Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Fighting Telecom Giants"—Lafayette cited as a Kumbaya example

What They're Saying Dept.

There's been a wave of new interest in municipally owned telecoms since the Comcast—the largest cableco— made a bid to take over TimeWarner Cable—the second largest cable company. Together they'd own 62% of America's households. Now in another, better, time there'd be no question but that approving such a move would be sanctioning a monopoly and it wouldn't be allowed to take place. But we don't live in that better time. We live in a time where Comcast can blithely claim that it really doesn't matter if they merge because they don't compete anyway. And they don't. But that is the most cockamamie reason I can imagine to ensure that the combined company is utterly unchallengeable by anyone.

Currently Comcast by most estimates pays from 1/3 to 1/2 what a struggling startup would pay for television channels, You know, like LUS Fiber, Allowing these companies to combine would make the situation even worse.

Still, Lafayette regularly gets cited as the city that succeeded. Jim Baller, interviewed by Bob Garfield in an NPR report says:

BOB GARFIELD:  You were talking about what these municipal services can mean for the integrity of a community. Do you have one “Kumbaya” example that you can give me?
JAMES BALLER:  Sure. Lafayette, Louisiana is one of the most conservative cities in the country. It has a mayor, Joey Durel. He saw the benefits of fiber network and asked private companies to provide the service. They refused several times. It ultimately went forward with a referendum and ran into opposition from BellSouth and Cox Communications. During the referendum campaign, both the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties worked shoulder to shoulder in support of the project, and at the end of the day, the project was supported by a landslide vote. It’s drawn thousands of jobs into the community. It's operating financially successfully. And it has, among other things, attracted an entirely new industry, the film industry. Secretariatwas filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana, in large part because of the existence of their fiber network.
BOB GARFIELD:  There’s a tear streaming down my cheek.
BOB GARFIELD:  Free marketeers and municipal broadbanders living together in harmony.
JAMES BALLER:  Right. As Joey says, “They each held their noses but decided that on this one exceptional project they had a common interest.”

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