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AT&T, TCI challenge Portland authorities

AT&T and TCI say they'll blow off a Portland, Oregon, ordinance requiring them to open TCI's cable system to Internet companies.

AT&T and Tele-Communications Incorporated said they won't abide by a Portland, Oregon, ordinance that requires them to open TCI's cable system to Internet companies.

AT&T, which is buying the No. 2 cable operator for $48 billion, See special feature: 
Main Street goes high tech said it will comply with all provisions of an ordinance approving the transfer of TCI's local cable system except for a requirement that it open its network to all Internet service providers.

Officials in Portland and surrounding Multnomah County on December 17 approved the transfer of local TCI franchises on the condition that the cable system be opened for use by all Internet service providers (ISPs). AT&T and TCI had until today to accept or reject the ordinance.

"We're sending a message to the Portland City Council that we will abide by all lawful provisions of the ordinance," AT&T spokeswoman Sarah Duisik said.

AT&T and TCI said the open-access provision is outside the scope of local review and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or Congress are the appropriate places to discuss the industrywide issue.

Portland is one of a handful of cities examining the open-access issue as AT&T seeks approvals for the transfer of more than 900 TCI franchises.

Both companies oppose opening TCI's system to Internet competitors, which would gain access to cable systems much like newly formed telephone companies can sell service over an existing telephone company's lines. Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver authorities are studying similar open-access measures as they consider those cities' franchise transfers.

AT&T and TCI said requiring open access on a national basis could jeopardize the TCI acquisition.

Portland officials couldn't be reached to comment. It remains to be seen whether they will complete the transfer of the license now that AT&T and TCI have challenged the open-access provision.

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