Sunday, November 20, 2005

Standing Up--The Advertiser

The Sunday Editorial in the Advertiser this week is titled: "Court challenges to LUS fiber plan should end now." Amen.

The title says it all. The essay does lay the bones of a logic that should be convincing to all. To wit: LUS has met every challenge put before it and with the indisputable moral authority of an overwhelming vote of the people behind it the community should not have to tolerate further delay. I'd want to put a little meat on those bones, go a small step further and note that LUS has again and again made good-faith comprises to move the project forward without undue delay. BellSouth, Cox, and their allies have at every turn tried to abuse those compromises to further strengthen the advantages they have and to turn them into further opportunities for delay. Today's lawsuits are based on yesterday's attempt to give BellSouth what it said would satisfy it in state law. Instead of actually settling for the compromise they use it today to try and squeeze a bit more out of the situation for the themselves. And failing that to frustrate the very reason that LUS agreed to the compromise in the first place: to eliminate the delay that would have been caused by fighting for what would have been most to their advantage. BellSouth and Cox understood what the deal was; they have simply not been honorable or honest. (And this, incidentally, is what explains the growing animus felt for the corporations by local officials, and increasingly by the public. You can't trust or work with folks who've proved untrustworthy.)

Here's how the Advertiser puts it:
The next battle in this war should be fought in the competitive business arena. We've already been through the state regulators, the district courts and the Legislature. We'd hate to think that two major corporate citizens such as BellSouth and Cox Communications would stoop to delaying tactics and then, as similar companies have done elsewhere, slip a few dollars to a think tank that will come up with a study that proves -ah-ha! - municipal broadband loses money.

There's another way, a fair way, to settle the dispute. Put the products in the marketplace, and let the market decide. If BellSouth and Cox are right, customers will give the thumbs down to LUS and its fiber plan, and the city-parish government will have to live with the political and economic consequences. If LUS is right, Lafayette stands to benefit from less expensive access to broadband technology.

That's important. While two-thirds of the nation's households have dial-up or broadband Internet access, fewer than half of Louisiana's do. Only Arkansas and Mississippi do worse.

Being No. 1 in America wouldn't be a big deal. The United States has fallen to 13th in the percentage of its homes with broadband access.

So bring it on, fight it out and let's see whether the LUS fiber plan can really be the engine that propels Lafayette into a future of high-speed data service."
Again, Amen.

I've heard people say, even those who are wholeheartedly LUS supporters, that this sort of behavior is, if not exactly excusable, understandable and natural. They wryly and indulgently remark that this is just how corporations are. I am hoping that we will think twice about offering that indulgence. We've figured out that what is natural, for say teenagers, is nonetheless not acceptable and demand something more from their behavior than just what they might selfishly want. These corporations are run by grown men and women who can, if they want, act honorably. We could name them. Let's do so: Bill Oliver, John Williams, Gary Cassard
. Other people lend their name and influence such as Karmen Blanco and Sharon Kleinpeter. All of these should be held personally responsible for the acts of the companies they represent or for which they make decisions. People, not corporations, make decisions. People, not corporations, put their reputations on the line in defense of those corporation's actions. They should be held to the same standard anyone else would be expected to adhere to: the same standard we ask of teenagers: to be responsible for their actions and to use their reputations for worthy purposes.

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