BellSouth has kept the people of Lafayette from building their own fiber-optic utility for long enough.
It's clear that the current providers, and especially BellSouth, haven't dealt fairly with our community. They've taken compromises we made to keep the project moving and used them to increase our costs and delay our project. We need to take away the weapon they're using. Demand repeal of the Local Government Fair Competition Act.
It's a matter of bad faith on the part of these companies, who can no longer be considered good citizens of our community. BellSouth and Cox refuse to build a fiber-optic system here, yet they're trying to block us from building one ourselves. They've used a string of ugly tactics: insulting push polls, a deceptive "academic conference," a threat to move the Cingular call center out of Lafayette and more.The Local Government Fair Competition Act, which was sold to the city as a compromise that would allow our project to go forward with some restrictions, instead has been used to delay the project and raise the costs to citizens. To make matters worse, that law has crippled New Orleans' ability to use its own wireless network to aid her people following Katrina and it blocks other Louisiana communities from taking care of themselves as well.
BellSouth, and to a lesser extent recently Cox, tried to stop the project but failed in the legislature, in the city-parish council and - most importantly - before Lafayette's voters, 62 percent of whom approved the fiber project.
A company that respected our citizens would have stopped there and decided to compete rather than litigate. But BellSouth kept pushing, lobbying for more restrictions, losing before the Public Service Commission and losing several times in court. Most recently they won a verdict before the Court of Appeals.
This is not only a matter of allowing Lafayette to do as our citizens have voted to do; it's also a matter of hard cash. The act will artificially inflate LUS' prices by requiring LUS to set rates as if its costs were greater than they really are - pretending, for instance, to be renting its own property.
BellSouth's actions already have cost us more than $125,000 in legal fees. Rising bond rates make borrowing more expensive, and we're also losing the savings that competition would bring.
BellSouth's actions defy the spirit of the compromise that Lafayette made with BellSouth and others to put the act in place. BellSouth is using the act to defy our local vote. It hasn't served its purpose as compromise legislation that would allow a fair launch of a public utility. Instead, it's being used as a weapon to prevent us from building the system we voted on.
Lafayette's great advantage is that it's a real community where friends, relatives and colleagues discuss important issues. Plead our case. We've voted, and we shouldn't have to fight BellSouth to move forward.
Let's get rid of the Local Government Fair Competition Act.
Contact your legislators, or get more information at www.lafayettecomingtogether.org/repeal.htm.
(John St. Julien is a member of Lafayette Coming Together, "a volunteer corps motivated by the vision of creating a better Lafayette by joining together to pursue common goals.")
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Now here's a guest editorial I almost completely agree with (tongue firmly in cheek): Repeal act that gives BellSouth leverage to delay fiber plan. The author, John St. Julien, hits the nail on the head. I can do little better than to repeat it here. 500 some-odd words.