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Court overrules Henrico access rules

The federal appeals court in Richmond on Wednesday struck down Henrico County, Va.'s open access rules requiring AT&T to open its broadband networks to competing Internet service providers.

The court said municipalities don't have authority to impose open access and left the decision to the FCC "for the time being." A lower court threw out Henrico's rules in May 2000. Federal courts already have struck down open access rules in Broward County, Fla. and Portland, Ore.

The Richmond court's ruling "offers the strongest judicial affirmation yet that public policy decisions regarding cable modem services are not within the jurisdiction of local governments," said Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable Television Association.

Henrico County imposed the open access requirements on AT&T as a condition of the company's acquisition of MediaOne Group. The FCC has refused to impose open access requirements but has launched a rulemaking to determine how cable Internet services should be regulated and has left open whether they will be levied in the future.
- Bill McConnell