Friday, July 07, 2006

BellSouth's Cable Franchising Bill

Well folks we're in the last days of waiting for Governor Blanco to decide whether or not to veto, sign, or allow HB 699 to become law without her signature. She has (and you have) until July 10th, next Monday to act.

We're hoping for a veto, of course. The law remains a terrible one that strips local governments of the control of its own property, transfers that control to the state, which then does nothing with it other than to free mostly BellSouth/AT&T of its previous obligation to serve the whole community instead of only the most profitable parts. It's a bad idea on its face.

The fact that AT&T, the company that is buying BellSouth and to whom the excess profits of this law will flow, has always promised that its services will NOT be cheaper than cable's means that even the promise of "competition" for the rich won't save anybody much money. In truth what this bill will do is to bolster AT&T's bottom line at the expense of the "lower value" neighborhoods and rural communities.

While those essential elements of the bill have not changed and remain a firm basis for repeal, opponents should be heartened by the changes the public outcry has wrought. The most appalling add-ons to the core bad idea have been stripped from the bill: a self-interested new state bureaucracy has been stripped away, the fee loophole that BellSouth designed for itself appears to have been closed, and the ability of corporations to ignore the local government owners of property it uses has been narrowed. Public outrage has made a difference in this bill.

Public outrage might yet spike the whole thing. She heard from the public earlier, recently she heard from the state's parish and municipal leaders. In these last days she might well be waiting to see if the concern about this bill will fade. Your job is to make sure that she understands that you (and your friends) haven't forgotten about it:

Toll-free: 1-866.310.7617 (This toll-free number is not always picked up. Try it first but be prepared to whip out your cell and call the alternate number.)
Alternate: (225) 342-0991 (Nice lady answers the phone and takes your brief message.)
Fax: (225) 342-7099
Web-based email: Email the Governor (the webmail script does not execute correctly on my setup--though it apparently works for some; the embedded email address is: contact@gov.state.la.us --it might be wiser to use that than to trust the webmail form.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am I correct if I tell the Governor office that the Local Governments will loose the Franchise fees if she signs the bill?

John said...

Anono,

Gotta read more carefully and I quote: "the fee loophole that BellSouth designed for itself appears to have been closed"

To be honest, I'm not at all sure that what they've done to close that loophole will stand if the FCC decides to back AT&T on this issue. Holding the AT&T to fee payments is in the current Federal legislation as well--and didn't appear there till after it became a big issue in Louisiana. So maybe we did some good for the nation as a whole in our fight here. If the federal version passes there it will have, probably, the desired effect. (The FCC and the DC court have been known to get creative in interpreting the plain meaning of the law. --For instance the '96 telecom act contained a clause saying that the states could not prevent "any entity" from building telecom infrastructure. The FCC declined to enforce it and the courts decided that "any entity" didnt' included municipalities. Go Figure.In a rational world -- and the world the Congress provided for--Lafayette would never have had to go through the nonsense it did over the last two years.)

Anonymous said...

OK thanks.

Will Local Govt. still have police powers over their Right-of-Way?

Anonymous said...

Does the Louisiana Public Service Commission still require BellSouth to be the provider of last resort and offer phone service to any business or resident that is located in their serving area? If the Public Service Commission does require that of BellSouth and they build out the network to anyone who orders phone service why wouldn’t they offer cable and internet service as well?

Anthony

Anonymous said...

Anthony Moussaid that is!!

John said...

Hi Anthony,

Re: rights of way "police powers"--well that depends upon whom you ask. That's one of the things that was improved during the fight. Some really bad language got cut. BUT...it still isn't clear that something like the refrigerators that AT&T wants to use to use for its triple-play capable network upgrades couldn't be of any size and put anywhere AT&T wants regardless of local safety concerns and aesthetics. They're gonna look funny in River Ranch's tidy landscape.

Bell South is the provider of both first and last resort of wireline phone services in their areas. That's pretty much the deal with monopoly provision. :-) But providing phone service does not mean that the company has provided lines and electronics that can provide any advanced service. DSL requires both extra electronics, a clean line and has a distance constraint. If you are too far from the switch it won't work.

Cable services aka "IPTV" will be much more demanding than DSL and will require more of the same.

Long story short: the failure of BellSouth to upgrade its network over the years means that most of its network will need work to offer advanced services.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Can you please explain what you mean by "first and last resort"? Does this mean if I wanted to order phone service from Cox I would need to get service from BellSouth first? How can they be a monopoly if Cox is offering phone service?

Also, Do you know if these extra electornice (refrigerators, as you refer to them) would require a power source? If so, is it true the parish would require a permit before they could get power to the refrigerator? Sounds like that would give them POLICE POWERS over the new BellSouth network.


Anthony Moussaid

Anonymous said...

Is LUS going to be a provider of last resort? Did the council require them to provide service to anyone who wants it in the serving area within a defined timeframe? If so, can you please show me source that explains the rules they must follow. If not can LUS cherry- pick their customers in the city limits of Lafayette?

Anthony Moussaid

Anonymous said...

John,

Do you think there will be legislation introduced next year that will require Government Owned Networks like LUS to provide service as a provider of last resort in their respective governing area(City of Lafayette)?


Does LUS plan to be a provider of first resort? Requiring people of Lafayette to use their services. The reason I ask this question is because I've never heard of this term before.

Feel free to answer YES or NO I am not trying to under your skin I just think these are questions that have never been asked before.

Anthony Moussaid

Shad Price said...

The ironic thing in all this? Lafayette repeatedly asked BellSouth and Cox to upgrade their services in the past, which BellSouth flat-out refused to do and Cox only started doing after they saw the writing on the wall. :)

That is what is so sad about this whole thing. Lafayette has been begging for updated, faster, services for a long time now. Why not spend the money and give the city what they wanted in the first place instead of fighting tooth and nail (and dirty I might add) a project that Lafayette decided they had to do alone because the incumbants didn't want to do it?

We use the line; "It's all about profit for the incumbants!" all the time. It is true, but guess what? They would have profited from upgrading services in Lafayette. They would have seen revenue growth and subscriber growth. All they had to do was take the initiative, quit fooling around, and do it.

Sad it came to this stuff really. :(

Anonymous said...

Shad

Thanks for your opinion, I hope you feel better now.

Now let's get to the facts. Do you have any information that addresses my concerns? Yes or No.

Anthony Moussaid

John said...

Hi Anthony,

You've not yet got under my skin. The first and last bit is just my fancy way of saying that if you want a traditional POTS line --with independent power and such-- your only choice is BellSouth. It has long been a monopoly.

For a lot of folks the service that Cox has started to offer -- a VOIP device, not a traditional POTS line-- WILL actually compete with the phone company if you don't demand independent power and are willing to sacrifice some quality (so my friend who has it says). But that's true only where Cox is offering the service. Not everywhere by any means.

Bout power and the refrigerator: My reading of the law is that a locality would not have any real power to restrict a telecom company with a state licence from doing very much in the right of way. They could try and it is no longer an explicit disenfranchisement but vague language about non-interference would make it at least contestable in court if BS or AT&T didn't like their idea. And if it costs BS money you can bet they wouldn't. (Shad is right about that.)

Bout LUS and universal service. Yes, LUS will offer the service to everyone and run it down every street in the city. No rules necessary. They are a public utility. They've made the promise--the same promise they've made for power, water, and sewerage. NO cherry-picking. Think about it: it's just not politically feasible for a public entity to play those games.

Bout a state law--no I don't think they'll be any state law singling out Lafayette. It'd be unconstitutional. Besides, it'd be unnecessary. It'd be like the state singling out Baker and passing a law mandating it provide sewarage to all. Ain't gonna happen cause not even legislators think it's worth worrying about.

You're going way over the top in thinking it would ever be possible to require anyone to use any provider's services. The provider of first and last resort is a fancy way to describe a monopoly; nothing more. Even in that usage people could choose not to buy the service at all. So: NO.

Shad is pretty much right about what's really going on here in my judgment. The hallmark of a good explanation is that it works across a wide range of questions. And incumbent greed, coupled with a long-term inability to see where their best interest lies, explains most of the behavior we've seen in Lafayette.

Anonymous said...

Can you please show me in writing where LUS is required to be a provider of last resort.

Anthony Moussaid

Anonymous said...

John

Do you think wireless broadband will become a big competitor against the incumbents?

Anthony Moussaid

John said...

Anthony,

Just so I can understand where some of these questions are coming from: Were you around Lafayette during the referendum last year?

"Can you show me in writing" NOPE. I can't do that for water or electricity or sewer either. I can only testify to its practical reality and that those promises have been fulfilled.

"Do you think wireless broadband will be a big competitor. NOPE. My judgment for a long time has been that wireless is other than big broadband. Wireless in actual wide-area implementation using mesh technologies has not been able to consistently deliver even the pitiable version of broadband that the current providers offer. It will be hopeless in wide-area use to deliver cable TV equivalence and that is the cash cow and the necessary basis for real competition. A day may come when wireless can go to toe with current DSL capacities. But by the time that happens the wireline incumbents and the web will have moved on.

Wide-area Wireless will be for ubiquity. Not broadband.

That's my considered judgment. Your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

John
Lafayette also PROMISES they did not violating the law and they were defeated twice in the courts. I respect anyone who wants to believe the political promises by elected officials but customers are already being served telecom services in Lafayette. Water, electricity, and sewer are all a monopoly. Just like what Joey intends to have with his Communications network.

John said...

Ah now we're back to anono are we?

Utter BS or should I say B$?

This is precisely the sort of shot in the dark, anonymous, unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatiable claims that so irritate me.

Look, there is a history here that should help reasonable people decide who to trust....

Promises Kept:

Anyone who wants muni water gets it.
Anyone who wants muni sewer gets it.
Anyone who wants muni electricity gets it.

So what's the evidence say about muni telecom?

On the other hand:

The incumbents have lied to us at every turn and threatened us and tried in every way possible to overturn a vote of the people.

All to make an extra buck.

So who does a rational person trust?

We heard what most people think last July 16th.

There comes a point when playing smart and cynical about local government isn't smart at all.

John said...
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