Thursday, October 20, 2005

PSC decision goes, again, for LUS and the people

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has confirmed its earlier regulations governing the Lafayette Utility System's provision of telecommunications services. Stories in the Advocate and the Advertiser do a good job of reporting the story and the Advocate even does a nice job of educating the public briefly about the issues involved. It's comforting to know that some people can stay the course even in the face of corporate pressure.

In that vein it will not surprise you to hear that the Joey Durel of old is back. After listening to the mealy-mouthed gumming of too many of our public officials in the wake of Katrina and Rita it is refreshing to hear a public servant speak plainly. Quoted in the Advertiser:
City-Parish President Joey Durel on Wednesday asked BellSouth to drop the lawsuit and not file another.

"It's shameful at a time in Louisiana history where we're going to have to rebuild 75 percent of the economy of the state, there are out-of-state companies with their greedy interests who would even consider filing a lawsuit," he said.
And from the Advocate:
"Give the people of Lafayette an opportunity to pull ourselves up by our boot straps," Durel said.
Nice, and it shows a clear awareness of the game that is being played out here: only part of the ongoing battle is waged on the regulatory and legal fronts. In those arenas the cost to the incumbents of ugly intrangisence is small and they have little incentive to play fair. But the larger game includes public relations and the political consequences of losing that battle are large. (Recall that losing the public relations war during the Fiber-Optic Referendum cost the incumbents the ability to even effectively resist during the election. The PR war matters.)

Making it clear, as these stories do, that attempting to run roughshod over votes of the council and the people at a time of great hardship for the people of Louisiana is not going to be as cheap politically as BellSouth and Cox were hoping, is a very good thing. The people of Louisiana and even some of their representatives are feeling pretty put upon by big, faceless, out of state bureaucracies that seem more interested in self-promotion than doing their job. It'd not be hard to put our incumbents in that box...their inability to back off and just compete regardless of rebuffs in Louisiana ranging from a vote of the people to statewide regulatory commissions stands as evidence that they are uninterested in being "good local citizens."

Were I LUS and the the city I'd ride this hard and I'd ride it to the legislature. If BellSouth intends to use a very bad law to engage in endless attempts to override the will of the people then it seems like a good idea to go in and ask for the law or for the most irritating portions of it to be repealed. To my way of thinking the only fault in the current strategy of our local leaders has been to be too willing to ONLY compromise when pushed to shorten the period of delay. Granted, delay cannot be tolerated. But the incumbents compromise when they have to--as they did to get the current bad (un)fair competition act passed--and then pursue an aggressive path of altering the deal after the fact. Not the way the game ought to be played. But it is the way the opposition is playing it. We should be willing to play too. Introduce a bill that returns "local control to local people." Model it after the law governing electrical utilities. Fight for a "state hands off local decision making" principle. Get the PSC and, for goodness sake, the state legislative auditor, out of it.

The people of Lafayette don't want, or need, state "protection" from our own decisions. And we certainly don't need the state stepping in on the side of the out of state bureaucracies.

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