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Fla. Cable Sharing Internet Access

July 14, 1999

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Broward County has become just the second local government in the nation to force cable companies to open their high-speed cable Internet access to competition.

The Broward County Commission voted 4-3 yesterday to require MediaOne to open its cable lines to competing Internet service providers and sell them access. The company is the only cable operator offering high speed cable access in Broward.

Last spring, leaders in Portland, Ore. forced AT&T to share its Internet cable lines.

``The people of Broward County will be the long-term beneficiaries of this historic vote,″ said Greg Simon, co-director of the openNET Coalition, a group of companies battling for competition in high-speed cable access.

Both sides hired high-powered lobbyists to wage their battle in Broward.

AT&T, which is purchasing MediaOne and other cable firms, fought the measure and hired more than a dozen lobbyists to kill the ordinance.

AT&T spent thousands on television ads to encourage voters to call their commissioners. Its lobbyists even treated condominium residents and political leaders to a steak luncheon at a private Fort Lauderdale club.

GTE backed the proposal and obtained the services of a local lobbyist, a former state legislator with strong connections to the county’s retiree population and the chairman of the Broward Democratic Party.

GTE lobbyists packed Tuesday’s commission meeting with community leaders and even furnished several of them with scripts to read.

Commissioner Norman Abramowitz said being courted by teams of lobbyists almost every day for a month was horrible.

``I’ve never been as uncomfortable in my political life,″ said Abramowitz, who voted against AT&T. ``Who didn’t they hire to lobby me?″

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