Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"PSC to take comments on municipal telecom system rules"

I posted briefly last night on the shift to a new date for the PSC rule-making session with the note that there would be more in the morning. There was. The Advertiser published "PSC will hear fiber case on Sept. 1" and the Advocate published "PSC to take comments on municipal telecom system rules."

This is one of those relatively rare cases where the Advertiser story is more informative than the Advocate's. The Advertiser's story has two virtues. First, it more fully reviews the issues at hand--and does the stronger job of trying to give the reader some basis for understanding which of the two contentious sides has the stronger case. Secondly it contains some real news, and reassuring news it is, about commissioner Field's stance.

One issue is whether LUS will be able to issue bonds using the full strength of the utility system; after giving to-the-point history of how the law the law being interpreted came to be we got the usual he said/she said but with the addition of a helpful if careful paragraph that gives the reader some basis to make a judgment between competing claims:

Huval said the PSC staff overstepped the limits of the Fair Competition Act with some of its recommendations, such as restricting LUS from using its electrical division to guarantee the fiber bonds.

BellSouth Louisiana President William Oliver said the law clearly prohibits LUS from cross-subsidizing or using money from its electrical system to cover costs of the fiber system.

The Local Government Fair Competition Act appears to allow the loan guarantee. However, the proposed PSC rules seem to prohibit the practice in one paragraph and allow it in another.

On Fields:
After meeting with LUS officials Monday, Field said he will support the utility before the PSC in fighting four points of contention: The bond pledge, in lieu of taxes, allowing other companies to insert advertising with LUS bills and an accounting issue.

"I said I would talk to the other commissioners about those if staff does not remedy them," Field said. He informed BellSouth of his decision Monday.

This is very good news. Fields is solidly in our corner. Since he represents us you'd think that would be a given...apparently not. And it makes me worry a bit about the mindset of the commisioners that they feel it necessary to immediately notify BellSouth about a position you have taken.

It also sounds as if Fields expects the staff to "remedy" the proposed regulations before resubmitting them to the commissioners. The loyal reader will recall that I suggested in an earlier post on this topic that sending the messy report back to the staff for retooling was exactly what I predicted.
We can anticipate one clear message from the PSC commissioners and I predict it right now: "Take this mess back to your cubicles and come up with something that is at least consistent to show us."
It's nice to occasionally be confirmed by events.

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