Friday, November 04, 2005

"Bond ordinance ruling set"

I've never been a fan of the saying "No news is good news." But I'm willing to make a small exception for the meager news coming out this morning about BellSouth's anti-fiber lawsuit. The lawsuit attempts to cripple LUS' ability to secure the bonds the people voted for in the July referendum.

Both the Advertiser and the Advocate stories hint that Judge Conque seemed to be inclined to find for LUS but BellSouth put off the blow by demanding a written explanation of the judge's ruling.

Reading between the lines (a very risky thing to do, I acknowledge) it looks like Conque is saying that BellSouth's position would result in things the state could surely not have intended by the law in question and which would prevent LUS from effectively pursuing the project. Being able to go forward with a good bond sale is clearly the point of this part of the law and BellSouth's interpretation would surely make a good sale impossible. Conque clearly understands that "cross-subsidization" is not absolutely forbidden in the law, and that is the point on which BellSouth's case stands.

From the Advocate:

The legislature "understood" that LUS would need to "pledge" its other revenues and make those payments if necessary -- in effect, cross-subsidization -- in order to get the communication bond money.

"Allowing a pledge of revenue is in and of itself a cross-subsidy," Conque said
The only remaining question is how restrictive that pledge must be and Conque is clearly surprised by the idea that going into default and then redeeming the pledge every month--as BellSouth's interpretation would seem to require--is insane.

The real problem here is that the court, and the PSC for that matter, is being asked to enforce a law that makes no sense in that it irrationally injects the state in a local municipality's business. There's no reason (outside re-election monies) for the state to enter this game on the side of a huge corporation in order to frustrate the express desire of the people of Lafayette. The law the courts are trying to find a rational way to enforce, the (un)Fair Competition Act, exists solely to put new state restrictions on what the people and elected officials of local communities can do for their people in one narrow area: Telecommunications. Action that would be legal, for instance in supporting a composting facility, are illegal if it encroaches on BellSouth or Cox. We're damned lucky there isn't any international composting conglomerate with deep pockets. It really ought to be repealed. We don't need the state telling us what to do.

This won't be the end of seemingly endless legal games from the incumbents; from the Advertiser:
[BellSouth attorney] Russo said Thursday in Conque's courtroom that the company will file a lawsuit over the PSC rules.
Those are the rules that the PSC put in place that basically supported LUS position on this issue among others. Honestly, this endless regime of lawsuit, alliance with natural enemies, attempts at legislative murder, and a long, hard campaign of disinformation in this city add up to a firm conviction on the part of BellSouth that LUS can really hurt them. You have to conclude that BellSouth, at least, expects the project to be a raging success which will encourage municipal deployments throughout the nation. Nothing else explains the willingness to court continued humiliation. Well, except greed...that motivation goes pretty much without saying.

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