Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WBS: "Lafayette win could have broad impact"

What's Being Said Dept.

TelephonyOnline trumpets the larger impact of Lafayette's recent court victory saying.... well, you can read it for yourself:

“This victory -- and it is a complete victory, it was a unanimous vote by the Louisiana Supreme Court – will certainly send positive spirit around Louisiana, around the U.S. and perhaps even more broadly around the world,” said Jim Baller, the Washington attorney and municipal broadband advocate. “It comes at a very important time, because the debate about where the U.S. sits in the world today and what it needs to move forward to catch up to the leading nations is beginning to gather steam.”
Other communities can take heart from Lafayette's victory:
“The Lafayette decision is very much a piece of that puzzle – the communities that are not going to be served any time soon with the kind of broadband capability that America needs are looking to communities like Lafayette to lead the way,” he said. The city’s almost three-year battle to allow its municipally owned utility service to issue bonds and build an FTTH network was met at every step by resistance from incumbent service providers BellSouth and Cox Communications, Baller said
That reference to "communities that are not going to be served anytime soon" hints at the root cause for the ongoing battle between communities and the incumbent providers that refuse to meet their needs. The very uncomfortable truth is that the incumbents are not planning to provide modern service for most of the country anytime soon (regardless of the stuff they spout during deregulatory hearings or state video franchise fights).

Baller, one of Lafayette's attorney's from the beginning, sees our victory in light of the country's falling ranking in the broadband standings:

“We don’t have the luxury of time to sit back and quarrel when the U.S. in the broadband area is significantly behind the leading broadband nations of the world,” Baller said. “Given the importance of broadband infrastructure – many things in many areas will pass us by and will be much more difficult to seize – we can’t waste time fighting. I hope this will stimulate the sense of greater cooperation between the public and private sectors that will make much more rapid strides forward possible.”

I am afraid I can't see that hope growing out of Lafyette's experience. Lafayette's experience gives little hope for cooperation. I wish it did. But the facts are that BellSouth and Cox fought us every step of the way. They fought us even though they refused to build such a network themselves. They fought us even though they knew that their bottom lines would be unmoved by our success. They fought us because the thought they were entitled to reap their profits unopposed by annoying competition and they fought us in order to discourage others from following our lead.

It is an illusion that the phone and cable companies can be convinced to sacrifice a single dollar to serve our national interest -- any more than they could be convinced to sacrifice a single dollar to let Lafayette do for ourselves what they refused to do for us.

If a small city deep in southern Louisiana can defy the corporations and win just imagine what the Congress could do for this country if it showed a little backbone.

What Lafayette proved was the value of standing up for yourself instead of folding.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you expect to see another run at the cable act this year or did Louisiana miss out?

John said...

Anon,

I do expect an attempt by Cox and AT&T/BS, acting in concert this time, to get the state to tell the municipalities and parishes what to do with their property.

Expect a law to be proposed that requires a municipality to lease publicly owned land to AT&T even if they refuse to serve the whole community. (River Ranch: meet AT&T)

Expect the state to offer nothing in return to the communities for interfering in the use of their own resources in order to benefit essentially one out of state corporation.

Oh yeah,I guess it's obvious: I think Louisiana dodged the bullet last year.