The Advocate and the Advertiser both carry stories on yesterday’s PSC meeting. (Lafayette Pro Fiber had a first-person report here yesterday.) While both articles emphasize the unanimous, positive outcome for Lafayette–bought at the expense of yet another concession–they also detail Lafayette’s return to full-throated and uncompromising criticism of corporate behavior.
The Advocate on the decision and the compromise:
PSC approval gives LUS a green light to proceed on building a fiber-optic network to each home and business in the city in order to provide phone, cable and high-speed Internet service…
The intent of that law was to protect private competitors from unfair competition by ensuring that LUS could not take advantage of its tax-exempt status and forgo those fees on its bills — which would result in lower bills for LUS customers.
But state law did not address whether LUS’ communications division could pocket those “imputed” taxes and fees — something that would help the new communications system’s bottom line, even though customers would still experience artificially higher bills.
…Wednesday, LUS Director Terry Huval told the commission that LUS was volunteering on its own to pass those imputed taxes on to the city coffers — accomplishing what commissioners wanted to do, without requiring them to possibly violate the constitution.
The Advertiser reports Lafayette criticism of BellSouth’s threats to sue:
Despite Wednesday’s Public Service Commission victory, LUS and city officials said they anticipate another lawsuit from telecommunications providers in an attempt to stall the project.
“The biggest disappointment is that BellSouth’s attorney said he would see us in court,” said City-Parish President Joey Durel, calling the company “a bunch of whining, sniveling losers.”
Another lawsuit would show BellSouth and Cox are anti-Lafayette and anti-Louisiana, Huval said.
The Advocate also details Durel and Huval’s uncompromising criticism:
Lafayette officials came out swinging Wednesday afternoon at the possibility of lawsuits — Durel said BellSouth representatives hinted at a lawsuit after the meeting Wednesday.
“If they sue, BellSouth, Cox and their allies have placed themselves in a position of being Anti-Lafayette and Anti-Louisiana and they should be characterized as such,” Durel said in a release Wednesday afternoon. “I challenge them both to acknowledge the wishes of our community and to resume their place as good corporate citizens by ending any further opposition to our project.”
Huval said the “playbook” for incumbent companies in other communities throughout the nation that have embarked on similar projects is to use their “deep pockets” and try to bury their competition in lawsuits.
“If they try to take further legal action against this project, it would then become obvious that these companies only want to stop the project. Despite their lame arguments to the contrary, it is not an issue of ‘fairness,’ or ‘letting the people decide,’ Huval said in the same release. “Their agenda is against the wishes of the people of Lafayette and their elected representatives. Their agenda is to protect their abusive market behaviors in their virtual monopolies at all costs.”
The boys are angry. The people of Lafayette should be angry as well. Lafayette is back in its pre-referendum position of waging a public relations war with the incumbents. It is good to know our leaders recognize the game being played and are willing to use the weapons at hand.
I know that no further proof is necessary of BellSouth and Cox’s disregard for the needs of the community they pretend to be part of whenever those needs are in the least conflict with their corporate agenda but the astonishingly tone death insensitivity of BellSouth’s John Williams use the Katrina’s tragedy is staggering. From the Advertiser:
The extensive devastation to government infrastructure by Hurricane Katrina should make residents reconsider whether they want to entrust government with their telecommunications services, he said.
“In light of all the recovery efforts local government must undertake, how high of a priority would telecommunications be?” Williams wrote.
I am absolutely astounded that John Williams of BellSouth would try and turn the tragedy of hundreds of thousands to his corporate advantage. Williams knows perfectly well what the truth is: that a bond sale would not cost the city-parish any revenue it could spend elsewhere. He knows that with what promises to be a sudden jump in population building and strengthening infrastructure will be a necessary, major, and inevitable task–NOT one that the city-parish can or should seek to avoid. He knows that in that context the prospects of a major infrastructure build that pays for itself and even produces revenue without stressing local taxable resources is a huge boon for the city. Williams knows perfectly well (or is maintaining a criminal ignorance) that many of our new citizens will find themselves, at least in the first years, earning less than they did in New Orleans as they find their feet in the new community and could use the 20% cut in telecom service charges that LUS will make in Lafayette. Williams knows or should know that these new citizens are, by and large, exactly the 20% of our people that BellSouth planned (planned!) to leave out of their plan to “upgrade” our telecommunications systems.
Williams and BellSouth know or should know that the capacity to feel shame is actually to be admired.