Thanks Readers!

I grateful in this season of thanksgiving for our readership… surprised but very grateful.

I took a look through our server stats this morning and was surprised — and pleased — to find that regular readership has fallen off amazingly little since the referendum campaign. By my estimates we’ve only lost about 17% of “daily checkers” since our previous “normal” readership high a couple of weeks before the election. (We had a big spike around the election itself, but I don’t consider that regular readership.) Readership continues to build, albeit slowly. 220-230 different people visit each day (if you visit more than once this stat doesn’t count repeat visits in the daily count). Regular readership, counting folks who don’t visit every day but do check in regularly every few of days is probably 2 to 3 times that number.

That’s surprising since that’s a large number (IMHO) for what is pretty much a one town/one issue blog–and a pretty damn technical issue at that. I’ve always been a bit perplexed about the level of interest, gratified and thrilled, but confused. And I’d have thought that interest would have fallen off sharply after the electorials success. A sort of “OK, now that’s done” effect. I no longer post daily with any consistency and my posts are ‘too long’ both factors which usually reduce readership. So…

That readership remains strong is worth speculating about. I’ve looked over the posts and come to two conclusions: 1) People don’t think this fight is over and remain interested in the status of the ongoing fight. and 2) People are particularly interested in posts that look forward and try and figure out what possibilities the future brings.

About the first rationale, the fight not being over, the best response is probably to continue doing what we’ve been doing in the blog–fight. About the second, that folks appear to be most interested in possibilites I think we can do much more dreaming than we have. After all its worthwhile to try and understand what we would be fighting for. Look for more posts in that vein and maybe even some white-paperish things back in the long-neglected more permanent side of the blog.

Thanks, readers.

A “Happy Holidays” from BellSouth and its Agents

In this season of Thanksgiving in Lafayette–acutely conscious of having been largely spared by two storms that devastated it neighbors–does not need to feel any gratitude in relation to its phone provider.

An Advocate story this morning confirms that which was reported here yesterday: BellSouth and its allies have filed appeals to the state 3rd Circuit seeking to further delay LUS’ publicly approved fiber-optic project. It will be decided soon according to the story filed in the Advocate:

Because of the specific deadlines set out in state law, the appeals should be heard by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, at the latest, by Christmas Day — and decided by New Year’s Day.

And the next..and final..level will be an appeal to the State Supreme Court, according to the article:

An appeal of the 3rd Circuit’s decision would be heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court following the same deadlines.

That would put the end of this piece of the delaying strategy somewhere about the middle of January.

Hmmn. There is discussion of a second hurricane-related special session in January; let’s keep a sharp eye out for BellSouth’s lobbyists when that special session is defined. We don’t want to see any special pleading that would allow the state to “help out” poor, pitiful, storm-ravaged BellSouth (cough) by damaging Lafayette. Lafayette and Acadiana representatives should oppose leaving open any door to “help” BellSouth in the special session. They have proven that they can’t be trusted to stick to deals they make in the legislature. (Remember their reneging on the “compromises” contained in the (un)fair competition act from the summer before last? Lots of us do.)

Of course, opposing any definition of the special session that would allow BellSouth to bring up its own relief is only an issue only if they appeal again. If they don’t LUS will have sold their bonds and room for BellSouth to do damage to the project will be significantly reduced. And, of course, if they don’t appeal it will be the first concrete sign that they plan to let the people’s decision stand.

The continuing strategy of BellSouth since it lost the referendum on July 16th has been to abuse the regulatory and legal systems of our state in hopes of delaying the onset of local competition and driving up the cost to the consumer when that competition from LUS finally appears. Standing down on these lawsuits would allow LUS and Acadiana representatives to avoid the temptation to see BellSouth as a declared and bitter enemy in all things. To date BellSouth has set itself up to frustrate Lafayette at every turn. We should return the favor. Until they back off we should encourage our representatives to form an implacable voting block that is dedicated to frustrating BellSouth’s every desire. The Louisiana Police Jury and both organizations of mayors in Louisiana endorsed Lafayette’s position in the last battle; maybe they’d join us again. If BellSouth thinks it would be hard to whip up resentment against the phone company they really are living in a different state.

The corporation makes it easy. Consider a little quote from BellSouth’s local face John Williams found in the Advertiser after BellSouth’s PSC loss:

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.

Come on! This sort of stuff just proves that Williams and BellSouth don’t have a grain of sensitivity about how Lafayette will regard their trying to turn every damned thing to their greedy, self-centered advantage–even the biggest set of tragedies to hit our state in living memory. We knew what we wanted before BellSouth tried to tell us otherwise and we know it even better after the election. A local telecom utility will provide us with competition, better services, and lower prices. These things are even more valuable now than before the tragedies of Katrina and Rita. And the people this program will most help now include in their number evacuees from those two storms. People with any sense of decency wouldn’t go there. But BellSouth and John Williams will.

I honestly think that Lafayette is reaching a level of resentment that is unrivaled even during the referendum campaign. During the campaign some opposition was expected and some citizens, thinking that after all this is Louisiana politics, were willing to put up with shenanigans that wouldn’t be considered honest in other contexts. But now that the people have spoken its hard to avoid the bitter taste of spoiled milk when we consider BellSouth’s attempts to overturn Lafayette’s recent vote. Part of Louisiana’s and especially south Louisiana’s willingness to tolerate stuff that other places don’t is the joie de vivre culture–you are not supposed to be tolerant and not hang onto resentments. People from elsewhere don’t understand that this isn’t blanket license; its part of the socially accepted rules of the local game. You violate that social understanding if you continue to act as if the contest is still on after the game is over. People who continue to act self-indulgently after the big party is over and to treat tolerance during the party as license to continue to act like jerks after it are not forgiven. They are quietly excluded from the group. Once you get on the wrong side of that it is very hard to get back in. BellSouth should be warned…our famous tolerance only goes so far and is only extended to those that play the game fairly and recognize when the game is over.

BellSouth is already over the line. When the people recognize just how far it won’t go well for BellSouth. If you’d like a little evidence I can only say that the tone of people I talk to regularly has shifted. Now I grant that I mostly talk to supporters of LUS (after all that’s most of the population), but the recent Sunday Advertiser editorial should give BellSouth pause. Anyone who watched the campaign knows that the Advertiser was never an opinion leader on the telecom issue. They were always behind the movement of opinion and followed what they were hearing on the streets and in the boardrooms. Sunday’s editorial was not a pro-local, pro-LUS editorial of the sort we used to see. It was a weary, “enough is enough” essay. It was an anti-BellSouth essay.

The tide has moved in an ugly direction and BellSouth doesn’t have forever to halt the growing sense that they are simply the enemy. And should be treated as such.

Enough is Enough

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: enough is enough.

I’m told the city got formal notification late last week of BellSouth’s filing an appeal of the recent lawsuit they lost. I, and a lot of others, have lost patience with this sort of thing.

BellSouth, Cox, and few scattered allies have tried to stand in the way of Lafayette for more than a year now. It needs to stop.

A review:

They first went to the state legislature and tried to take away our freedom to do for ourselves what we thought best for the community. They then attempted to convince us, through foolishness ranging faux “academic conferences” to push polls that we really didn’t want what we wanted. They chickened out of the chamber forum when they couldn’t get the format changed at the last minute to suit them. They tried to decieve us that an anti-LUS blog was written by a Lafayette resident and not a corporate official out of Tyler, Texas. They tried to browbeat the city-parish council and the people with vague threats about the Cingular call center. They failed to convince our neighbors to fear us. They stood against us during a bitter referendum fight which, in the end, served to unify the community against them and to overwhelmingly validate Lafayette’s support for a locally-owned telecom utility. They tried through back-door lobbying to get the Public Service Commission to interpret legislation they had agreed to in ways that were clearly contrary to the words in law. Failing in the first try at the PSC they took another bite of the apple and failed again. They sued the city. They lost. Their allies sued the city. It was dismissed. You’d think by now they’d get the message: Leave us alone. Compete or get out. {Did I forgot your favorite sickening deception, petty behavior, or egregious lie? Let me know and I’ll update this.}

So, where are we now?

They promise to sue the PSC in state courts. No doubt their class-action lawsuit buddies will do the same.

And now we hear that they’ve filed an appeal in the case that bears BellSouth’s name.

Without any doubt they are trying delay and delay the bond sale the voters authorized on July 16th. Why? They want to frustrate the will of the people so that BellSouth can squeeze a little more out of the people of Lafayette. It is to their advantage to drive up the cost to Lafayette consumers, to allow themselves some more time to get their creaky technology cleaned up enough to use, and to keep our bonds from being sold until the legislature can come back into session and the state’s largest phalanx of lobbyists can try again to cripple Lafayette in the legislature.

It’s disgusting. It’s greedy. It cannot be justified.

Cox has apparently decided that working the quiet influence/local PR game and (gasp!) actual competition might be a more honorable route–and one that doesn’t make them outright enemies of the community. BellSouth would be well-served to do the same. It’d be great to see actual competition instead of bureaucratic maneuvering. That’s what would be valuable for the people of Lafayette.

Remember these guy’s previous slogan: “Let the People Vote”? Well, the people have decided.

Enough is enough.

Standing Up–The Advertiser

The Sunday Editorial in the Advertiser this week is titled: “Court challenges to LUS fiber plan should end now.” Amen.

The title says it all. The essay does lay the bones of a logic that should be convincing to all. To wit: LUS has met every challenge put before it and with the indisputable moral authority of an overwhelming vote of the people behind it the community should not have to tolerate further delay. I’d want to put a little meat on those bones, go a small step further and note that LUS has again and again made good-faith comprises to move the project forward without undue delay. BellSouth, Cox, and their allies have at every turn tried to abuse those compromises to further strengthen the advantages they have and to turn them into further opportunities for delay. Today’s lawsuits are based on yesterday’s attempt to give BellSouth what it said would satisfy it in state law. Instead of actually settling for the compromise they use it today to try and squeeze a bit more out of the situation for the themselves. And failing that to frustrate the very reason that LUS agreed to the compromise in the first place: to eliminate the delay that would have been caused by fighting for what would have been most to their advantage. BellSouth and Cox understood what the deal was; they have simply not been honorable or honest. (And this, incidentally, is what explains the growing animus felt for the corporations by local officials, and increasingly by the public. You can’t trust or work with folks who’ve proved untrustworthy.)

Here’s how the Advertiser puts it:

The next battle in this war should be fought in the competitive business arena. We’ve already been through the state regulators, the district courts and the Legislature. We’d hate to think that two major corporate citizens such as BellSouth and Cox Communications would stoop to delaying tactics and then, as similar companies have done elsewhere, slip a few dollars to a think tank that will come up with a study that proves -ah-ha! – municipal broadband loses money.

There’s another way, a fair way, to settle the dispute. Put the products in the marketplace, and let the market decide. If BellSouth and Cox are right, customers will give the thumbs down to LUS and its fiber plan, and the city-parish government will have to live with the political and economic consequences. If LUS is right, Lafayette stands to benefit from less expensive access to broadband technology.

That’s important. While two-thirds of the nation’s households have dial-up or broadband Internet access, fewer than half of Louisiana’s do. Only Arkansas and Mississippi do worse.

Being No. 1 in America wouldn’t be a big deal. The United States has fallen to 13th in the percentage of its homes with broadband access.

So bring it on, fight it out and let’s see whether the LUS fiber plan can really be the engine that propels Lafayette into a future of high-speed data service.”

Again, Amen.

I’ve heard people say, even those who are wholeheartedly LUS supporters, that this sort of behavior is, if not exactly excusable, understandable and natural. They wryly and indulgently remark that this is just how corporations are. I am hoping that we will think twice about offering that indulgence. We’ve figured out that what is natural, for say teenagers, is nonetheless not acceptable and demand something more from their behavior than just what they might selfishly want. These corporations are run by grown men and women who can, if they want, act honorably. We could name them. Let’s do so: Bill Oliver, John Williams, Gary Cassard
. Other people lend their name and influence such as Karmen Blanco and Sharon Kleinpeter. All of these should be held personally responsible for the acts of the companies they represent or for which they make decisions. People, not corporations, make decisions. People, not corporations, put their reputations on the line in defense of those corporation’s actions. They should be held to the same standard anyone else would be expected to adhere to: the same standard we ask of teenagers: to be responsible for their actions and to use their reputations for worthy purposes.

“Cox renews focus in Lafayette”

In January, control over Cox Communications operations in Lafayette will switch from Tyler, Texas, to Baton Rouge

So saith the Advocate this morning. The switch to Baton Rouge was pretty much inevitable following the sale of the rest of Cox’s Louisiana properties that were in the “Middle America” division run out of Tyler. Cox is retaining its Baton Rouge, New Orleans properties and adding Lafayette to that division.

Go zip over to the Advocate story; it’s a very nice “review and current status ” overview of the story. It reminds us of both Cox’s earlier strategy and current “quiet;” reviewing, for instance, the infamous push polls and the TJCrawdad debacle. (The TJCrawdad saga was dealt with on these pages, on the pages of LUSFTTH and on in the lost, much-lamented Timshel.) What is not mentioned is that the entire crew that ran the Lafayette operation in the early days, including the infamous TJCrawdad, were replaced mid-stream by Cox. The shakeup left, so far as I know, only the local “PR face” of the old office staff in place. That remnant may be about to go when Karmen Blanco officially takes over the PR reins in Lafayette.

(The distinction between the BR crew and the old Lafayette crew is elliptically alluded to when Baton Rouge representative Sharon Kleinpeter is careful to distance her group from earlier events:

Though Cox officials watched closely the debate in Lafayette, “the entire strategy and situation was really handled through Tyler,” Kleinpeter said.)

The new group certainly knows what to say:

“In January (when the switch-over takes place), I don’t see anything that we’re going to go into court,” Kleinpeter said.

Kleinpeter said that Cox still believes that municipally run communications businesses are a bad idea, but “the people have expressed their opinion.”

“We need to compete and we need to win in the court of public opinion,” Kleinpeter said.

While not backing down on their objections, that certainly is a vast improvement over the old Cox rhetoric and accords at least some respect to the people of Lafayette. We’ll be excused if we reserve judgment on whether or not Cox can stick to that resolution–and whether local representatives like Kleinpeter would be in the loop if they were planning anything else. After all the humiliation suffered by BellSouth’s Williams when he was depicted as being out of the loop on the push poll demonstrates that the lower levels aren’t always in the loop–though, like soldiers anywhere, they take the hit.

Huval on Cox & Lawsuits; Quiet and Not

Kevin Blanchard has an unusual piece in the Advocate today. Most “news,” hell almost all news, is event-driven. In order for a story to be a “story” it has to be hung on something happening; usually some dramatic change that occurred pretty suddenly.

Today’s article dealing with the players in the fiber-optic telecom utility chess game breaks that mold. It reports on something that isn’t an “event” but should be understood by the public. The article notices the different ways that the incumbents are publicly dealing with a dramatic loss at the polls and it hints at the private cross-currents of professional and personal influence among “influentials.”

I’ve long been an advocate of more “educational” news–news which places a premium on understanding rather than simply describing events. (I try to pursue some of that here.) This is a good think; the article deserves more than the quick glance most readers are likely to accord it.

Public Quiet
The headline “Cox ‘quiet’ since election” keys on remarks made at last night’s Lafayette Public Utility Authority meeting (the LPUA is the city subset of the City-Parish Council and generally meets prior to the Council). Cox has been relatively quiet. But it has joined BellSouth in attempting to take advantage of the situation at the Louisiana Public Service Commission so “quiet” doesn’t quite get it. But it is true that BellSouth has put itself in the way of most of the bad publicity that is to be had from opposing the will of the people of Lafayette.

Why? My suspicion is that Cox thinks it can compete and BellSouth is pretty sure that it cannot. Hence BellSouth is more desperate to prevent municipal competition than its erstwhile ally. Cox has made the decision to keep Lafayette when it shed most of the division that Lafayette was in. Cox, as we’ve remarked repeatedly on these pages, is well positioned to eat BellSouth’s lunch in the coming broadband battle. BellSouth may be well aware that in a full-scale battle for triple or quadruple play customers in Lafayette it will be third ran… At the moment BellSouth’s DSL product competes directly with Cox’s broadband. But it (lists) a slower connection speed and has a smaller customer base. So it competes, against all its monopoly instincts, on price; it is cheaper to buy DSL. But with two broadband alternatives both faster and with LUS committed to driving down the price 20% on its first day of business BellSouth will be both slower and will be deprived of the cheaper price that currently allows it to compete.

BellSouth needs to find a way out. Any way out. For BellSouth, if not for Cox, competition is not a viable alternative. What is true of Lafayette is true, if less urgent, throughout BellSouth’s footprint: it does not want and cannot afford a third, faster, cheaper municipal alternative that reveals it as the last place finisher rather than the cheaper alternative to cable in the expanding broadband market.

That, for my money, is at the basis of Cox’s quiet and BellSouth’s belligerence.

Private Influence
But the public arena is not the only place where cats can be skinned. And the Advocate article gives a small peek into that universe. The article notes the hiring of Karmen Blanco by Cox (a story I posted on earlier) and also highlights the role of Lafayette law firm Perret Doise in BellSouth’s litigation. Perret, it notes, managed Durel’s transition team and Karmen is Kathleen Blanco’s daughter. I have no doubt that both do and will do honorable jobs for their employers. I similarly do not doubt that their ties in the community have something to do with their hire. There are, as sociology texts and traditional wisdom teach us, intricate ties of influence that are professional, personal, and indirect. For instance Perret is also on the board of Our Lady of Fatima elementary school, Karmen’s previous employer. Beyond this story hiring the local public relations firm, Calzone and Associates, and that firm hiring the son of Senator Cravins is not likely be simple coincidence.

Public, professional ties bring private influence into the picture; to say that doesn’t happen is foolish; to say it isn’t intended by the corporations is naive.

It’s all worth watching if you care about the interests of the community as a whole.

There’s quiet and then there is quiet. The fuller story here may be that Cox is learning how to be publicly quiet and privately effective.

“Second lawsuit on LUS tossed”

This morning’s paper delivery brings us articles from both the Advocate and the Advertiser on yesterday’s dismissal of the class action suit against LUS. Judge Ware dismissed on the grounds that the courts had already heard this argument and that Louisiana law didn’t allow this form of double jeopardy. The Plaquemine lawyers in the class action suit had already “intervened” in Conque’s court (the site of last weeks LUS-City victory) to argue in support of BellSouth and were at that time warned that they’d not get “another bite of the apple.” The lawyers, being lawyerly, argued that their argument was unique because they wanted to stop LUS in order to use LUS’ “residual” money to pay off their earlier lawsuit should they win. The problem is that having a different reason to want to stop LUS does not constitute a different argument—something they judge felt they weren’t bothering to make.

Nonetheless, we’ll likely see yet another appeal. It’s getting so you can’t keep track without a scorecard. Probable/promised appeals: of the PSC’ ruling, Judge Conque’s ruling, and now Judge Ware’s dismissal. At least it looks like bond law requires a strict, and quick timeline for filing and making appeals. In all honesty the problem of endless legal delay is not constrained by BellSouth or its allies running out of legal reasons to sue; the truth is that while the evidence is that they’ve already run out of good reasons to sue (since they’ve consistently lost) that will not keep them from gumming up the works with lawsuits based on bad reasons. Bad reasons are infinite–as anyone who has raised children can attest. And the solution for manipulative children’s endless demands masquerading as (bad) reasons is the parent losing patience and refusing to hear them any more. The solution for bad, manipulative legal reasons is the same: the courts will have to decide that they’ve lost patience with misusing the system. With Judge Ware’s ruling we might have the beginning of that trend. He was unwilling to let BellSouth game the system by letting others play proxy for arguments that had already been found invalid by the courts.

From the Advertiser:

“If the playbook that’s been described to us holds true, the decision will be appealed to drag it out,” Huval said. “One needs to wonder if these suits are just frivolous attempts to ignore the will of the people.”

The courts just might beginning to see the pattern as well. And that is not a perception that BellSouth and Cox should want the courts to have–too much other business depends upon being seen as credible. Getting the courts in the habit of suspecting that you are taking up the court’s time just to be running out the clock is something an overburdened judiciary will react to with resentment..and something reasonable folks avoid.

Judge Ware Dismisses 2nd Lawsuit against LUS

BellSouth, Cox, and allies have suffered another defeat in their attempt to prevent the formation of a competing telecommunications utility by LUS. Judge Ware dismissed the lawsuit saying, essentially, that Conque had already ruled on it. Note that Ware does not “buy” the idea that this lawsuit is independent of the one that BellSouth filed in its own name. Stories on the two lawsuits have repeatedly noted the similarity between the legal rationale behind the two lawsuits, though this second one was cast as a class action suit in the name of the two local residents

Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Bradford Ware today dismissed a lawsuit by Elizabeth Naquin and others that, in part, challenged the Lafayette Utilities System fiber optics bond ordinance.

“This is another ruling in favor of the citizens of Lafayette,” said LUS Director Terry Huval.

In dismissing the lawsuit, Ware said state law provides that legal objections to bond ordinances can be heard only once.

Arguments about the LUS bond ordinance were heard by 15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque on Nov. 3 in a lawsuit filed by BellSouth and joined by Elizabeth Naquin and others.

Conque ruled in favor of LUS, which wants to extend fiber optics lines throughout the city and offer Internet, TV and telephone service in competition with companies including BellSouth.

Let’s see how many timest these guys have been turned back in their attempts to block municipal competition: 1) Attempt to outlaw at the state legislature, 2) “for” vote of the city council, 3) for vote OF THE PEOPLE, 4) lost at the Public Service Commission, 5) lost again at the PSC, 6) failed in lawsuit, 7) failed at second lawsuit.

What’s likely next? Appeals: legal appeal of PSC rulings and appeals of these latest two lawsuits. Trouble with appeals is that you’ve already demonstrated that your case is weak. Else you wouldn’t need an appeal. Most appeals fail.

Maybe it’s time for the corporations to fight fair and simply try to compete. All they are accomplishing now is to continue to harden public opinion against them–and while being thought a good citizen and a good loser may not motivate them at least they ought to worry about keeping the anti-incumbent feeling fresh. If people are still actively angry at them and convinced that they don’t play fair that will translate pretty directly into lost buisiness when LUS offers services. They have a chance to let the people of Lafayette forget how they act–but not as long as they are still acting that way.

All they’d really have to do to compete is lower their prices. (Trouble is, that might give other towns the idea that they need a little competition too. …And they do.)

Cough, Cough…Karmen Blanco hired by Cox Lafayette

Sunday’s political shorts in the Advocate carried an interesting short story: “Governor’s daughter gets OK for Cox job.” The short story:

One of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s daughters has gotten approval from state ethics officials to go to work for Cox Communications.

Cox wants to hire Karmen Blanco to ‘assist in its Lafayette community outreach efforts,’ the company’s governmental affairs executive told ethics officials.

The company asked about the propriety of the move since Cox bids for state work.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics said last week that Cox can hire Karmen Blanco because her job won’t include business dealings with the state. The board said Blanco’s daughter must disclose her income because she benefits financially from a company that does business with the state government run by her mother.

Karmen has spent her career to date as a development director for Our Lady of Fatima elementary school here in Lafayette. As I understand it such jobs center around promotion and fundraising. The Cox job appears to be a PR job with a focus on promoting Cox in Lafayette. (Where God knows they need some real, local help.) I hope I’ll be excused if I wonder whether experience promoting an elementary school was what Cox found most interesting about Karmen Blanco’s background. Karmen’s day to day job will soon be to put the best face on Cox’s relationship with Lafayette. That will inevitably include putting the best face on its coming competition with Lafayette; If Karmen is like the rest of us it will be hard not to believe what you spend your days earnestly promoting; If Kathleen is like the rest of us it will be hard for a parent not to know what a daughter believes and is saying. Not all potential conflicts involve to state contracts…

Kathleen Blanco has been a real friend of Lafayette in its conflicts with Cox. I trust that won’t change.

BellSouth Lawsuit in the News

The Advertiser and the Advocate both carry stories this morning on yesterday’s ruling against BellSouth. As I noted in a post last night, the judge found BellSouth’s strained understanding of the word “pledge” and its insistence that LUS’ enterprise had to go into default in order to meet its pledge incorrect. He noted that the (un)Fair Competition Act puts no limit on the ways a debtor can contract with a creditor to pay off their debt–and that the bond ordinance is essentially such a contract.

With that Conque points directly at the heart of the matter that so worries BellSouth: The contract under which the bonds to support LUS will be issued. State law and the state constitution priviledge contracts with bondholders to such a degree that it will be impossible to attack the business practices that are codified in the bond ordinance after the bonds are sold. A lot of doors close for BellSouth in terms of damaging LUS after that occurs. On a number of topics this is their last chance to gain an unfair advantage. Chief among those advantages are that BellSouth and allies want to drive up the costs of this project in direct defiance of the law (un)Fair Competition Law BellSouth originally authored. That law authorizes LUS to “pledge” its assets with the express purpose of lowering the interests costs charged by investors buying the bonds. That is the whole purpose, as declared by the legislature, of that clause. As we all know the largest expense of a project like this will be, not fiber or even the installation costs, but interest paid by LUS and eventually by the people of Lafayette. BellSouth’s challenges are transparently designed to drive up the interest prices paid by Lafayette and that is exactly what the legislature was trying to avoid in the clause that BellSouth transparently misinterpreted.

(I hope it is clear to all that the specious rationales offered by BellSouth during the election that they welcomed competition and were only concerned to “inform” voters about the “risks” of LUS’ plan was dishonest. If there remained any doubt in the public mind the continued attempts to manipulate the situation at Public Service Commission and in multiple lawsuits should make it clear to any citizen that the corporations are merely trying to thwart the emergence of effective competition.)

Legal points aside what was most fun in the Advocate article were the quotes from Lafayette officials. —Strangely the local Advertiser doesn’t bother with talking to local officials; it’s odd to have to go to the Baton Rouge paper for a Lafayette response to the good news.

From the city attorney:

City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger, who argued the case for Lafayette earlier this month, said Thursday that Lafayette officials are “delighted” with the decision.

“The judge’s written opinion supports our contention that further legal action from BellSouth is unwarranted,” Ottinger said in a statement. “These endless tactics of legal filings, court hearings and appeals are designed only to delay and run up unnecessary costs to the taxpayers.”

From the LUS director:

LUS’ communications project has been approved by the voters, the City-Parish Council, the Legislature, state Public Service Commission, the state Public Service Commission and “now a court of law,” LUS Director Terry Huval said in a statement.

“The citizens of Lafayette are fed up and frustrated with the roadblocks being erected by BellSouth. It is time for BellSouth to end their tactics of delay that have already created needless costs for the taxpayers of our community,” Huval said.

I think Huval is correct on this…I was at a digital divide meeting last night where I had to push to get the agenda back on track after a conversation in which people were advocating picketing BellSouth. It’d be a lot easier to move on to more useful things if BellSouth and its allies would quit trying to frustrate the desires of their customers.

But BellSouth, as the articles make clear, has promised more lawsuits. I’ll be surprised if they don’t appeal yesterday’s spanking and BellSouth has said that they intend to appeal the PSC ruling against them. It’s all pretty ugly. And pretty small. Enough is enough.