King County to Get AT & T@Home Rollout

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AT & T Broadband will roll out its AT & T@Home service in King County, Wash., under an agreement that preserves the local jurisdiction's right to require open access.

The King County Council voted 13-0 last week to approve a compromise that would force AT & T Broadband to unbundle its high-speed network if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejects its bid to overturn similar requirements in Portland, Ore.

The access requirements would also be triggered once there are 35,000 broadband customers in the county and two-thirds of them belong to AT & T Broadband.

In exchange, the MSO will immediately be able to deliver AT & T@Home to 15,000 homes in unincorporated King County, with the rest of county able to receive the high-speed offering by year's end.

"One of the council members put it best when he said [the deal] had the characteristics of good legislation: Nobody was happy with it,'" AT & T Broadband spokesman Steve Kipp said. "But it allows us to launch the service, which is what we wanted all along."

Elaine Kraft, spokeswoman for King County executive Ron Sims, said the compromise guarantees that 95,000 AT & T Broadband cable subscribers will benefit if the Ninth Circuit rules in Portland's favor.

"We'll be all over it the minute the court rules in favor of Portland," Kraft said. "We're comfortable with where we are. We were worried that the county wouldn't have the ability to update its [franchise] agreement once all of the court cases are settled."

The compromise replaces a controversial proposal floated earlier by council members Jane Hague and David Irons that would have allowed consumers to access separate Internet-service providers via AT & T Broadband's network, but only after paying the full price for AT & T@Home.

In a prepared statement, Rich Bond, cofounder of the OpenNet Coalition, a group of ISPs supporting open access, said the council's decision indicated that it "realized how important competition is, especially when it involves electronic commerce. In the end, AT & T simply cannot turn aside consumer demand for choice."

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