A recent do-si-do in the City Council is expected to prolong the drama currently being played out in L.A. regarding whether cable companies offering high-speed Internet access must open up their networks to competitors.

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was stripped of his chairmanship position on the council's Information Technology and General Services Committee, which has been deliberating the open-access issue, when council President John Ferraro shuffled appointments on the council's standing committees on July 16.

Council sources say that Ferraro's decision was a politically driven slap on Ridley-Thomas' wrist.

Newly elected Councilman Alex Padilla, 26, was named the committee's new chairman.

As it stands now, the council has no fixed date when it must deliver a final vote regarding the cable access issue. A vote had been expected in September, but it is now expected later in the fall.

IMall Inc. executives are among those keeping a close eye on the open-access cable issue.

Excite@Home Corp., a leading provider of high-speed broadband Internet services whose principal shareholder is AT & T;, announced on July 13 its intention to acquire the Santa Monica-based iMall in a stock deal worth $415 million.

Excite@Home will swap 46 percent of a share for each share of iMall. As of last week, that valued iMall shares at about $23. IMall specializes in automating the process of getting online stores up and running for small to mid-sized businesses.

What especially seduced iMall executives about the acquisition is their belief that Excite@Home's stock, which was trading at $46 per share as of last Tuesday, is significantly undervalued.

Once the open-access cable issue is resolved, presumably on a federal level and presumably in the favor of a closed system, iMall Chief Financial Officer Anthony Mazzarella thinks that Excite@Home's stock value will soar.

"We believe that by the time the merger closes in mid-October, we could find ourselves having made the deal at an extremely good price," Mazzarella said.

IMall expects to continue its operations as normal in Santa Monica, but will likely lose its brand name as it is folded into its new parent company.

Santa Monica-based Stamps.com Inc. penned a deal with Office Depot Inc. to sell the former's computer-generated postage over the latter's Internet site. The announcement, made last Monday, prompted Stamps.com's stock to jump more than 21 percent and reach a high of $48 per share by Tuesday, even while the rest of the Nasdaq slid.

The U.S. Postal Service announced two weeks ago that it would work with both Stamps.com and its rival E-Stamp Corp. in deploying computerized postage.

Event 411.com, the Culver City-based online event planner, just closed a $14.7 million round of private financing. Investors include Van Wagoner Capital Management and Sandler Capital Management.

Sara Fisher can be reached via e-mail at sfisher@labusinessjournal.com.

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