Sunday, November 28, 2004

New Orleans: "Officials clash over fiber-optic network plans"

In fiber optic news from the big city across the basin we learn that New Orleans city politics and arcane system of interlocking boards of governance have disrupted a plan to run a municipal fiber ring in the business district as part of a federally mandated sewer upgrade. (A federally mandated sewer upgrade? Don't ask me, I haven't a clue.)

In New Orleans the Picayune's story, Officials clash over fiber-optic network plans, has to focus on local politics but the throw-away line on municipal provision of telecom stories is worth repeating:
"Despite the political stalemate, industry analysts agree that the idea of taxpayers footing the bill for high-tech infrastructure is not only prudent, but forward-thinking -- if the project is managed correctly."
I don't pretend to understand the unspoken intricacies of personal and institutional relationships that the long story focuses on—though my Louisiana sense of politics as a spectator sport is awakened by a story that involves sewers, high tech, and detailed reporting on the former associations of principals involved, the associated minority-owned company, and all of these folk's contributions to political activities favored by Mayor Nagin. (Which seem rather minor, considering the nature of New Orlean's machine politics.)

However, if you want to skip over the arcana, which I suspect is chiefly interesting to New Orleanian political junkies, and get to the meat of the matter go directly to the final segment of the story where we finally find that BellSouth is the apparently exclusive provider of fiber-based communications services in New Orlean's business district. 18 companies have jumped on the mere possibility of evading BellSouth's monopoly control in the business district and have signed agreements with the city to pull fiber in the new conduits should the test program ever get underway.

I know that examining the mayor's ties to any infrastructure contract is de rigueur given New Orelan's history but I recommend a similar sweep through the databases for links between BellSouth and those members of the City Council that have raised objections that have slowed down the project and, with federal deadlines looming, have resulted in a new version of the plan that sharply reduces the functionality of project. Wouldn't it be entertaining to find that little Billy Tauzin, BellSouth lobbyist, current candidate for Congress, and son of current congressman Tauzin senior was somehow involved?

Louisiana, you gotta love her.

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