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Wire Me Up, Wire Me Down

US West's new cable partner knows how to make sweet deals. Just ask the FCC.

Or, in some cases, to pay more for services they already have. Attorney Joseph Van Eaton represents the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the recently acquired cable franchises Continental is seeking to add to its social contract. "Ann Arbor already has everything the social contract offers," Van Eaton says. "They'll get nothing for it except the rate increase."

US West spokeswoman Lois Leach says the Continental merger is expected to be finalized in six to nine months. One requirement will be a waiver from the FCC allowing US West to temporarily control Continental's cable operations within its telephone service area; Continental has roughly 400,000 subscribers in the region that must be sold or swapped with another company to keep the merger in compliance with current telecommunications law.

But Leach doesn't anticipate any difficulty in obtaining the waiver. "It hasn't been a problem in the past," she says. In 1993 US West had to go through a similar procedure to complete its partnership with Time Warner, and the FCC didn't hesitate to bless the union.

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