Saturday, October 09, 2004

Disinfo Alert: “Important Leaders”

Code Orange,
The disinformation alert status has been raised to code orange
A code orange alert has been issued by Lafayette Pro Fiber indicating a HIGH risk of disinformation attacks



For guidance in securing the information safety of your family and friends please review the Lafayette Pro Fiber Citizen Guidance page.

THREAT ALERT INCIDENT: 'IMPORTANT LEADERS'

The latest from Cox is a letter dropped into the mailboxes of "important leaders" of Lafayette that privately and personally repeats disinformation long since discredited in the larger public sphere. (By the way, where do you suppose the got this list? I'd be interested in speculations.)

This represents a dawning understanding on the part of Cox that the battle for public opinion is lost. Apparently, the battle for the council, at least for the moment has also played out to failure for Cox and BellSouth. So what's left? Damn little. What they are trying here is to scare as many "important leaders" as they can in hopes that a backchannel whispering campaign will derail an apparently unanimous vote on the council.

Its typical of Cox to try this sort of half secret, totally misleading game. (You might want to review the saga of TJCrawdad) At some point you have to wonder why BellSouth doesn't dissociate themselves from this "ally" who certainly is a much greater threat to BellSouth than LUS could ever be and whose tactics have got to be causing local governments to tar BellSouth with Cox's questionable tactics.

But back to the misleading stuff: We've got a copy of the piece available as a PDF file for your examination (page 1,), (page 2) with only the name and address of the innocent marked out. It's not a mass mailer though—each individual is addressed by name.

Let's quickly list the scary, misleading stuff that Cox puts in this little bit of gossip bait; some tidbits from the letter that are wrong or misleading:
  • 'government-controlled' —as if that was inherently evil somehow?
  • 'staggering costs' —Not when you consider how much the people stand to save in telecom services when LUS starts operating. See Billy Ray's interview for a glimpse into how much communities can save by being the owner rather than the customer of essential telecom services.
  • 'credible third-party research' This can only evoke a bitter laugh. There is nothing credible or "third party" about the bought and paid for hired guns they have brought into Lafayette. See LPF's "Academic" Forum article which exposes the committments of these folks and our Forum Report from the event itself.
  • 'failure'—Marietta—Not just an apples and oranges comparison but an apples and rotten oranges comparison. Marietta never served nor intended to serve a single residence. The promoters of this scheme apparently hoped to cash in on one of the shakier of the dot com ideas: wholesaling bandwidth outside the core community. Bad idea. And nothing to do with municipal utilties except that the bad idea was promoted by a municipal entity. The new mayor dumped the project at a loss as part of a campaign promise. It isn't clear that it was really a good idea to sell off...leaving this observor to wonder who bankrolled the new mayor's campaign. (I know, that might be excessively cynical.)
  • 'failure'—Bristol, Virginia. Utter nonsense, widely discredited. See, for instance our Blowing the Whistle Over Bristol. Notice, if you will, the increase in rates silliness they accuse the Bristol utility of. As if Cox had managed to hold their rate increase during the year in question to 15%.

Cox then proceeds to raise vauge and formless fears. 'Taxation.' 'Local folks are incompetent.' This portion of the letter is a letter-perfect example of the tactic of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. See the ProFiber examination outlining the origins of this loser tactic and the use to which telecoms have recently put it.

I have to grant that this is getting to be a long and humorless examination of the letter paragraph by paragraph but if Cox had the courtesy to be deceptive only once or twice my job would have been a lot easier. With that in mind, on to the next example: They tell these 'important people' that Cox will provide them with fiber. (If you submit your business plan and they examine and approve it!) They don't tell you how much it would cost. That's because you don't want to know. Building a special fiber connection for one location is prohibitively expensive—they know this is a smokescreen and that no one could ever afford to take them up on the "offer." Then they close the paragraph with the simply incorrect claim that they provide "fiber to the home" connections to the residents of University Courtyard Apartments. It's simply not true. They provide a "fiber to the curb" arrangement where one box, the equivalent of the one box that LUS would hang on each home, is placed at the "curb" and fiber runs to it. That bandwidth is divided up between all the residents of the apartment complex. It is not fiber to the home; not even nearly. Cox is well aware of how these things are categorized. They hope the readers of their missive are not.

Of course, at the end they urge their readers to call their councilmen, trying to enlist them as fresh foot soldiers in a FUD war they have been losing to date. I urge these influentials—and all who view themselves as worthy even if Cox does not—to instead call Cox and ask them for a rate schedule to provide fiber to their address. And wait for a call back. Be prepared to wait awhile....

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