Portland OKs Transfer

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The AT&T Broadband-Comcast Corp. merger cleared a hurdle when Portland, Ore. — the community that fired the first salvo in the battle over open access — approved the transfer of AT&T's cable franchise there.

During the city's last franchise-transfer proceeding — which shifted the system from Tele-Communications Inc. to AT&T Broadband — Portland demanded that AT&T open its cable-modem network to unaffiliated Internet-service providers.

This time out, Portland also sought concessions in exchange for transfer approval. But in this proceeding, the concession was over a local issue.

The post-merger AT&T Comcast Corp. agreed to a contract through which it will connect the city's government installations and schools in a wide-area network. Such an institutional network has been a part of AT&T Broadband's franchise, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement on use payments, according to Portland cable director David Olson.

AT&T Broadband still isn't certain that municipalities can legally make demands on its infrastructure capacity, MSO regional communications director Debra Luppold said during a hearing. It might mount a legal challenge to such demands in the future, she said.

Prior to Wednesday's hearing, Olson said AT&T officials were not interested in talking about the I-net, but the pending transfer "focused their attention marvelously."

City commissioners voted 4-0 for the transfer last week.

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