Friday, January 19, 2007

Blanchard (and John) on the Future of the Fiber Plan

Kevin Blanchard, writing as a columnist, has an interesting piece in today's paper on the Naquin lawsuit's possible outcomes. (A piece I would have missed if an alert reader hadn't pointed it out...thanks!)

In it Blanchard lays out a series of possible consequences of both a favorable and an unfavorable outcome in the case now before its final board of review, the state Supreme Court.

If we win, he says, well we're off to the races at full tilt. LUS is prepared to move ahead quickly.

Though Blanchard doesn't characterize them this way he gives an examples of each of three large categories of possibilities for dealing with the (un)Fair Competition Act should we lose:
  1. comply
  2. evade
  3. fight
Here are his points (labeled with my numbers):

  1. One option would be to re-issue — for the third time — a plan in hopes of complying with the 2004 law being used against LUS in the courts. The easy money says that would prompt a third lawsuit challenge.
  2. A second option would be for LUS to partner with a private communications company...
  3. LUS’ only other option would be to approach the Legislature in an attempt to amend or repeal the Fair Competition Act.
While the neat alternatives are compelling--and regular readers will surely know that LPF will stand for fighting -- I doubt that anything like that stark a choice will visible should we encounter the problem in reality.

Comply will merge with Evade: there are many nuanced possibilities. For instance, why couldn't the "private" alternative be a local non-profit board, an alternative that would meet at least the spirit of local control that animated the successful referendum election. A local "cooperative" with an initial membership of the citizens of Lafayette should also fulfill the letter of the law while preserving the will of the people. We don't have to hand over our system to some big out-of-state conglomerate to escape our current set of monopolists. Nor would we have to hand it over to a local cabal of "influentials."

The real problem with both Comply and Evade is that they treat the symptoms, not the disease.

The disease is corporate arrogance and the presumption that public institutions exist to serve their profit rather than the public good. They will NOT hesitate to return to the legislature and outlaw any solution that we find that the court will accept. The idea that AT&T(BS) or Cox will ever allow us to build and control our own network because we meet some technical standard they set is a fools idea about how the world works. They'll just change the standard, again and again.

Fighting is the ONLY cure for what ails us. A public thrashing is the only cure for bullies.

I can live with a principled evasion along the lines outlined above. But only if it includes a fight as well. A real fight, fought to vanquish our opponent, not one for show, or one calculated to extort a concession that allows us to go our crippled way deprived of the real alternatives we ought to enjoy.

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