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Fresno Mulls Access Issue

Fresno, Calif.-Open-access backers will have to wait until May 11 to see if the City Council here will require changes in AT & T Broadband's high-speed-data business.

The central California community approved the transfer of its MediaOne Group Inc. franchise to AT & T Broadband six months ago, but that was conditional on a six-month reopener on the access issue. The city held two days of public hearings earlier this month on technology, broadband regulation and economics.

In past skirmishes, open access has been a battle of the giants-frequently AT & T Broadband against the local telco. In this case, the access proponent is Pacific Bell.

And the local Internet-service providers, the interests of which are frequently mentioned by open-access proponents? None showed up in Fresno.

"I mean none, zero," administrative hearing officer Bob Baida said.

Baida is sorting through the testimony in an attempt to summarize the issues for the council. In addition to the local testimony, the city has solicited information from other communities, such as the report compiled by the city of Los Angeles. That report advised a hands-off policy that would allow the marketplace to sort out access issues.

The city is not required to take an action upon presentation of the report. Most cities interested in the issue are awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals that will affirm or deny the authority of cities to even address the issue of open access.