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Open Access Proponents Garner Support of State Legislators

The National Conference of State Legislatures Committee on Commerce and Communications has unanimously voted to table a resolution supporting cable companies' right to deny competitors access to their networks.

Originally supported by AT&T Corp. (T) and other cable companies, the resolution rejected by the state offices was intended to limit their legislative authority over cable networks.

Meeting in Washington, D.C., the National Conference on State Legislatures' (NCSL) Committee on Commerce and Communications openly support mandated access to broadband cable systems.

Senator Pauline Eisenstadt a New Mexico Democrat and member of the committee, said the groups vote showed their support for consumer choice.

"Open access is a consumer protection issue," Eisenstadt said. "I want my constituents to have a choice of Internet access providers. This will become even more important for small businesses as electronic commerce grows."

The openNET coalition is an organization mobilized to represent more than 900 Internet service providers throughout the U.S. that support open access to cable networks. Greg Simon, openNET co-director, testified before the committee urging that states must not let the traits of monopolistic control dominate broadband access to the Internet.

"The Committee's vote today reaffirms the belief of thousands of state officials that they have the legal authority to force the cable monopolies to act in the public interest by requiring open access," Simon said.

"By rejecting this resolution, they send a signal to the cable companies that open access is important and support for it is stronger than ever," he added.

The committee held a debate as to whether states should pass laws requiring cable broadband providers to open their networks to competing Internet service providers.

Rich Bond, openNET co-director, said the vote showed that when legislators take the time to hear both sides of the open access debate, they reject the cable companies attempts to strangle competition.

"This is a positive sign for open access proponents as we prepare for a series of battles at the state level next year," Bond side.

The decision is the latest in a series of resolutions and statements by leading national organizations representing state and local officials that support local governments' right to mandate open access to cable networks for high-speed Internet access.

By supporting open access to cable networks, NCSL joins the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Administrators in supporting the right of local communities to mandate open access to their respective cable networks.