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Overbuilders Offer Sympathy

New-build competitive cable operators-some of which use open access as a selling point with local governments-offered mixed reactions to the access conditions the Federal Trade Commission imposed on America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

WideOpenWest LLC has from day one promised to allow independent ISPs onto its networks. David Haverkate, WideOpenWest's vice president of market development, sympathized with AOL-Time Warner's position.

On principle alone, he said he opposes government any mandate to unbundle high-speed platforms.

"We're proponents of open access," he said. "But we don't like to see anybody forced to offer it, especially since open access was going to happen anyway.

"But this validates what we've said from the beginning: that open access is the way to go," he added.

Donna Garofano, vice president of government and public affairs for Boston-based American Broadband Inc., wondered whether any cable operator could immediately offer "pure open access."

"Our position has always been that in theory it's a pretty good idea," Garofano said. "But pending the AT & T [Broadband] trial in Boulder [Colo.], we're not convinced that the technology is there."

Brenda Trainor, spokeswoman for California-based Altrio Communications, said it's unlikely that hundreds of ISPs would be clamoring to jump on the network of either the incumbent or the overbuilder. The smaller ISPs wouldn't be able to afford to pay for a spot on a high-speed network, she said.

"Open access does not mean free interconnection," she said. "But there will still be a place for those ISPs|with consumers that will still have dial-up modems."