Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Two Stories on the Proposed Mugging

Both The Advocate and The Advertiser produce stories on yesterday's press conference—the same press conference LPF's Mike Stagg covered early this morning in the Fiber Foes: The Gang that Couldn't Talk Straight.

Taken together the lead paragraphs pretty much convey the points that Durel and Huval were making:

From the Advertiser's story:
"Signing a petition being circulated by BellSouth employees is a vote against the proposed LUS fiber optics project, city officials said Tuesday."
From the Advocate's story:
"Should the petition circulating in Lafayette succeed in forcing a vote on Lafayette Utilities System's plan to offer telecommunications services, private companies would begin a 'dirty, mud-slinging campaign,'"
To which the Advertiser adds:
"Large telecommunications companies elsewhere have used the same tactic to kill municipal fiber projects, Huval said, citing the Tri-Cities area of Illinois. Telecommunications companies spent more than $2 million to narrowly kill that area's fiber initiative, while citizens supporting the fiber project could only spend about $3,500."
That's pretty much the take-home message. These guys fight dirty. They've already demonstrated their willingness to lie and mislead the public in this city. (Recall push-polls, tantrums over not getting their way with the Chamber Forum, and the inaptly named "Academic" Broadband forum. Not to mention cynically turning their employees into paid political lobbyists just this week. Don't get me started.)

Lafayette Pro Fiber recognizes the wisdom of avoiding a vote on this matter. We covered the latest battle in the tri-cities pretty extensively (even calling for donations) while it was ongoing and the points made by Durel and Huval echo our reasons for championing that story: We in Lafayette need to recognize what we are up against. And what we are facing is an unyielding monopolist willing to say anything and do almost anything to squash competition. This isn't the sort of fair fight where people stand on a level playing field and slug it out with facts, let the best man win style. Nope. It will be a lot more like getting mugged by a gang of thugs. The petitioners are trying to convince us to walk into the dark alley with smiles and an aw shucks plea to just explore it. But we, and our elected representatives, have talked to the neighborhood watch people over in the tri-cities and know that's not a good idea. BellSouth and the petitioners are leading us into a mugging. And they have to know it.

The Advocate carries some nice tidbits concerning the validity of the petition. While the article doesn't make it clear Durel's remarks were only offered in response to direct questioning by Blanchard--it wasn't part of what was formally announced. Durel made it clear that he continues to believe that (as Act 736 requires) the process the city-parish charter defines for referendum is the required path in this case. My own guess is that the city-parish is cheerfully lying in wait for BellSouth's petition. They're hoping that the opponents, who have been increasingly revealed as much weaker than they'd like you to believe (Luke's Body shop turns out to be the other big supporter) will exhaust themselves on a petition that has no hope of being certified and hence no chance of being put before the council. This pretty much fits in with the demonstrably clever strategies pursued by LUS up until today. Somebody over there is a master tactician.

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