Saturday, June 10, 2006

Peter Collins' Interview at BroadBand Reports

Broadband Reports (BBR) has an interview with Peter Collins, IS Manager for Geneva, Illinois that should be interesting for those of us in Louisiana and Lafayette. The TriCities in Illinois continue to be just ahead of Lafayette in dealing with telecommunications issues. Their experience with AT&T (then named SBC) prefigured our own fight for fiber here in Lafayette and their struggles helped inform Lafayette as to what we could expect. We reported on the conflict and the Independent ran a cover story on their experience, so Peter Collins' name is likely familiar to followers of our conflict. (Collins briefly compares Lafayette and the TriCities experience and that is excerpted below.)

With Lousiana well on the road to a state-wide cable franchise that strips local communities of their ability to control their own property, Illinois' disagreements with AT&T can give us a sense of what sorts of fights AT&T wants to avoid by getting a state franchise.

Teasers from the interview:
BBR: With it behind you, what do you think Batavia, St. Charles, and Geneva could have done differently?

PC: As I mentioned earlier, once the issue has been placed on a ballot, the cities themselves are prohibited from spending taxpayer funds to push a "yes" or "no" vote. All the cities can do is inform: "this is what the project is and here's what it aims to achieve." Elected officials and citizen's groups are obviously allowed to voice their views as they see fit. They are free to call press conferences to dispute misinformation. This is an area in which Lafayette, LA and their citizen's groups really played, and continue to play, the game right.

When the incumbents say something outlandish to confuse your citizenry, I think you've got to come right back and tell your community, "Actually, here's the real deal". You have to keep coming back again and again with the truth, not "truthiness", because you certainly can't outspend the incumbents. I think Lafayette might have known the "Chicago way" better than we did.
On the likelihood of AT&T's latest attempts to provide cable over telephone lines:
BBR: Historically, Comcast and AT&T have a long backstory in your neck of the woods, could you elaborate on that?

PC:
The current AT&T was made up of the merger of SBC and AT&T. In our area, SBC was the result of the absorption of Ameritech into the SBC family. Remember the Ameritech has already had a venture into the video arena with their Americast offering and failed.

Likewise, the former AT&T also gave up and sold of all of its local AT&T Broadband holdings to Comcast.

Now that the two companies - that have both failed in video delivery in the past - have merged to become the "new at&t", are we supposed to believe they'll get it right this time?

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