Portland Is Latest @Home Market

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AT & T Broadband wasted no time launching its AT & T@Home Internet service in Portland, Ore., where the first shot in the open-access wars was fired almost two years ago.

The MSO installed its first cable modem June 23, the day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that Portland exceeded its authority in trying to require AT & T Broadband to allow area Internet-service providers onto its network.

But deployment of the service threatened to trigger another court battle, as local officials claimed that AT & T Broadband needs a separate telecommunications franchise to offer @Home.

AT & T Broadband is marketing @Home despite the Ninth Circuit also declaring that Internet access over cable is a telecommunications service, which, Portland officials said, makes a separate franchise necessary before the service can be offered.

Portland director of cable franchising David Olson said AT & T Broadband's actions were typical of a company with a "troubling history of taking the law into its own hands."

"This pattern of arrogant conduct increases the likelihood that the city will pursue appropriate remedies under both our telecommunications- and cable-franchising authority against AT & T," he added.

AT & T Broadband disagreed. "It's a difference of interpretation of the Ninth Circuit's ruling," AT & T Corp. corporate spokesman Jim McGann said. "They believe a telecommunications franchise is required, we don't. We've bounced it off our legal people and they're very confident that we don't need a telecommunications franchise."

As of late last week, local officials were holding their fire, content to see @Home finally deployed locally. But Olson said: "If @Home is a telecommunications service, as the court declared, then the possibility of the city insisting on AT & T obtaining a telecommunications franchise or license is highly likely."

Meanwhile, AT & T Broadband had approached 100 customers in Portland for high-speed Internet service by late last week, with installs expected to average 90 per day by the end of this week.

"We had a waiting list of over 2,000," AT & T Broadband regional communications director Kevin Mulligan said. "In addition, the phone has been ringing off the hook since the Ninth Circuit's decision was announced."

At present, @Home will be available only in areas of West Portland that have been upgraded, or to about 30,000 homes, Mulligan said. Another 20,000 households will be activated this week. The upgrade should be completed by year's end.

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