BellSouth Lawsuit “without merit”

In a written opinion, Judge Conque has found that BellSouth’s most recent lawsuit is “without merit.” BellSouth had asked the court to invalidate the bond ordinance passed by the city-parish council that would govern the issuance of bonds and the conditions under which the bonds would be repaid. This ruling affirms the legality of the ordinance and the methods the city-parish and LUS intend to use to repay those bonds.

The ordinance to which BellSouth is objecting, incidentally, is the same “proposition” that Lafayette voters approved by 24 percentage points. It’s not just the judgment of the council that BellSouth is questioning it is the judgment of the people of Lafayette.

The ruling, forwarded by a happy reader, makes clear that Judge Conque found BellSouth’s arguments were, as we outside the lawyer’s guild might say, “a real stretch.” BellSouth wanted to proceed with an interpretation of “pledge” that would result in LUS meeting its pledge only by going into full “default” first. But, the judge pointed out, that’s not the way the underlying Louisiana law works–there’s nothing that prevents anyone from making a contractual agreement to pay off a debtor using revenues without throwing the whole enterprise into default. (What the judge judiciously refrains from pointed out is that such an assertion is absurd and would make hash of the idea of a loan (which is all a bond is) secured by assets.)

The Tide Turns; Congratulations Iowa! (and US)

Kudos and Congratulations to the people of Iowa!

And, frankly, to the people of the United States. In what is being billed by local press as a split decision, the people of Iowa pretty firmly rejected an expensive media misinformation campaign financed by Iowa’s out of state incumbent telecom companies. A majority of the 32 municipalities with a telecom utility on the ballot passed the measure. Further, the majority of those municipalities that voted it down (according to the Register article cited above) had as their phone company a local business with a clear history of aggressive roll-outs of new services in rural areas. The firm, Iowa Telecom, that seems to be an Iowa version of our own EATEL who is current providing fiber connective in Ascension Parish. In the vast majority of places where the choice was not complicated by a worthy local firm the incumbents were defeated and the concept of a local-owned utility won. From the story:

Residents of 32 Iowa communities delivered a split verdict Tuesday on whether their cities should seek a role offering cable television, Internet and other telecommunications services.

Totals showed 17 communities passed the measures to form communications utilities and 15 defeated them. In the Des Moines metro area, proposals failed in Altoona, Carlisle, Norwalk and Windsor Heights.

Elsewhere, cities including Dubuque and Mason City passed the proposals easily.

The proposal was defeated in Nevada and six other communities served by telephone company Iowa Telecom.

Go Iowa. I hearby signup as an honorary cornhusker…even if I have always thought that the country’s oddest mascot. Iowans are not bound by this vote to build telecom utilities, but they are freed to do so if further study demonstrates to local people’s satisfaction that they should.

The Money Angle:
Lafayette proved that municipalities could win and could even back down an aggressive incumbent misinformation campaign if they ran a similarly aggressive campaign that focused on monopoly power and local control. The people of Iowa have demonstrated that a campaign based on local services and local self-determination can win even if the incumbents contest the referenda vigorously and toss the entire weight of their money and media control against the local initiatives. From a Sioux City Journal article on the day before the election:

More than $1.4 million has been spent on an advertising campaign designed to defeat city-owned telecommunications issues on the ballots in about 30 cities on Tuesday.

Most of the money, donated to the nonprofit Project Taxpayer Protection Campaign, has come from New York-based cable television company Mediacom Communications Corp., according to documents filed with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.

In addition to contributing $805,000 in cash to the campaign, Mediacom donated 16,366 commercials on 25 cable television networks. The 30-second spots were valued at $409,150, the documents said. The campaign documents were released by the board on Monday.

Separate filings indicate that Denver-based telephone company Qwest Communications Inc. has spent $94,494 to oppose the city-owned telecommunications systems.

Be aware that the cable company’s “in kind” donation probably cost them next to nothing in real money; it is quite possible that they gave up no paying customers to blitz the people of Iowa with ads. It likely came out of the house ad and Public Service Announcement budgets. Their monopoly position in the cable market gives them astonishingly unfair power in such battles while cities and towns typically fight with one hand tied behind their back by legal restrictions.

The Significance:
I suspect that the Lafayette and Iowa victories herald a turning tide on the issue of local telecommunications utilities in this country. They prove that an adequately determined and funded campaign can, in the best instance, force the incumbents to back off and, in the worst instance, defeat them in a open brawl. Even in the case where the locals cannot nearly match the expenditures of the incumbents–or their penchant for indulging in blatant misinformation–a clear campaign based on local values and local control can win over big bucks and media control. It is a good day for the country.

It’s interesting to me that Iowa is another of those places, like Lafayette and Provo, Utah, that have decided to spend real money on real, fiber-based broadband in defiance of incumbent power. All three of these places have a pretty strong history of localism. Iowa’s sturdy caucus system wields inordinate power on the national stage. Utah’s Mormonism and Lafayette’s French and Creole heritages also set them apart. More interesting still is that these communities regard themselves as conservative, albeit a type of conservative that favors community, not, on the basis of the evidence, corporate privilege; a distinction often lost in the national debate. A recent, pretty unreliable, survey had Provo listed as the nation’s most conservative city; Lafayette was number nine. You have to wonder if a defiant localism didn’t power both the cities’ resistance to incumbent power and their “conservative” stance on national politics. It makes a sort of sense if you think that a significant part of the voting population is not so much conservative or liberal in the ideological sense but desirous, mostly, of being left alone by the powers that be.

Of course, as is the case in Louisiana, this won’t be the end of the matter for Iowa. You can expect, if Lafayette’s experience is a guide, that lawsuits designed mostly to impose delay and expense on the small new competitors will be a feature of the next few years. Iowa turned back a state bill designed to outlaw municipal self-determination in this matter recently. Clearly the regional coalition that hopes to put together a strong framework similar to Utah’s Utopia in Iowa is clearly worried about another attempt to buy the legislature. From the Register:

OpportunityIowa’s Daley said the group has served its purpose of raising awareness of municipal communications and will now disband. But Daley said he hopes the votes are lessons to lawmakers that the issue should be decided by each community. ‘Citizens are capable of deciding for themselves what’s in their best interest,’ Daley said.”

You don’t suppose Daley would be available to address the Louisiana legislature do you?


You might recall that Lafayette Coming Together sponsored a community breakfast during the campaign that featured a speaker on the benefits of Cedar Rapids’ telecom utility that touted the advantages for development by contrasting Cedar Rapids and Waterloo–side by side cities that were evenly matched before Cedar Rapids jumped ahead by installing its own municipal system that attracted new investment and jobs. Part of that presentation included remarks by Waterloo’s mayor that Waterloo had missed the boat and needed a fiber optic system to compete.

Apparently the people of Waterloo, Iowa think so too. They voted Yes!: Waterloo votes ‘yes” to telecom utility study.

Lucky Us–Iowa Referenda Slammed by Incumbent Spending

Thirty towns in Iowa are voting today to join thirty eight that already have municipal telecom utilities. They are hearing a lot of the same specious arguments there we heard in Lafayette–mostly scare tactics involving fear about risk and dark mutterings about conspiracy, ideology, and sneaky governments. But the similarity ends there. Iowan’s are drowning in a sea of telecom money with the most visible of it donated to an astroturf organization that is almost exclusively funded by the big cable company Mediacom.

From the Souix City paper, “Mediacom spends more than $1 million to defeat telecom issue

More than $1.4 million has been spent on an advertising campaign designed to defeat city-owned telecommunications issues on the ballots in about 30 cities on Tuesday.

Most of the money, donated to the nonprofit Project Taxpayer Protection Campaign, has come from New York-based cable television company Mediacom Communications Corp., according to documents filed with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.

In addition to contributing $805,000 in cash to the campaign, Mediacom donated 16,366 commercials on 25 cable television networks. The 30-second spots were valued at $409,150, the documents said.

And the final campaign report is not in, I’m sure. Just wait, that total can only rise.

On the other side?

The campaigns to support the ballot issue has spent considerably less money. The Dubuque campaign raised $31,450 and spent about $21,000 on mailing brochures and advertising on radio and in newspapers.

Some smaller communities raised money locally and received contributions from McLeod’s group, but most spent only a few thousand dollars targeting mail campaigns or local media.

It sounds a whole lot more like the Tri-Cities of Illinois than Lafayette, Louisiana.

Lucky us.

“BellSouth should give up fiber optics lawsuit”

In this morning’s Advertiser:

Dear BellSouth,

As a citizen of Lafayette, and a customer of BellSouth, I would appreciate it if you would halt your attempts to thwart the fiber-optic plan by suing our city. It’s costing me money both ways. The city must spend money defending, and you must spend money attacking. I suggest you give the lawyers a rest, and use the savings to lower your rates. That might do more to preserve your customer base than all this litigation.

Eric Sweet



Google’s Reign of Terror.

If you’ve bee watching closely you’ll see a lot of “odd” and vaugely hostile remarks being made about Google by other businesses. Everybody from WalMart to BellSouth to Microsoft seems to be looking nervously over their shoulder.

WalMart?!! Yes, even WalMart. And the reason is very instructive.

They fear efficient markets. No, more plainly: they fear the free flow of information. What each of these businesses–and many more–have to fear is that Google will “commoditize” information by making it free. Or that’s the conclusion I draw when I read Just Googling It Is Striking Fear Into Companies.” Here’s the Wal-Mart version of this fear as depicted in the New York Times article:

In Google, Wal-Mart sees both a technology pioneer and the seed of a threat, said Mr. Breyer, …[a member of the Wal-Mart board.] The worry is that by making information available everywhere, Google might soon be able to tell Wal-Mart shoppers if better bargains are available nearby.

It’s making information free and frictionlessly easy to get that is Google’s area of specialization. That’s what a search engine is all about. And that is at the nub of the fear of Google. Google really believes in all that idealistic stuff about the internet being all about making information free and easy to get. And Google is getting better at it. And most frightening of all: it’s working for Google as a business plan. They give a way the information for free and live off a little bit of advertising. And the company is getting hugely, amazingly rich and is gaining the freedom to continue to do just what they think is right.

This article is mostly about Google is assualting the internet’s last frontier. And in a neat turn around that frontier is found down at the local neighborhood level. Consider: Decide you want to walk for pizza while messing around at Mello Joy? Google up Lafayette pizza joints. Easy. Fast. Efficient. And frighteningly Free. Cars, real estate, and many other businesses depend critically upon your not knowing where a better deal is. Google threatens that and we are begining to see even organizations like Wal-Mart–whose raison d’ĂȘtre is price efficiency–are getting nervous.

But I suspect that Google is not about to stop there. They’ve made themselves into players on the wholesale fiber market by devloping or buying their way into an internet backbone. Why? They don’t say. But it gives them freedom to walk away from the big networks if the networks decide that they want a cut of Google’s pie as it flows over their monopoly last mile lines. (The chair of Bell giant SBC recently named Google as one of those companies that should be paying him to allow them to get to you.) They are also apparently willing to step into the really crucial last mile. (Owning backbone allows you to control costs, owning customers is what the last mile is all about.) Google has set itself up as player in the emerging municipal wifi market by offering to build an advertising-supported wifi net in San Francisco.

In telecommunications, the company has made a number of moves that have grabbed the attention of industry executives. It has been buying fiber-optic cable capacity in the United States and has invested in a company delivering high-speed Internet access over power lines. And it is participating in an experiment to provide free wireless Internet access in San Francisco.

That has led to speculation that the company wants to build a national free GoogleNet, paid for mostly by advertising. And Google executives seem to delight in dropping tantalizing, if vague, hints. “We focus on access to the information as much as the search itself because you need both,” Mr. Schmidt said in an analysts’ conference call last month.

There are some serious battles brewing and they aren’t all between incumbents or between incumbents and municpalities.

Hmmnn…Judge Rules Against BellSouth???

Looks like one reporter had drawn their own conclusions about where the judge was headed in the LUS bond suit before BellSouth demanded that the decision be put in writting. And engaged in a little premature posting on KLFY that had to be pulled.

When I went looking I turned up an interesting search result on KLFY.

The site has this stub of a story that you can pull up as a search item. It doesn’t link to anytyhing…anymore.

2. Judge Rules Against BellSouth’s Effort to Block Fiber Plan
The Durel administration has cleared another legal hurdle in its efforts to enter the phone, cable and high-speed internet business. State District Judge Durwood Conque ruled against BellSouth Thursday and its efforts to block LUS from moving forward with the fiber-to-home project. Judge Conque…
Last Modified 11/4/2005 2:19:37 AM

Now I wonder, did it make it onto the news?

“Bond ordinance ruling set”

I’ve never been a fan of the saying “No news is good news.” But I’m willing to make a small exception for the meager news coming out this morning about BellSouth’s anti-fiber lawsuit. The lawsuit attempts to cripple LUS’ ability to secure the bonds the people voted for in the July referendum.

Both the Advertiser and the Advocate stories hint that Judge Conque seemed to be inclined to find for LUS but BellSouth put off the blow by demanding a written explanation of the judge’s ruling.

Reading between the lines (a very risky thing to do, I acknowledge) it looks like Conque is saying that BellSouth’s position would result in things the state could surely not have intended by the law in question and which would prevent LUS from effectively pursuing the project. Being able to go forward with a good bond sale is clearly the point of this part of the law and BellSouth’s interpretation would surely make a good sale impossible. Conque clearly understands that “cross-subsidization” is not absolutely forbidden in the law, and that is the point on which BellSouth’s case stands.

From the Advocate:

The legislature “understood” that LUS would need to “pledge” its other revenues and make those payments if necessary — in effect, cross-subsidization — in order to get the communication bond money.

“Allowing a pledge of revenue is in and of itself a cross-subsidy,” Conque said

The only remaining question is how restrictive that pledge must be and Conque is clearly surprised by the idea that going into default and then redeeming the pledge every month–as BellSouth’s interpretation would seem to require–is insane.

The real problem here is that the court, and the PSC for that matter, is being asked to enforce a law that makes no sense in that it irrationally injects the state in a local municipality’s business. There’s no reason (outside re-election monies) for the state to enter this game on the side of a huge corporation in order to frustrate the express desire of the people of Lafayette. The law the courts are trying to find a rational way to enforce, the (un)Fair Competition Act, exists solely to put new state restrictions on what the people and elected officials of local communities can do for their people in one narrow area: Telecommunications. Action that would be legal, for instance in supporting a composting facility, are illegal if it encroaches on BellSouth or Cox. We’re damned lucky there isn’t any international composting conglomerate with deep pockets. It really ought to be repealed. We don’t need the state telling us what to do.

This won’t be the end of seemingly endless legal games from the incumbents; from the Advertiser:

[BellSouth attorney] Russo said Thursday in Conque’s courtroom that the company will file a lawsuit over the PSC rules.

Those are the rules that the PSC put in place that basically supported LUS position on this issue among others. Honestly, this endless regime of lawsuit, alliance with natural enemies, attempts at legislative murder, and a long, hard campaign of disinformation in this city add up to a firm conviction on the part of BellSouth that LUS can really hurt them. You have to conclude that BellSouth, at least, expects the project to be a raging success which will encourage municipal deployments throughout the nation. Nothing else explains the willingness to court continued humiliation. Well, except greed…that motivation goes pretty much without saying.

Incumbents go at each other

Verizon and Cablevision, the masters of their respective phone and cable universes, are going at each other in New York.

Some of the uproar sounds very familiar: Cable is accused of trying to intimidate local officials by using baseless lawsuits as an avenue to launch a misinformation campaign. The Phone Company is blasted for trying to gain unfair advantage and deny service to poorer residents by demanding special agreements of the municipalities in return for (gasp) competing. Except for the fact that the accusing voices or not the Mayor of the Utilities Director it sounds a lot like Lafayette:

Thomas A. Dunne, a Verizon vice president, said … that Cablevision last month sued Massapequa Park, a village on Long Island that negotiated a cable franchise agreement with Verizon, and plans to use the lawsuit to “launch a misinformation campaign.” He said Cablevision’s goal is “bullying other communities” into denying Verizon the right to sell cable services.

The retort:

“The phone company is trying to pressure local officials into granting television franchise agreements that surrender critical local controls and authority,” Cablevision said in a written statement. “They are demanding agreements that give them free reign to install massive utility boxes wherever they want and to deny service to thousands of residents they deem economically and demographically undesirable.

It’s not only the arguments that sound familiar; it’s also the reason, a threatening fiber-optic invasion:

The spat is the latest evidence of how high the stakes are as Verizon seeks to offer cable service over the fiber-optic network it is building.

The day is coming in our own town when the unnatural alliance of BellSouth and Cox will come apart and when it does the arguments are going to sound mighty strange coming out of the mouths of the incumbents. Imagine Cox attacking BellSouth for redlining out some parts of town. Or BellSouth complaining that Cox is engaging in a campaign of misinformation in response.

It will surely be amusing. Especially if the battle gets into a three-way. LUS could agree with Cox on the first and BellSouth on the second. It’d be almost as entertaining as watching the legislature.

Laigniappe: From San Diego. Another Cable company (on the other side of the continent) accuses Cox of the same thing that Cox accuses Verizon of in New York: cherrypicking the most lucrative parts of a municipality in which to compete in defiance of franchise agreements. Ain’t irony fine?

Broadband Technologies Overview, Local Implications

CED has a nifty, technologically informed, even-handed overview of a wide array of emerging broadband technologies. (Note that this doesn’t cover well-established but still mighty cool technologies like standard wifi or ethernet. Not all of these tech standards will make it commercially.) Part of what is gratifying is that the author includes only those technologies that at least have some hope of wide realization. Even better, he distinguishes between fantasy speeds and actually available speeds (which are still pretty much best-case, real throughput will usually be substantially less) and does an amazingly good job of condensing complex matters understandably.

An added attraction is that this is the only place where I’ve seen a good review of both technologies intended to be used in a wider, public area and those intended to be used in the home or office. It’s a useful distinction that is too often overlooked and Baumgartner appropriately places WiFi–even the nascent newer version he reviews–in the home category.

A sample of a relatively obscure technology with sizable relevance for a large wireless carrier in our region:

The concept: HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) is an advanced cellular technology that enhances GSM UMTS-based networks.
Capabilities: UMTS/HSDPA networks initially will support data speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps, and average between 550 kbps and 1.1 Mbps. Cellular operators will leverage those speeds to provide high-quality video applications, interactive gaming and music services, and enterprise applications.
Status: HSDPA deployments are expected to take place with most GSM UMTS-based cellular operators. Cingular plans to roll it out in 15 to 20 markets by year-end 2005.

Ok, I admit, to read that easily you need to have a little background or be willing to dig around to define terms. The point is you are given the tools you need to inform yourself. A nice balance is struck, I think.

My only quarrel is with treating Fiber To The Premises as a single “technology.” The other entries are defined by both media and protocol. FTTP is given some interesting subsets but not the sort of full treatment accorded other technologies. But surely my special interests, not shared by the author, have something to do with my disappointment. 🙂

It’s worth your review. An unsettled question in the new ecology that will be created by LUS’ fiber optic project is just which technology LUS will use and how Lafayette’s broadband ecology will differ from the US norm as a result of affordable big broadband. The most obvious issue is that the faster wireline technologies being developed to run over traditional cable and twisted phone wire will meet a competitor in fiber that clearly outclasses it. More subtly, even the possibility that technologies will emerge that begin to offer speeds in the lower range of the current fiber technologies will push LUS to build the most capable and flexible system possible from the first.

Most interesting to me at this moment, however, is the role large amounts of cheap bandwidth supplied to the home will play in encouraging the implementation of faster home/office networking. The dirty little secret of home networking technologies is that you almost never get to use even a fraction of the full capacity of the technology that is scattered around your home. I’ve got an ancient 10/100 meg ethernet router managing two printers, a desktop, and the wireless connection to two laptops and ethernet drops for both laptops. The wireless connection is a 54 meg Apple Airport. Sounds like a lot of speed? It is. It’s great for the once-a-month occasion when Layne or I wants the other to check some large job we’ve got going. But that once a month is the only time I see my local area network (LAN) capacity utilized. I get, in my very best moments, less than 4 megs from my Cox connection. That’s 1/25th of the base speed of my LAN and 1/17th of my wireless capacity. I’ve never bothered to upgrade to gig ethernet (which both laptops support) or considered a cool new wireless setup. I can’t use the capacity in my current, outdated, LAN. And the reason is that almost all my work is done over the net and the real limit on the speed I see is my network connection. If I had real broadband I’d upgrade my LAN in a flash…I’d be downloading video much more than I do now and would beef up my local net to shuttle video around the house. I’d go ahead and get VOIP, maybe play with one of those almost-affordable video phones. Folks with different interests and lives than mine might find it suddenly makes sense to set up fancy video chat arrangements, serve out video and podcasts to friends and family, and set up a security system that allowed them to literally watch their house while traveling.

The lack of real broadband to the home is the bottleneck in current networking systems. Even the cheapest home network is 20 times faster than the lousy bandwith that our current suppliers give us. If that bottleneck is broken we could be motivated to do a lot more in the home or office. These are technologies, like wifi, that spread through experience and word of mouth: they’re not too interesting until you see friends and colleagues actually doing it…then you get the point, acquire, and use the technology.

At least one home networking technology will definitely get a boost when LUS lights up. LUS has already made it clear that it intends to offer the ability to use HomePlug technology to infuse the electrical system inside the home with the data stream as part of the customer premise equipment that hangs on the wall of your home. That would relieve you from re-wire you home. A small, inexpensive box that plugs into any wall socket would then transfer the data stream to your computer or wireless node. It’s not caught on in most parts of the country but LUS making this an option available to anyone will make Lafayette a major center for this underutilized technology.

My guess, and one I’ve shared with a number of people curious as to how local small businesses might benefit, is that there will be a real market appearing in Lafayette for upgrading homes and small business networks. This involves both the wired and wireless networks themselves and the cool new peripherals that tie everything together. Lafayette’s new capacity will create a market that really won’t exist in most places in the country. Competition will be local and the potential to test and perfect a business model which can expand to other parts of the country as they finally get real broadband will be great.

Cox, Lafayette, Subscribers, and History

In a dog bites man story (this is a surprise?) an online-only brief in yesterday’s Advertiser noted that Cox was not going to sell its Lafayette System. (Today’s more extensive local story didn’t make it online, unfortunately. Try 8B in the print copy. The most complete story I’ve found so far is from Reuters; more info will surely emerge.

It’s hard to write about why a non-event is important to a community but this one is. It’d been reported before that Cox was planning to sell much of its rural properties including almost all of it’s rural holdings at a time when every other telecom company is trying desperately to expand by acquisition. In fact Cox grew to its present size by just such a program of acquisition.

What’s changed? Both Cox and Cox’s environment.

Cox recently bought itself private at such a huge expense that it damaged its ability to borrow money for system upgrades, much less acquisition. The company had announced its sell-off as a way to pay for the buy-out expense and to work toward freeing capital to engage in system upgrades, consistently mentioning phone-like VOIP.

The competitive environment is heating up as well. It is beginning to look like the fabled convergence of technologies that allows phone companies and cable companies to enter each other’s business is about to result in some real competition instead of functioning merely an excuse for deregulating monopolies. Standing pat and milking current network capacity to pay for buying out public shareholders is apparently made impossible by that looming threat.

It looks like Cox is trying to order its troops for a long battle with the telephone companies and has decided to bulk up its urban holdings with VOIP services. Both taking itself private and selling off invaluable subscribers to help build that bastion would be consistent with positioning yourself for a bitter battle that would put a premium on defending your most valuable assets and making sure that you can do it sheltered by the secrecy that only a private company can sustain.

In the same vein a deal revealed in the last hour between multiple cable providers (prominently including Cox) and Sprint-Nextel will result in the cable companies expanding their offerings beyond phone and into wireless allowing them to compete with wireless/wireline combines Verizon-Verizon Wireless and SBC-BellSouth-Cingular by offering bundled products. The quadruple play is bound to be just around the corner: a situation where you could buy wireline phone, cable TV, Internet services AND wireless phone from a single provider. The deal is apparently an 20-year exclusive one…meaning that Sprint-Nextel is pretty much throwing in its fate with the cable companies. The details on that exclusive deal will be very revealing of the shape of the telecom universe when they are publicly released.

Mike’s post yesterday points to the weaknesses of BellSouth’s strategic position which include no active plan to enter the video market directly (the directTV partnership is NOT such direct entry) and it’s weakening partnership with its senior partner SBC in Cingular. We are seeing huge partnerships coming together and falling apart whose members’ interests are not clearly aligned except that they stand in deathly fear of other, similarly divided, partnerships.

I’m reminded of nothing so much as Europe’s late medieval through early modern system of grand but fragile collations which resulted in a history of deadly and often pointless warfare that left both the victors and the vanquished weak and incapable of taking advantage of the emerging fruits of the renaissance and enlightenment. (It was this horrific example that lead the founding fathers to be so fearful of foreign “entanglements.) A few small countries, principalities, and free cities managed to avoid getting tied down by the large combines–or with considerably more risk managed to play them off against one another– and prospered far more commercially and culturally than the large countries ever did. Innovation and especially the commercial implementation of innovation took place in these small areas of freedom and prosperity.

We’re entering a time when history may be our only guide. You don’t suppose our civic leaders could be convinced to start doing a little historical research do you? Lafayette might well have a chance to be a “free city” in an era dominated commercially by massive telecom wars that drain the regions dominated by major powers of both the resources and the freedom to act intelligently.

LUS offers us the possibility of declaring, and taking advantage of, the decimating telecom war to come. But if I’m right we’ll have to be very clear on taking advantage of our relative freedom. Worth thinking deeply about.