Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Another Cox employee makes mean

Ok, let me say from the outset that this is a little petty. Folks have a perfect right to say just exactly what they (or even their employer) want to.

(Grumpyness on)

Still, I am irritated each time I take a look at a letter to the editor or go to a public meeting and find that as far as I can tell the vast—and I do mean vast—majority of those that speak out against Lafayette even thinking about treating fiber optics as a utility are employees or retirees of Cox or BellSouth. You have to wonder what is in the employee's and retiree's newsletters. if you assume, to be fair, that these folks will be more interested in the still-abuilding plan than their neighbors because they have a horse in the race you would still think that a few of them would see the advantage for the community that a majority of Lafayette residents apparently do. Is there a reason that fraction doesn't speak up? ...You say you think it matters that their employers might not like it? And you can really understand that? ...Yup, I agree, and to keep up the fairness I also think it matters for those that speak against the idea that they think their employers will be pleased.

What motivates this little bit of spleen is that we have in the Advertiser today another bit of meanness from a Cox employee who doesn't share the fact that he is an employee with the readers. In this one he trash talks the character and intelligence of Broussard's Mayor Langlinais. (Missed that letter? It was good--but you won't find it online; the advertiser is missing that day's letters. But you can get it from us.) Why do I think Steve Puckett is a Cox employee? Because he said he was at a Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting. Nor is this his first such letter: I've found two more in the Advertiser archives. And, to give the devil his due, in one of them he does own up to his employment.

In the normal course of events I'd probably sit down, eat breakfast, recognize that people unfairly insult public officials all the time and decide to let this one pass without posting. But this one is going in for a simple reason: I'd like our readers to start noticing the percentage of anti-fiber voices that are paid by the telecoms. Letters to the editors, public meetings, and even the infamous "Academic" forum are all populated by paid voices. If you don't pay close attention you might be tempted to think that there was substantial dissension among Lafayette citizens. Maybe, though I doubt it. But what you see in these venues is as poisoned by the corporations as the results of those push polls and is not fair evidence of widespread concern with a popular utility.

Make up your own mind—and be aware of the interests of those speaking. Listen, but be aware of who you are listening to.

OK, I feel better now.

(Grumpyness off)

All that said I want to note for the record that not all employees of telecoms strike me as making unfair cases. LafayetteProFiber recently received an email from a wireless employee opposing fiber that was well thought out, respectful of people and the community, and used his specialized knowledge to raise concerns well worth worrying about. I spent half a day going over in my mind how I would talk about fiber with a principled opponent of the idea. That was a refreshing change and I was grateful for the opportunity to think about the issues with that assumption.

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