Los Angeles -- Cable operators should find out June 4
whether they swayed regulators here away from an attempt to include language about opening
high-speed-access platforms in refranchising negotiations.
Combatants from both sides -- including representatives of
America Online Inc., other Internet-service providers and local cable providers -- trooped
through the city's Information Technology Agency May 10, and they were allowed to
follow up with written reports to the department.
The current study will have an impact inside and outside of
the city limits. All 14 city franchises will be renegotiated, transferred, or both, over
the next two years.
Century Communications Corp.'s franchises will be
transferred to Adelphia Communications Corp., and MediaOne Group Inc.'s franchises
will go to AT&T Broadband & Internet Services.
AT&T's acquisition of Tele-Communications Inc. has
already been approved, and the franchises were transferred here with a mere request -- not
a demand -- that high-speed-data platforms be opened to competitors. But those franchises
are up for renewal.
Regulators in other cities said they, too, want to act on
the access issue, but they are waiting to piggyback on the work being done in Los Angeles.
For instance, Dade County, Fla., approved an open-access
ordinance with the transfer of TCI properties to AT&T. But authorities there delayed
implementation for six months, waiting to see how the issue is acted on in Los Angeles and
in Portland, Ore., said Mario Goderich, director of the county's consumer-protection
Portland is waiting for a ruling on a summary-judgment
request made by AT&T attorneys there. Portland-area regulators were the only ones in
the country to approve the TCI transfer contingent on an open high-speed-data platform.
In multiple hearings before Los Angeles officials,
opponents argued over whether an open platform was even technically feasible.
Representatives of the @Home Network high-speed service argued that open access was
financially unfeasible and that outside traffic would slow local traffic to a crawl,
defeating the purpose of broadband.
City officials also visited with the OpenNet Coalition,
which is backed by AOL and other ISPs, and they have gone to @Home's base to
familiarize themselves with the technology.
And information-technology officials gathered data from
Cable Television Laboratories Inc., the Federal Communications Commission, the Department
of Justice and other sources.
Jesse Juarros, assistant general manager of the city
agency, said he believed both sides agreed that with enough money, time and resources, an
open platform was possible. The regulator added that the department's recommendation
has not yet been drafted.
The department has until June 30 to present its findings to
the Los Angeles City Council. But its report will be heard by Information Technology
Agency commissioners June 4.