Monday, April 24, 2006

Lawsuit? On Today's Deadline UPDATE

UPDATE: 1:20 I've just received an email that says that the class action lawsuit that had died but was recently revived was filed this last Friday. (Thanks, Reader!) That's BellSouth working its game behind the scene. This lawsuit goes away and reappears on a schedule that suits BellSouth and only BellSouth and even though its name is not at the top of the page everyone understands that this has to be attributed to the phone company. My guess is that this means that artillery that has been wheeled into place will be used. The battle is about to be joined.

Supporters of Lafayette and big broadband in Louisiana should ready their mailing lists, sharpen their pencils and prepare to make the trek to Baton Rouge.

--------Original post--------

Today's the day...if AT&T/BellSouth or Cox is going to sue the Lafayette again over the latest bond ordinance today is the day it will have to happen.

The bond ordinance which enables the city-parish to sell bonds supporting the Fiber To The Home project has a 30 day challenge period beginning on the date the ordinance was passed and notice published in the paper. That period ends today. If the incumbents or their agents do not sue by close of day the bonds may be issued and sold on terms described in the ordinance. It's not just that we could finally begin--the day may be even more important than that: Bond holders are extravagantly protected by Louisiana law and the constitution. Once they become stakeholders involved a successful challenge to the bonding process or to anything which is the basis for repaying their money becomes much more difficult. This is a large part of why BellSouth/AT&T has been so eager stop the process before bonds can be sold.

In the past BellSouth has sometimes waited until the very last minute to file. So we're not out of the woods on this one until we check tomorrow morning and see what came in on the fax machine. But in any case today will be a red-letter day. It will mark either the day that the incumbents sued Lafayette yet again or the day the bonding ability for the project was secured.

The silence on promised lawsuits and on any of the major telecommunications bills languishing in the legislature has been deafening. BellSouth has not sued as it all but promised to do after the ordinance passed. The on-again-off-again class action lawsuit that "third parties" had promised was on-again but has apparently vanished again. Bills to repeal all or part of the Local Government Fair Competition Act sit quietly. Bills to legalize New Orleans' WiFi network languish. Emergency communications bills have not made it into committee hearings. Bills whose only purpose is to be there if BellSouth or Cox should need to mess with municipalities bonding authority or amend the (un)Fair act sit without further comment. There is big artillery arrayed on the battlefield but not a shot has been fired... I think, and have thought for awhile that this silence is all linked to Lafayette's bond issue. Horse trades are being made.

All we have to do in order to figure out what is going on is to wait. A lawsuit will trigger one avalanche; it will enrage Lafayette yet again and the push for repeal will be on. The abscense of a lawsuit means to me that BellSouth and Cox have cut a deal. Which bills advance in the legislature and which die will tell the story as to what those deals were.

Stay tuned.

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