Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Petition Stories in Print

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.

4 comments:

ricky said...

I found that part about the petition muddled to the point of confusion this morning too. I thought there was something about it being part of the city charter and not state law. Can't find either one online anyway, so who knows? The other question is which last election? The last statewide election, the last city election, or the last time voting booths were used in the city? Do Leblanc and his group even know or are they just hoping they can rely on the easiest number (five percent of the pathetic turnout in the congressional election would be ideal for them)?

Anonymous said...

Can we get Mr. Leblanc and Mr. Breakfield a couple of big red noses to complete their clown facades? These guys are just too much.

Doug Menefee said...

John & Mike

Just posted the Lafayette parish charter on a referrendum on my blog - It's in frames so you might just want to block copy/paste - public document

John said...

Ricky,

I should be clearer too. The basic story is this: My assumption, and I think most folks is that Act 793 is controlling legislation. It was certainly designed to do so. That act makes the language of Lafayette's local charter the way that the petition process is defined except for some stuff about hearings. (Lafayette may be required to have hearings it would not otherwise have.)

The bit about instead using a different state law that sets standards that are lower and premised on voting rates is from left field. I have yet to be filled in on that issue. My guess is that, given the way Act 793 is written to be controlling legislation that it will end up being controlling. But I don't really know.

And Ricky, you are right, if the recent low-turnout runoff is the basis for thr 5% that would radically lower the bar for the petition. That would be what percent? A really small number in any case.