Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cox finds another way to stifle competition

The Arizona Sun covers Cox's latest anti-competitive strategy in "Homeowners angered by lack of Internet provider choice:"
Consumers moving into the more than 60,000 new homes built in Maricopa County last year often got state-of-the-art communications systems and a price break on cable television and high-speed Internet service.

However, many were unable to choose which company provided those services.

That's contrary to existing neighborhoods where residents generally have a choice of at least two providers -- Cox Communications and Qwest Communications. [Note: Qwest is the regional equivalent of BellSouth.]

'We're locked in,' said Joel O'Desky, a McDowell Mountain Ranch resident in Scottsdale. 'We have no choice but to go with Cox.'
This joins Cox's earlier and even more obnoxious attempt to stifle competition in Arizona. Cox first tried to enlist the legislature in its plan to force a tax on Arizona's satellite TV providers to compensate for the "unfair" fact that satellite providers didn't need to pay for rights of way they didn't use. What was unfair, of course, was that satellite providers, because they didn't need to use property belonging to the cities for rights of way, didn't have to pay the cities any fees to not use them. Horrors. That meant that they they could out-compete Cox. Cox cried "unfair," but sadly, the legislature didn't recognize the simple justice of their request. So when that failed in the legislature, Cox demanded that legislators who wanted its monetary support during the next election cycle sing a pledge to vote for such a law before they receive the check. Sort of a promissory note. We promise to do your bidding later and you pay us now. Ugly.

Think this sort of incumbent behavior might be limited to Arizona--a sort of sunstroke effect? No. Don't feel neglected. A clause promoted and passed by BellSouth in last summer's Louisiana legislative session gives us in Lafayette a taste of the same treatment. Did you know that there is now a clause that forces municipalities to charge themselves for access to property they already own? The Public Service Commission is charged with making sure that LUS raises its rates sufficiently to account for how much it would cost to rent its own rights of way and poles. Whacky and absurd. Their purpose here is exactly the same as the purpose in Arizona: get the state to implement a law which forces your competitor to artificially raise its rates in order to pay for something you need but it doesn't.

Decker and some of the opponents of fiber to the home have recently chosen to get their dander up about the possibility that LUS will be returning money to the city-parish instead of giving it all back to the citizens in the form of the lowest possible rates. Decker and the boys should go talk to the guy who drove their petition all around town and who paid for the current lawsuit: BellSouth. BellSouth was successful in getting a clause put into state law with regulatory teeth to be enforced by the PSC that ensures that our local government has no legal right to grant their request.

I repeat: LUS and the city-parish, as a matter of a clause in state law promoted by BellSouth, no longer has the legal right to charge you, the customer, the lowest possible rate for telecom services. Why? Because, and only because, BellSouth is afraid of the competition that would result.

It is astonishing that the incumbent monopolies can find anyone to support their various ploys to extend and consolidate their control.

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