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Broward County Scores Partial Broadband Victory

Local officials have won half of their battle to regulate who has access to broadband cable services in Broward County, Fla.

A federal judge has thrown out part of a lawsuit trying to squash the municipalities law that mandates local cable companies open their high-speed cable systems to competitors.

Four cable companies sued Broward Country after the local officials passed the ordinance last July. But U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled Monday that two of the companies, Comcast Cablevision (CMCSA), and Advanced Cable Communications, were not immediately threatened by the ordinance because neither company offers broadband Internet access.

The judge would allow the cable companies to refile, should they add broadband Internet access to their service line-ups. The ruling, however, does not affect complaints filed by AT&T-owned (T) MediaOne (UMG), and TeleCommunications Inc. (TCOMA).

The decision was a setback for the cable companies, which are waging a national campaign against proponents of open access.

At issue is whether cable companies should be forced to allow rivals access to their high-speed network so they can sell their own high-speed Internet services.

More than 1 million consumers in North America subscribe to high-speed cable services, but industry analysts expect cable access to be the online community's preferred form high-speed connection for the next few years.

The openNET Coalition is an open access advocate representing more than 900 different Internet service providers and other Internet companies in the U.S., said Greg Simon, openNET co-director.

"This is likely the first step toward the ruling in favor of the county. Already, a federal court in Portland has ruled that local governments have the right to mandate open access." Simon said.

"I see no reason why this court should rule differently. By dismissing part of this lawsuit the open access side continues to gain momentum."



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