Repeal!! The Poison Pill Bill

Ah, just when you thought Louisiana politics wasn’t any fun to watch any more along comes a bill which should provide hours of entertainment in the upcoming session. The bill, HB 244, “Provides for private providers under the Local Government Fair Competition Act” is the first of the Robideaux’s three anti-“Fair” Competition Act bills prefiled Monday. (The second, 245, is simple repeal and I’ve commented on it a bit earlier.)

HB 244 is a poison pill bill. A poison pill bill, like a poison pill amendment is designed to fail. But in failing it accomplishes the ends of its authors. My fond hope is that it will die gloriously and exuberantly amid huge gouts of publicity.

On the face of it the bill is an attempt to amend the Local Government Fair Competition Act in such a way that it will actually begin to live up to its name. That is, it would inject a little fair competition into a game the original bill rigged in favor of the telecom providers.

How could this be fun? Let me count the ways:

1) This law would only apply to telecom providers that had accepted “government funding.” (If you can prove you are not feeding at the public trough, if you are really “private,” you don’t have to abide by the same rules that apply to government.)

Fun testimony at a commerce committee hearing on the bill: academic types talking about the astonishing amount of money BellSouth and ATT have accepted, nay demanded, from the public till over the years. Plenty of charts and graphs. A nice long discussion focusing on whether tax breaks from Lafayette Parish constitutes funding Cingular under the meaning of the law. An even more convoluted discussion that tries to understand whether providing below-market-value power to Lafayette’s Cingular call center is also a way of “funding” BellSouth.

Entertaining aspect: Watching so-called conservatives rising to advocate not altering BellSouth’s Local Government (un)Fair Competition Act (LG(u)FC) on the basis that, as a matter of principle, they are against government intervention in the business world.

2) Corporations that have accepted government funding would have to abide by the same rules the current law imposes on LUS to ensure it doesn’t take advantage of its private competition. The new law would impose these restrictions (found in the Louisiana statues at: RS 45:844.53) on both private-but-government-funded corporations and on entities like LUS. Clauses include forbidding cross-subsidization, forbidding the sale of below cost services, mandatory opening of its books to the PSC and the legislative auditor in order to ensure that the law is being followed and regular, onerous reporting requirements.

Fun testimony at a commerce committee hearing on the bill: Watching BellSouth lobbyists panic out over the idea that they can’t use money from the highly profitable Cingular wireless to fund their failing wire-line business. Watching Lafayette representatives asking those same lobbyists how that differs in principle from Lafayette using money from other parts of its utility business to fund a start-up competitive with giant ATT/BellSouth. Watching those questions posed to Bill Oliver, president of BellSouth Louisiana.

Entertaining aspect: It should be fun to watch the twists and turns that BellSouth (and ATT) use to attempt to justify imposing regulatory disadvantage only on one group of new competitors while leaving telecom giant BellSouth unregulated. They will surely be jittery since they know that some unpleasant Louisiana representative is likely to point out the hypocrisy of BellSouth arguing to impose heavier restrictions on new competitors in Louisiana while at the federal level desperately seeking exemption for itself from local cable franchises on the grounds that the public interest is served by lighter restrictions on new competitors.

3) The proposed law would require BellSouth (and similar government-funded “private” corporations) build their networks out to include the whole community. It requires that if one citizen is served, that the same service be offered to all. (LUS has promised this, Cox already does so, and BellSouth has promised to never do so–even if “funded” by local government.)

Fun testimony at a commerce committee hearing on the bill: I leave this as an exercise for the reader. What twisty justification will they use to claim they shouldn’t have to serve all of the citizens that its cable and municipal competitors do. What is the rational justification for cherry-picking and serving only the most profitably wealthy?

Entertaining aspect: It is BellSouth’s worst nightmare to be required to compete on an equal footing with both Cox and LUS by serving the same population that they do. It will be entertaining to see if Cox can be induced to make a little hay by testifying in favor of this portion of the bill since BellSouth and its brethren are advocating laws this very week in the federal senate commerce committee that would exempt it from ever having to serve the whole of communities in which it wants to compete. The cable companies would continue to be obliged to do so under the principles being proposed. They are not happy and consider this (un)fair competition. I wonder if Cox’s testimony at a committee hearing here in Louisiana can be compelled? Wouldn’t that be entertaining?

This is the most poisonous aspect of the bill. BellSouth and the Bell companies nationally know that they cannot compete successfully against the cable companies if they have to compete head-to-head in every municipality they enter. By and large the cable networks are superior in capacity and already paid for. Fair competition is not something the Bells can even consider. They will never accept this. Should this bill be presented before the repeal bill and in the unlikely event that it passes the real spectacle will be watching BellSouth/ATT rush to advocate repeal in the very next bill on the docket, 245. (Ah, it’s a fantasy, I know, but wouldn’t that be fun to watch?)

4) The next several clauses of the proposed law impose various forms of net neutrality clauses, both old and new, on the private-but-publicly-funded incumbents. If passed, this bill would result in ground-breaking net neutrality provisions that put Louisiana far ahead of the national curve on devising ways to maintain an open internet. The issue was raised recently when widely quoted remarcks by telco CEOs stated their intend to change the current business model that fuels the internet. Legislation similar to this at a federal level is being stalled by the telecom lobby in Congress.

Fun testimony at a commerce committee hearing on the bill: Watching the “It’s my network and I’ll do what I want with it” defense of discriminating against competitors on “their” network collide with the testimony that documents just how much public funding was used to build the network originally and how much public support continues to this day.

Entertaining aspect: This part of the bill might result in fun national coverage since the net neutrality is a huge issue right now in geek, techno, and policy wonk circles. The laundry list of net neutrality provisions includes old ones like allowing any device to connect that are universally acknowledged as success–a similar federal provision years ago required Ma Bell to allow any phone to connect to their network and led to much cheaper, and much more innovative devices than those old, black phones you had to rent from the phone company. A great story could be written on the historical successes of network neutrality legislation just by reviewing this bill.

In short (I know I’ve not actually been short, but this is way too much fun.) HB 244 is a great bill to produce all the arguments anyone could ever need for the passage of HB 245, the outright repeal bill. I sincerely hope that 244 will get a full set of committee hearings in both the house and the senate. It’d be a rare opportunity to see a little florid political theatre enacted on Louisiana stage in a way that was positive for rather than embarrassing to the citizens of the state.

Repeal!! Complete, Total, and Absolute

Good man Joel Robideaux, the state representative from House District 45 in Lafayette has prefiled three bills in the House that bear on the “Fair” Competition Act that BellSouth has been using to delay and drive up costs on the fiber optic utility project citizens voted in last July 16th. One of those bills, House Bill 245, is a straightforward repeal of the notorious Local Government Fair Competition Act.

Under the heading “TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Repeals the Local Government Fair Competition Act” we find the following meat:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:

Section 1. Chapter 8-K of Title 45 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, comprised of R.S. 45:844.40 through 844.56, is hereby repealed in its entirety.

YES! This is what the communities of Louisiana need. Repeal. Complete, Total, and Absolute.

The “Fair Competition Act” is in fact massively unfair to local communities and serves only the interests of large, out-of-state monopolies. It is a deliberate attempt to cripple any municipal project by imposing special disabilities on local governments that no private provider would ever have to tolerate. Its clauses regulate local governments (and only local governments) by forcing them to charge customers for expenses they do not incur. (Example: the nonsense of pretending to tax itself or pretending to pay rent for the use of property they already own–in neither case do they actually give themselves money; they are only required by this law to jack up the price they charge their customers as if they did. They actually have to collect the extra money they could otherwise leave in their citizen/owners: pockets. Honest. Read the law. Such craziness deserves repeal.)

This is also the same law that is preventing New Orleans from using the city-owned WiFi network to help out its citizens by allowing the to use the network the citizens own without resorting to the silly subterfuge that the city is still in an active state of emergency. The minute that emergency goes away this law would require that New Orleans turn off the WiFi network that is serving a city which still has significant parts of the telephone system unrepaired. (That’s crazy too.)

It is a poorly conceived law that has had dramatic and negative unintended consequences for two of Lousisiana’s major cities. Robideaux’s repeal bill is the right response.

You can write him and tell him you think so at:

(Those other two bills? More complicated. More as I find out more myself.)

Fiber to the Camp In Cameron; Localism in Action

Fiber to the Home? Hell, in Louisiana you can get Fiber to the Camp in rural Cameron parish. (Press Release) And in a small town like Kaplan, and in Ascension parish. You can get fiber where local business owners make rational decisions about the future of their small telecommunications companies–companies whose future growth is intimately tied to the health of local communities.

You hear, if you follow telecommunications and technology buzz (or the last year’s conversation in Lafayette), that FTTH is the hottest thing going. You’ll know that acquiring it is the ultimate goal of any advanced network. Fiber is all but infinitely expandable and arguably “future proof.” It’s the backbone on which all other hot technologies are based. All that’s true.

But certain corporations pretend fiber to the home is some sort of difficult and exotic thing suitable for delivery only by unimaginably huge corporations who possess legions of white-smocked technicians. We hear that the horrific cost of fiber means that only the densest and wealthiest populations can be served economically and that the rest of the country will just have to wait.

Tiny Cameron Communications in storm-ravaged Cameron parish must not have gotten the memo from the big guys.

In Cameron Parish you can get fiber to the camp. Local technicians install and maintain it. They have since rollout began in 2004. Cameron parish is not wealthy. It is not densely settled–the whole very large parish didn’t quite make 10,000 people in the last census. Cameron parish is mostly salt marsh. Cameron Parish has no incorporated towns, period. The biggest landowner is the federal wildlife preserve. Big places are Hackberry and Cameron, the county seat. Grand Lake, where the fiber is being laid, is pretty much a a fishing camp where folks who work for a living can afford to have a little cabin near the water. A couple of new two-story houses on the other side of the marina is the area’s big “development.”

The business about expense and population density and technical difficulty is nonsense and has always been nonsense. Laying down fiber is exacting…but only exacting. The technologies are well-understood. It calls for engineers and well-trained technicians, not magicians. And contrary to all the deceptive hoo-rah we hear bandied about it’s not noticeably more expensive to deploy these days than a brand new copper plant. It is now well accepted that fiber is both cheaper to maintain and and lays down a much less expensive path to almost unlimited bandwidth upgrades without rebuilding the whole plant.

All that Kaplan Telephone, EATel (East Ascension Telephone) and Cameron Communications are doing is making rational business decisions. So are giant corporations like ATT and BellSouth. The difference between the decisions made made locally and those made nationally lies solely in the values of the companies. Little local telcoms are in it for the long haul; they intend to remain right where they are and serve their local communities. The only possibility for expansion is to serve that community better by offering more services. They buy into fiber whenever they can see clearly that the capacity will be needed and when they believe they can pay off the cost of provisioning with increased revenues from new services.

By contrast, the big corporations are not “limited” by any intent to stay in the same business or serve the same customers. Their universe is bounded only by profit maximization and stock price maximization. If they see a different business to get into that they think will be more profitable than serving their old phone customers they will spend their money there. Take cellular phones. At one time we thought that cellular phones would compete with the Bell companies. That was the plan. But, instead, the Bells were allowed to purchase their putative competition after independents proved the market. The cost was huge. And broken promises to build advanced fiber networks in exchange for deregulation were one of the costs the public paid for this consolidation. Similarly, rather than compete with each other, as was anticipated by the breakup and deregulation of Ma Bell the baby Bells simply bought each other out. Again, at great cost, and again planned fiber builds were what was often cut in order to fund the cost.

Fiber to the home makes good economic sense even in rural communities with shrinking economies. The investment cost can be made to pay back handsomely; but just not in the time frame that the Bells need to make the financials look good.

It’s not difficult technology. It’s not too expensive to build or maintain. All that is lacking for all Americans to have Fiber To The Home with all the attendant benefits is a local company that really cares about their customers and the community they serve.

It really is that simple.

IP Lafayette: Homesourcing Capital of the Americas?

Gannett’s USAToday has a story on the hot new trend in business. It’s, in effect, distributed call-centers. Instead of big buildings with rows of head-setted operators at their computers, ‘homesourcing’ has call center operators working at their homes.

Imagine the possibilities in a fibered-up Lafayette!

If you’ve noticed recently, some television ads extol the virtues of company websites that let you click to connect directly to an operator. It’s internet protocol-based phone systems that allow this intermodal interaction to take place.

Lafayette could become a magnet for these types of jobs when the LUS fiber network lights up. The high-speed network could easily handle voice and Internet traffic of the busiest call centers, distributed or concentrated. Not only that, the network could enable another mode of communications (video!) over the Internet portion of the network that would further enable our community to distinguish itself as a hotspot for leading edge business applications.

Think about it! A city with the potential to become the home to thousands of call center operators working from the comfort of their homes.

While those jobs aren’t always the best paying jobs, as the article points out, call center jobs are attractive to a number of demographic segments.

One unmentioned benefit of homesourcing is that the development of this resource here would relieve local economic development folks of the burden of having to pony up millions of dollars in investments and incentives to land new call center jobs. For that matter, it would also remove those centers as bargaining chips (threat points?) for companies who, say, object to certain investments communities want to make in their economic infrastructure.

The LUS fiber system can give our a unique competitive advantage in this newly emergent trend.

“Cool Tool: Consensus Web Filters”

If the comics in the Advertiser aren’t enough to brighten up a gray day you could try Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools site. Kevin Kelly was a force in the old Whole Earth Catalog/CoEvolution Quarterly Gang and the Cool Tools blog inherits the pragmatic, intelligent, and engaged focus on really useful tools that characterized the old bigger-than-most-phone books catalog and the reflective, systems-oriented thinking for which CoEvolution was famous.

That’ll hopefully give some context to the blog article “Consensus Web Filters” which I hope will both brighten your day and give you something to chew on when doing a little creative thinking about the world of nearly infinite choices that the web offers us. Kelly is trying to find a way — mostly for himself — to manage the flow of information and to find the “good stuff” without spending his life messing around on the web. It’s a real problem. The internet sets a banquet too rich to really understand or deal with when we’re only talking about static text-based web pages. With the tidal wave of media that is coming with expanding bandwidth (and, yes, that I expect that Lafayette’s fiber-optic project will leave us riding the leading edge of that wave) we’d best all begin to think about how to manage the rich diet we’ve got before us.

Consensus Web Filters are one such management tools. Basically all this is are big lists of suggested web content. Anyone can suggest a link; if you do so it gets posted along with everyone else’s suggestion. That’s not very helpful… what turns out to be very interesting is what happens when the next person to come along gets to rate (mod, bomb, vote–terminology varies) your suggestion. If a lot of people like it, the link rises to the top. Many people making a few more or less well-founded judgment make the list a powerful tool for those who come along behind them.

If this isn’t all that familiar to you here’s a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon: wander around the web directed, at least in part by the best judgment of your fellow creatures. I spent a pleasant couple of hours doing that last night, enjoyed it immensely and found good stuff I’d have never found on my own. If you are familiar with the concept you’ll probably still want to look at Kelly’s post. There are a bunch very neat, very new examples you’ll want to explore. In all cases it’s worth thinking about how such tools could be adapted to local needs.

For instance: I can imagine a local news aggregator that combines feeds from local and regional news outlets. You could get a look at the raw feed from each outlet a convenient way look at everything or you could just go to the top-ranked stories of the day. A very similar tool could be useful for locally accessible live music events.

How could your neighbors help you find good stuff? Ideas?

Lagniappe: Kelly is interested in print news, mostly, and serious stuff always…you might want to also take a look at the Get Democracy bombs, a consensus filter that focuses on video. The site’s premise is interesting too..pretty close to the idea of Downloadable Video (DV) replacing TV that I’ve been fantasizing about.

What National Franchise Agreements are Really About

A recent flurry of news in the specialized venues that worry about telecom and internet issues has focused on an agreement on unspecified “principles” (I use the word loosely) between legislative leaders in the federal house of representatives that would give the phone companies what they want in a national cable franchising bill. That issue had been mired in a general rewrite of telecom law but the phone companies–especially Verizon and our overlord-in-waiting, ATT–indicated their deepest desires by demanding that a National Franchise bill be split out of the package.

On the announcement that the leaders had reached an agreement to push a national cable franchising bill through the phone companies immediately stood up and cheered.

The cable companies shot back; complaining in appalled terms that the still-vague “principles” amounted to a bill that legislated competitive advantages specifically for the phone companies and expressing astonishment that anyone would think that the phone companies–where individual companies are larger than the entire cable industry–need any special help from congress to compete.

If that sounds oddly familiar let me draw the connection explicitly: the cable companies are endorsing the principle that phone company legislation that imposes competitive disadvantages on the little guys is a bad thing (when they are the little guys). Does anyone wonder if the people over at Cox have the least little frisson of unease over the phone company bill they backed in Louisiana that imposed competitive disadvantages on Lafayette while they complain about phone company tactics? Somehow I doubt that the complaints Cox executives mutter at cocktail parties around the region reflect any consciousness of the implicit hypocrisy.

All that aside, the raw battle emerging between cable and phone companies on this issue is revealing what the phone companies really want. The phone companies have been stringing a bunch of ideological rhetoric over the scene, dressing up their debate in red, white, and blue bunting that tries to cast the whole thing in terms of bringing “competition” to the provision of video services. The Bell companies want us to believe that they are noble advocates of consumers and patriotically want to help bring down consumer costs.

But the phone companies pro-consumer rhetoric ends precisely where they begin to make explicit suggestions about just what legislation they actually favor.

It turns out that what they’d really like to do is to get Federal legislation that would prohibit a price war between cable companies and phone companies until the phone companies decide it would be comfortable for them to compete. (Maybe never? Maybe.)

Here’s a synopsis of how the Bell’s suggested laws would work: phone companies wouldn’t ever have to supply the entire community with new, advanced service. (Local community franchises almost universally require universal service and that is the real reason the phone companies want a national franchise; eliminating the universal service requirement has been a part of every bill suggested). The latest “principles” apparently suggest that cable companies would continue to be bound by local franchises requiring universal service and uniform pricing until a phone company competitor had 15% of the market.

So phone companies could build only in the wealthiest 15% of a community where profit margins are highest and be confident that they could both undercut their cable competitors’ profits by whatever amount was necessary to insure dominance in that 15% and still make a nice fat profit. They could drive their competitors into the least profitable segments of the overall market while they dominate the most profitable parts with no obligation to ever match their cable competitors current level of service to the least profitable areas of the community. Isn’t that sweet? Aren’t the phone companies obviously trying to be pro-competitive friends of the majority of consumers?

Here’s a local example of how that might work. Let’s guess that the wealthy, densely populated River Ranch “new town” development in Lafayette is the area in which profit margins are highest in Lafayette. BellSouth could build out their new fiber ONLY in River Ranch, compete ONLY there and drop prices dramatically while still making a healthy profit. Let’s say that was a 30% break. Cox, because it also finds that a high-profit zone could probably match that in River Ranch. But Cox would be obligated by its current contract with the city-parish to make any deals offered the favored few in River Ranch to the whole community including areas in which they were previously making much less than a 30% margin because of the city’s requirement that almost all areas be served. So to compete for River Ranch’s 2% of the population they’d have to lose money system-wide. They couldn’t, rationally, do that–at least not for long. So River Ranch is conceded and 80% of the people there switch to BellSouth. In short order BellSouth decides that it is ready to tackle the next 2% of the profitable population and 4% of the people get good deals. This creeps up to 14% of the population which, conceivably, accounts for 40% of the profit margin available in Lafayette. BellSouth puts its expansion in idle, slowly ratcheting up its prices in the rich regions until its profit begins to fall a little. Cox struggles trying to provide both advanced services attractive to high-margin customers and to eke out some sort of profit in the areas that were always problematic while BellSouth fattens up for a final push behind its wall; federally protected from any effective competition.

That is clearly BellSouth’s and the phone industry’s business plan. It is utterly rapacious, anti-competitive, and anti-consumer. It depends completely on the Federal Government stepping in to make it work by removing the rights of cities and towns to make contracts with the cable and phone corporations that require equitable service and equitable prices in exchange for the use of citizen-owned rights of way.

Here’s the way the cable companies talk about it.

Another provision McSlarrow disliked involved the inability of cable companies to price their products in response to competition. He said that if a phone company is offering discounts to homes in one section of a franchise, the cable company couldn’t offer the same deal to those customers alone. It would have to make the offer available to all of its subscribers in the market under a process called uniform pricing.

Does that sound at all like the phone companies bill will foster competition, or bring the benefits of advanced broadband to all, or is intended to provide the average consumer with any real break? It doesn’t, it won’t, and it isn’t.

It’s hard for me to believe that our federal representatives really believe all this BS. I’m pretty much out of patience with the cavalier way they carry out their duties on any even vaguely economic issue. You get the definite impression from watching our congress that they think that doing as large corporate powers like BellSouth, ATT, and Verizon ask is a natural and obviously part of their task as legislators. That flat out isn’t true. What should be natural and obvious is that our representatives are in Congress to promote the best interests of citizens, not corporations. There are clearly times when these interests are in conflict and when they are members of Congress are morally obliged to represent their constituents, not their contributors.

This whole business of the feds stepping in to prevent local governments from exercising their property rights by making perfectly reasonable contracts with corporations that require them to serve the whole community and to serve them all with the same product for the same price is a clear example of our representatives deciding to side with the corporate interests over community or citizen interests.

It’d be a good idea to tell them you think so…It isn’t clear they’ve got the message.

Whazzup? Ordinance Introduced or Not?

It’s not been unusual for articles in the Advocate and the Advertiser on the fiber issue to read as if they were reporting on different events. Usually that impression is more a matter of differing tone and the abscence of full reporting than substantial differences as to the facts of the matter. But this morning we have an outright contradiction.

Was an ordinance regarding Lafayette’s fiber optic bonds introduced or not? If it was we can look forward to the final ordinance passing in two week. If it wasn’t…

From the Advocate:

Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved the introduction of a bond ordinance that would fund Lafayette Utilities System’s telecommunications plan with up to $125 million. The council is scheduled to give its final approval to the bond issue on March 20.

LUS plans to use that money to build a fiber-optic network to each home and business in the city to provide low-cost phone, cable and high-speed Internet services.

From the Advertiser:

In other council matters, an amended bond ordinance regarding the fiber-to-the-home project was not introduced after a quorum failed to show at a Lafayette Parish Utilities Authority meeting prior to the council meeting. Officials had said they believed the amended ordinance would correct two problems in its original ordinance as identified by the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

My money is on the Advocate’s version being correct but it’ll be interesting to see how the contradiction is explained. According to the city-parish council’s meeting schedule there won’t be a meeting on the 20th — the next meeting is the 21st– so that reference is mysterious as well.

I guess I shoulda have at least watched AOC. Mea Culpa. Explanations anyone?

Update 12:30–I’ve gotten emails and a call confirming that the ordinance was introduced as planned. The 20th date was apparently a garden-variety confusion about which date of the month last nights meeting was held on…. We’ll see the next step on the evening on the evening of the 21st. (Just keep repeating to yourself that patience is a virtue.)

Local Takes on the BellSouth Sale

If you want, you can get reassuring words from BellSouth’s Oliver about how little difference ATT buying his company will make to anyone anywhere in the state from any media outlet in the state. In his official role as president of BellSouth Louisiana he’s talked to the Advertiser, the Advocate, and the Times-Picayune at least.

Things that Oliver says will not change in one or more of the various interviews linked to above: most Louisiana employment, service, charitable giving, contributions to education, hurricane reconstruction efforts, Lafayette’s Cingular operation, the Yellow Pages operations, and Louisiana’s status as a state-wide division.

Other things that Oliver did not mention but will also remain unchanged: BellSouth/ATT opposition to local self-determination in Lafayette, BS/ATT opposition to New Orleans’ muni WiFi network, opposition to state-wide emergency communications, the traditional wildly exploitive contract for state services, and forthcoming requests that Louisiana subsidize their private company’s losses from Katrina and Rita.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

BellSouth Opposes Wireless Emergency Communications

Atuned readers will recall the dustup over wireless emergency communications in the recent special session of the Louisiana legislature. In that session, specially called to deal with Katrina/Rita issues, two bills designed in part to provide for better telecommunications during an emergency went down in defeat. With issues like levee construction and housing on the plate it wasn’t surprising that we didn’t hear much about what happened to these bills.

The author of one–the relatively inoffensive one which did nothing to undo the legislature’s earlier mistake of crippling local communities’ ability to do the job themselves–now reveals who killed the bills. You’ll be surprised, I know: “The telecommunications industry,” AKA BellSouth, of course. He wants to reintroduce the bill in the upcoming regular session:

During the February special session, the bill ran into opposition from the telecommunications industry, which was concerned about public entities entering into the telecommunication industry, Burns said.

The legislator said the system he is proposing could have benefited communications among emergency personnel during Katrina, which he described as ”severely lacking.”

“With the 2006 hurricane season less than three months away, we don’t have time for any more studies,” Burns said. ” We need to implement an emergency communication system now and not wait for a federal grant.”

Burns is right about the need for a better, and better integrated, emergency system (I’ve said as much in these pages). He’s also right about who stands in the way. And finally he’s right that we can’t afford to wait on someone else to provide it for us.

The people of Louisiana need to understand clearly that BellSouth, soon to be ATT, does NOT operate with their best interests at heart or even in mind. They are perfectly happy to stand in the way of not only legitimate desires (as in the case of Lafayette fiber optic network) but also demonstrable emergency needs (as in the case of these emergency communications bills).

If BellSouth/ATT has to stand in the way of public safety to secure their “right” to some downstream profit and freedom from competition from local folks then, well, they’ll just chuck public safety right out the window.

These are not the sorts of companies for which any citizen needs to show any sympathy–they show none for us. These guys take care of themselves, first, foremost, and always.

We ought to get behind simply repealing BellSouth’s law that blocks local communities from building whatever form of telecom infrastructure they think will best serve their communities without the interference of state legislators. Repeal is the solution.

“Council to revisit fiber ordinance”

Blogger’s been stubborn today; apologies for the late posting.

Today’s Advertiser carries an overview of the fiber optic bond ordinance to be introduced tomorrow:

The council and Lafayette Public Utilities Authority are expected on Tuesday to introduce an amended revenue bond ordinance that officials believe corrects two problems in its original ordinance identified by the Third Circuit Court of Appeal. Final action is expected two weeks later. The public will not have to vote on the ordinance again.

The story goes over some of the same ground covered in an Advocate article last week and remarked on here.

In its ruling, the court stated concerns that LUS proposed the use of multiple funds for its fiber project and that a pledge of LUS resources was not adequate because it did not allow for default. The ordinance to be proposed Tuesday is expected to correct those deficiencies.

The big issue is whether or no our new ATT/BellSouth overlords will continue to sue us to prevent even the smallest bit of local competition from threatening their realm.