The battle in Lafayette has symbolic of whats' wrong with telecom incumbents in the United States. The city's travails are being mentioned as an example wherever folks are particualarly mad at the Bells. One example is Herold Feld over at WetMachine who has a series of posts dissecting the ugly beast that is the senate draft of of the rewrite of the telecom act of 1996. The bill is complex and he's split his comments up into several parts. If telecom policy is your thing you should travel over and read them all. But if you're interested mostly in muni broadband and especially Lafayette's muni broadband there's a bit you really ought to read. It occurs midway in the piece when Feld is working up a good head of steam about the author, Ted Stevens of Alaska, and portraying him as a paternalistic "Uncle Ted" whose real interest lies in protecting corporate profit centers.
[Excuse me for a moment while I am briefly possesed by the spirit of Stephen Colbert.]
And lets face it, “Uncle Ted” has a point. I mean, look at what happens when you let voters decide on whether to set up competing municipal systems. Those stupid consumers actually want to have a say in what services their local governments provide! I mean, look at Lafayette, LA. Bellsouth and Cox already provided service to Lafayette. How much competition do those people need for gosh sakes? And, when Bellsouth and Cox got a court order forcing Lafayette to hold a public referendum on whether to finance the system, those stupid consumers still voted 2-1 to build the municipal system anyway!. After Bellsouth and Cox Cable spent over a million dollars, engaged in push-polling, used all the right words like “competition” and “socialism” and “limited government,” and did everything companies are supposed to do to corrupt democracy, THEY STILL LOST! I mean, what the heck do those consumers in Lafayette think they are, CITIZENS?... (--Note: this goes on for another two paragraphs. Click through to enjoy.--)
[Back to Harold again.]
(Don't know what that 'Stephen Colbert" thing is about? It's a reference to Colbert's recent performance at the White House Correspondents dinner where he roasted the president pretty much to a crisp. If you've not followed it you might want to check out the video. A lot of the langauge in Feld's rant is drawn from Colbert's. The video is available in a stream from ABC, or via bitorrent)
It's clear that Lafayette's fiber fight has become symbolically important. But what it will finally mean isn't entirely clear yet. Was the battle of Lafayette the telecom corporation's Waterloo--a surprising defeat which proved decisive--or a telecom version of the Battle of New Orleans--a major defeat which no effect on the outcome of the war?
In either case the idea that Lafayette is the city where telecom consumers first realized they were citizens is something of which we can be proud.