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US WEST GETS GO-AHEAD FOR PROVIDING CABLE TV

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US WEST Inc. cannot be barred from providing cable television programming to customers within the 14-state telephone service area that includes Idaho, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled in favor of the telephone company's challenge to the constitutionality of a section of the 1984 Cable Act prohibiting telephone companies from providing cable service within their telephone service areas.It wasn't the first successful challenge of the Cable Act provision. U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis of Alexandria, Va., in August struck down the cross-ownership rule on a case filed by Bell Atlantic Corp.

"We are pleased that the judge has seen fit to declare there is no reason why regional telephone companies cannot provide (cable) programming," said US WEST spokesman Harry Grandstrom after Wednesday's ruling.

In its lawsuit, filed Nov. 3, 1993, US WEST argued that the cable cross-ownership restriction violated its First Amendment right to free speech. The restriction was put in place following the breakup of AT&T Corp., then known as American Telephone & Telegraph.

Grandstrom said US WEST has no plans at present to start providing cable service, but that it will be an option for future business planning.

"We feel the consumer would benefit by an increased menu of options in cable TV and would benefit probably from the price," he said.

Richard McCormick, US WEST chairman and chief executive officer, said the company's ties with Time Warner Entertainment put it in the position to provide video and telephone services nationwide.

US WEST negotiated a $2.5 billion agreement in May 1993 for a 25.5 percent share of Time Warner Entertainment.