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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Council Allows Internet Service on Cable Lines

November 22, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Ending with a whimper a debate that opened with a bang more than a year ago, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to approve a policy of requiring cable companies with city franchises to allow Internet service providers to offer services over their cables.

The final vote was 10-0, with one council member absent and four forced to recuse themselves because they own stocks in one of the many high-tech or communications companies affected by the issue.

"Open access," known by its opponents as "forced access," once was among City Hall's most contentious issues.

Last June, Mayor Richard Riordan's Information Technology Commission president quit over the issue, as did some of his colleagues on that panel who disagreed with Riordan's view of it. Scores of lobbyists were hired by the two sides, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent arm-twisting council members and appealing to the public to weigh in as well.

But while the council weighed that issue, the courts' actions overtook its deliberations. In June, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Internet services are telecommunications services, and thus are not subject to local regulation. That same ruling, however, suggested that cable companies across the nation might be required to provide access to Internet service providers on their lines because similar rules govern telecommunications companies.

Those changing circumstances transformed Tuesday's vote from one with real implications for city services into a statement of the city's position on what has become a national issue.

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