Sunday, January 22, 2006

"BellSouth, Cox include local, concerned people"

Heather Deshotel says in a letter to the Advertiser that Bellsouth and Cox include local, concerned people. She's surely right. Unfortunately she's built her letter around a subtly different thesis: that BellSouth and Cox, by virtue of a few of their employees, should be regarded as local and concerned. That thesis is not true. Lafayette has had a graduate level introduction to just how disdainful the corporations BellSouth and Cox have been toward the citizens of Lafayette and how poor their citizenship is.

Most of her points I've already dealt with and I won't belabor them here except to say that it's a wild mischaracterization to say that LUS "broke the law" for believing in an interpretation of the law that its author, the other participants in negotiations (including apparently Cox who did NOT join BellSouth's lawsuit), and the PSC (who supported LUS' position in court) also believed correct.

One point I haven't covered recently, and should have, is the good news out of Bristol, Virginia. You'll recall that both the city and the fiber opposition made reference to Bristol. As the history has rolled out, the city's view has proven to be more accurate. (For a particularly dishonest use of the Bristol experience, see Lafayette Pro Fiber's post on the last-minute mailers that featured a doctored pull quote from the Bristol paper.) The opponents are no longer saying that Bristol has failed commercially; Bristol's retail success is now firmly established. Instead they are trying to attack Lafayette by saying Bristol hasn't brought commercial investment to its struggling corner of Appalachia. That might seem like a safe assertion about a new business--and the sort of nonsense we can expect to be said about Lafayette in the first two years of its operation. As unfair as this kind of demand is, in the case of Bristol it is also untrue. (Heather, and the folks she talks to, should have done the research.)

Bristol's fiber optic network has been credited (in a local story) by Southwest Virginia's US Representative with helping to attract 700 new jobs to a rural, coalfield county:

Bristol Virginia Utilities, which already has wired parts of Russell County, will complete the work along about 160 miles of roads, Boucher said... [U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th.]

Fiber-optic service in Russell County was important in helping attract about 700 new jobs there this year, Boucher said.

"Extending and linking the Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco fiber-optic backbones promises to provide even greater opportunities for new economic development and job creation throughout the coal-producing counties of our region," he said.

Nobody claims that Bristol Virginia Utilities was solely responsible for that gain. It wasn't. And nobody will claim the same for LUS when similar results start to roll in. The local equivalent of LEDA and several regional technology groups supporting technology parks clearly had a hand in it. Still, the district's federal representative chose to single out BVU for praise. BVU's capacity, and willingness to step up to support local initiatives where the region's commercial providers apparently were not, ought to be noted by even folks from Scott. LUS will be, like BVU, a pro-active, local supporter of initiatives that boost Lafayette and Acadiana. We can't expect BellSouth or Cox to play that role--their interests lie solely in finding the maximum return for every dollar spent. LUS' interests, by contrast, lie in doing what's best for its community. That, at the root, is the difference between a local public utility and private, corporate providers like Cox and BellSouth.

And no amount of misdirection is going to change that basic equation.


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