Thursday, July 03, 2008

Alexandria to Sue re New Cable Franchise Law

According to the Town Talk Alexandria city officials are intending to challenge the constitutionality of the state-wide video franchise law. Apparently Lafayette and the Louisiana Municipal Association are also planning to go to court.

The gist:

The City Council approved a resolution authorizing City Attorney Charles "Chuck" Johnson to move forward in challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

Johnson said the city is looking into where and how to file the suit. He said the state constitution gives municipalities like Alexandria, with a Home Rule Charter, the right to organize themselves and allocate different functions as they see fit....

Johnson said other municipalities, including Lafayette, and the Louisiana Municipal Association have raised the same questions and have said they will also pursue their own litigation.

It seems that Alexandria is taking the lead because their cable provider was the first to start treating the city like an powerless owner and maintenance provider for "their" rights of way. (Had the state ripped away the rights for an private owner to manage their own property we'd never hear the end of it. Consistency isn't a big virtue of our lege.) SuddenLink, the cable provider Cox sold it's Alex operation to a while back, had pledged to start a customer service center in Alexandria. But, the story says: "Since the law became enacted, such negotiations have stopped."

That's the way these laws work and are intended to work. The incumbent providers didn't want and now don't have any responsibilities to the communities they serve. Blanco was right to have vetoed it last time around. Jindal (who signed off on June 21st) can add signing this to his list of recent blunders.

I have no idea how successful a legal challenge will be, but even the thinnest chance of success is worth the investment for the communities effected; the state handing over control of local community property to out-of-state monopolists is just about as bad an idea as there is. Alexandria's run in with SuddenLink is only the beginning.

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