological age. We don't want any artificial barriers to consumers," she said.

Broward is not the only county in the Miami area ready to
drop the regulatory bomb. Neighboring Dade County considered including open-access
language in the franchise transfer of Tele-Communications Inc. properties to AT&T
Corp., but it relented in the face of fierce lobbying.

However, Dade regulators are awaiting action by the city of
Los Angeles, which continues to study access regulation.

That city's study may be released this week, and Florida
regulators indicated that they will follow Los Angeles' lead if that metropolitan area
decides that cable-based Internet platforms are within the realm of its regulatory
authority.

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