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Time Warner broadband suit advances

Appeals court breathes new life into challenge of city law requiring homes, offices connect to municipal network.

A state appeals court has breathed life back into Time Warner's challenge of an Ohio city law requiring new homes and offices to connect to a municipally owned Net infrastructure.

The Ohio Court of Appeals decision on Monday reinstated a lawsuit brought by Time Warner, which was seeking the law's dismissal. The decision was the latest twist in a battle that could ultimately affect the increasing number of cities that own and manage their own broadband networks.

Lebanon, Ohio, is among the first of these municipalities to require commercial Internet service providers to connect to its network. That essentially forces commercial broadband service providers to pay the city between $1,250 to $2,000 for each customer they sign up.

Time Warner Cable, a division of Time Warner Entertainment, along with the Home Builders Association of Dayton and the Miami Valley, filed a lawsuit in March 2002, asking that the controversial city edict be dismissed.

Representatives for Time Warner Cable and the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which represented the city of Lebanon in the case, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

The lawsuit by the cable provider and the home association was later dismissed by a state judge. On Monday, the Ohio Court of Appeals reinstated the challenge after finding fault with the lower court's decision-making process.

"This action must be permitted to proceed at the trial court level," the judges wrote in the opinion. "The court finds that the (lower) court improperly dismissed the complaint."