U S West Inc. became the latest Baby Bell to ask a federal court to overturn decade-old restrictions that bar it from providing cable television service in the 14 states in which it offers local telephone service.

The Denver company filed a suit in Seattle to overturn the cross-ownership provision of the law as a violation of its First Amendment rights to free speech.

Earlier this week, Ameritech, the Chicago regional Bell company, filed suits in Michigan and Illinois seeking similar permission. All this comes on the heels of a federal court victory for Bell Atlantic Corp., in which a Virginia judge lifted the restriction, but only for Bell Atlantic.

U S West holds a 25% stake in Time Warner Entertainment and plans to build multimedia systems with Time Warner outside its region that will have both cable and telephone capabilities. The telco is worried that other Baby Bells will do the same on its turf, and says it simply wants the opportunity to compete fairly.

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