Tuesday, May 02, 2006

BellSouth & Cox Let Suit Die

The Advertiser reports today on the legal death-by-neglect of the BellSouth/Cox lawsuit. The lawsuit filed against LUS and the city died last night as a consequence of the 11th hour filing not being followed up. Claire Taylor retells the story:

City officials announced April 25 that they reached an agreement with BellSouth. The company reportedly agreed to drop its latest lawsuit if the city drops proposed legislation that would repeal the Local Government Fair Competition Act, adopted to prevent municipally-owned telecommunications companies from having an unfair advantage over private companies like BellSouth.

One proposed bill, which would amend the act to avoid frivolous lawsuits, will not be dismissed, Ottinger said.

City-Parish President Joey Durel said he hasn't yet asked local legislators to drop any of the proposed legislation.

"We'll live up to whatever the agreements were as long as everybody lives up to all aspects of the agreement," he said.

Another lawsuit, filed Friday by Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin, remains. A hearing is set for 10 a.m. May 22 before Judge Edward Rubin in Fifteenth Judicial District Court in Lafayette.

There are strange and interesting things buried in that fragment.

First, the lawsuit was filed by BellSouth and Cox; not BS alone. (well, BS and the LCTA, which amounts to the same thing.) By identifying the lawsuit solely as BellSouth's the story lets Cox off the local hook at a time when the corporation is doing everything in its power to present a new face to Lafayette. (Save for the little bit of old-style deception published by the Advertiser in its letters section by Sharon Kleinpeter, Cox PR person out of Baton Rouge.) Is that oversight due to sympathy for Cox, inattention to details, or did BS abandon the suit without Cox's agreement? If you take a look at what folks are saying that the deal consisted of it's hard to see what Cox got out of it.

Also strange is the continued reference to some sort of supposed "advantage" that little Lafayette was supposed to have over giants BellSouth/ATT or Cox by virtue of being publicly owned. Surely we've been through enough now that such a characterization of BellSouth's law is understood to be inaccurate?

Finally, Durel's enigmatic statement that Lafayette's bills have not yet been pulled but that "We'll live up to whatever the agreements were as long as everybody lives up to all aspects of the agreement" is suggestively non-specific. "Whatever the agreements were"? Hmmnnn. With BellSouth's having let the lawsuit die it would seem that their side of the announced bargain has been fulfilled. Are there shoes yet to drop?

5 comments:

Shad Price said...

I would be shocked if this is the end of it. It's more than likely a calm before the next storm. You can bet that that Bellsouth/Cox are not going to give this fight up until they get what they want on their terms only.

I'm getting worried about how long Lafayette will be able to sustain this fight with the incumbants. The pockets are much deeper for the incumbants which leads to much longer/better staying power in the long run IMHO.

What's the worst that can happen if Lafayette just decided to build-out anyway, and sort this stuff out as it happend?

We have the vote, the backers, the plan to implement, and the backing of the majority of the city of Lafayette. It will only lead to more competition, more choice, and better prices.

Not to mention that Lafayette would be at the forefront of the bleeding edge of technology. New businesses would not just consider coming into Lafayette, I think most would eventually decide to set up permanent shop in Lafayette because of the benefits of the Fiber network in place.

Why not build it and then open it up? Seems to only make things better in my opinion. If it were open to anyone that wanted to buy, would the incumbents still have grounds to sue over and over again in the hopes of litigating their little problem out of existence?

Anonymous said...

Hey, what is the agreement?

Doesn't anyone see a problem with our government making agreements with corporations and then keeping those agreements secret from the public. I know, I know, its only being keep secret because its for my own good.

John said...

Shad,

I do like your spirit and your "the hell with them" alternative appeals to me. But the truth is we simply don't have the money. It takes real bucks to build this out and LUS will need the bonds to get that cash.

We simply must get past the legal roadblocks to issuing the bonds before we can start.

A lot of folks feel the way you do and not just guys on the street. I think that the felt urgency to get on with it is a big part of the compromise we've recently seen.

And that's got my deepest sympathy.

John said...

Anono,

Here's part of what's nice about local government: you can almost certainly find out what the deal is if you really want to. Sunshine laws and all that. (Caveat: My confidence in local government does not apply to the current federal administration who seems to believe that the law is whatever the president says it is.)

Contrast this with the chances of you as a customer or any stockholder (owner!) being able to get this information from Cox or BellSouth. (What, for instance, is the full text of the deal cut between Cox and BellSouth/ATT to get Cox to go along on a set of deals that seem to give it nothing and takes all the pressure off its blood rival ATT/BS? You can bet we'll never know. And we won't even think to ask, though it our butt that is on the line.)

On the other hand, I encourage you, if you think that things are being hidden from you by your local government, to just go ask.

Of course, you'll have to use your real name and own up to what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you and the rest of us are interested in that agreement. As the host of this site and someone who appears to have good LCG contacts, I feel sure you will get the agreement and post it here. Look forward to your commentary.