Atlanta -- MediaOne Group Inc. agreed to pay $8.1 million
to the city in return for relief from some public-access-channel requirements and an
The city, in turn, wants the cash for a pet project of the
mayor: developing municipal-sponsored Internet stations designed to help narrow the
The agreement does not contain open-access provisions -- an
element once publicly embraced by Mayor Bill Campbell.
The agreement came up during a reopener in MediaOne's
franchise. Technically, it is AT&T Broadband & Internet Services' franchise
-- the transfer was granted months ago, according to MediaOne vice president of legal and
government affairs Dennis Lobach. But the reopener issues were too complicated to wrap up
before the transfer, so the parties agreed to continue talks with MediaOne.
Topics included the fate of MediaOne's public-access
commitments, construction of a municipal network and the possibility of liquidated damages
for the operator's failure to meet its rebuild schedule.
The 1994 franchise required MediaOne to dedicate seven
channels to PEG access (public, educational and government). After a rebuild of the plant,
that commitment was to rise to 11 channels.
The parties now agreed that MediaOne will not cede the
extra channels, programming them with commercial content instead.
MediaOne also averted its municipal-network obligation,
Some council members stated that they believed the channels
were worth closer to $30 million to $40 million. But in the end, the franchise
reconsideration was approved by a 9-5 vote.
Dr. Jabari Simama of Mayor Campbell's staff was
directed to put together a committee to determine how to execute the "Community
Technology Initiative," which will be funded with MediaOne's cash.