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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