Kent Finds Program-Access Loophole


Jerry Kent said his recent decision to buy an optical-network company with a
national footprint could help MSOs to avoid federal program-access laws.

Last month, Kent's CEQUEL III agreed to buy Broadwing Inc. in a partnership
with Corvis Corp. Broadwing can distribute cable networks over its optical lines
to 150 markets.

Federal law forces MSOs to sell their satellite-delivered networks to
EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. But since Broadwing is a
terrestrial service, cable networks riding on the platform would be exempt from
program-access rules.

"It has great potential for the cable industry," Kent, the former Charter
Communications Inc. CEO, said Wednesday at an A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc.
conference in Las Vegas. "The cable industry can develop its own programming and
deliver it via our Broadwing network and take programming exclusivity."

Broadwing could trigger a fight in Washington, D.C., where consumer groups
and the direct-broadcast satellite industry are always looking for signs that
cable might be trying to skirt program-access laws.