The National Storm Concerning BellSouth’s Snit Fit

National Coverage of BellSouth’s blunders continue. Mike’s post pointing to the Washington Post’s coverage of BellSouth’s stiffing the New Orleans Police force in a fit of pique over the city deciding to build a wifi network for itself is only the beginning.

Now, having the Washington Post break the story is bad enough. For policy-makers, at least, the Post is as important a paper as the New York Times. But this is the sort of story that flashes across the internet and gets put before the eyes of millions of people who’d otherwise not know what cads BellSouth’s officials are.

According to a technorati rating I pulled up at 9:39 this morning (these things are dynamic), the Washington Post article exposing BellSouth is the second most-blogged-upon article in the country. Here is its listing:

2.Angry BellSouth Withdrew Donation, New Orleans Says –

31 new links. View All »
2 days ago

Snip from WaPo report: Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that”


You’d think this would be bad enough (and it is), but having a lot of blogs hitting on you is one thing; having the most important and trusted blogs doing the same is 1000 times more damaging. It’s not just numbers; both of the two blogs that I have heard people say are the most popular on the net have already picked up the story, as have the most important networking blogs. And the day is young.

Trendsetting, general, blog-like sites:

Boing Boing, “Angry BellSouth Withdrew NOLA Donation because of free Wifi”(My personal favorite in blogdom. Invariably FUN.)
slashdot, Free Wi-fi Prompts BellSouth to Withdraw Donation” (Still the geekiest talking spot on the web, regardless of new challengers.)

It’s also being picked up by widely read networking blog “Om Malik’s Blog” in Free WiFi Causes BellSouth-New Orleans Rift.” Om Malik makes the point being made here that BellSouth is a not-to-be-trusted bad actor explicitly:

BellSouth for instance has been fighting MuniNET plans of Layfaette, Lousiana . It has been an ongoing issue in other cities such as Philadelphia, and is not going to end any time soon. Local communities are going to have trouble keeping up with the scorched earth lobbying efforts of incumbent phone companies.

I could go on for a very long time here. (CNet’s story, referring to tech luminaries Gilmor and Winer would be my first additions) has the story. But the point should be clear. BellSouth Louisiana is being run by tone-deaf fools. This story broke yesterday and is at the top of the web. My guess is that the guys at BellSouth are totally unaware of this as they go about sipping their second morning cuppa. They are in the business of communiciations; you’d think they’d understand the changing landscape of their own area a little better. But then, if they understood the first thing about where telecom is going, they’d be partnering with Lafayette and other municipalities instead of making themselves into the bad guys with every commentator nationwide by messing with New Orleans and engaging Lafayette in a series of frivolous delaying lawsuits.

It was one thing in the old days when you only had to endure, at most, local criticism. Nowadays your misdeeds go skating across the internet and your buddy-buddy relationships with local “opinion leaders” is useless. If BellSouth wants to be treated with respect, they’ll have to actually start acting respectfully and honestly in relation to New Orleans and Lafayette.

And that starts with leaving us alone to do what we’ve chosen to do.

Like I said up front, this is only the beginning. The newspaper cycle will be a day or two slower. But if you think this doesn’t presage a deluge of editorials nationwide, you haven’t been watching media movement over the last few years. After those appear it will then be the turn of the newsmagazines. This story has legs.

(If you’d like to email your friends about just how out of touch BellSouth and Oliver are, just click on the handy-dandy envelope icon below.)