Both the Advocate and the Advertiser have their fiber-optic petition stories up today. As we have unhappily learned to expect, the Advocate's story is the one to go to.
The Advocate report includes the details on additional ways to block LUS considered by the group (a second petition and lawsuit)–that make it clearer that the intent it to simply block LUS and the current petition idea is simply one means to that end. The language used to describe the mysterious state law they are relying on indicates that it is not the petition provision of Act 736 but some other law that links a petition to voting numbers in a recent election. (That could be crucial. If any reader has an idea about which law this might be or even better, access to the relevant text, please drop me a line or let us all know in the comments section.) The Advocate article also makes it clear that the group is aware that the active support of Cox and BellSouth will be essential if their petition drive is to have a prayer of success.
When I first heard from LeBlanc that they wanted to start a petition drive I immediately wondered if they realized how difficult it would be to do this if they kept to the positions "We are not associated with BellSouth and Cox" and "We favor LUS building a fiber optic network—but only selling its use to wholesalers." I had told myself that those foundational principles, which I could admire if not support, would go fast. Sadly, I was wrong. They principles they were originally working from didn't make it to the first press conference. At their news conference we hear only that they are against LUS building the network; They are now simply echoing the Cox and BellSouth's line that the people of Lafayette don't need fiber-optics. The desire for a wholesale network? Invisible. Similarly, the passionate declaration of independence from the incumbents they started with gives way to their sending a signal that they recognize that they need incumbent support and that they are willing to accept it. These two new positions are clearly linked. The reality is that the incumbent monopolies are no more prepared to accept a wholesale network than they are to accept LUS' retail model. They point for these companies is, as it has been all along, to eliminate competition. So if fiber411 wants incumbent money and manpower they have to shut up about liking the wholesale model.
The silence at yesterday's press conference about the wholesale principle both Breakfield and LeBlanc profess to hold speaks volumes about just how quickly their movement has been coopted by the realities of our situation. I warned LeBlanc that a petition drive would quickly become a creature of the incumbents. I didn't realize just how rapidly that process would work.