Action Alert: Veto Urged for BellSouth’s Bill

Papers across the state carry news of an extraordinary pair of meetings with the Governor to discuss a possible veto of HB 699, BellSouth’s state-wide video franchise bill. The Times-Picayune, The Advocate, and the Gannett papers (Lafayette) all carry the story.

In a nutshell: About 30 mayors and local officials trooped down to the Governor’s office to urge her to veto the bill. Bill Oliver, president of BellSouth Louisiana, and the bill’s legislative “authors” were allowed equal time. Nobody knows what the Governor will do. But she only has until July 11th to decide; that is when the bill becomes law without her signature.

But we all know what we should do, do we not? You know the drill. Call and write the Gov; then call and write your friends and relatives–especially those across the state–to urge that they too let Blanco know that she should veto a bill designed to benefit primarily one giant corporation at the expense of local communities. The arrogant act of the state stripping local governments of their rights to control and write contracts regarding the property they own and maintain in order to make life easier for a huge out of state monopolist should make it easy to oppose the bill on the simple principle of sustaining local control. But the fact that HB 699 would make it public policy to forbid local governments to do anything to make sure that whole local community is served and not just the favored few when a corporation wants to use public property should make the law worthy of a veto on public policy grounds. It’s rural areas and poorer areas of urban centers–those left out now–that will suffer. Blanco needs to hear that the public understands that a bill without “build-out” requirements is only competition for (some of) the urban rich and the shaft for everyone else.

Toll-free: 1-866.310.7617 (This toll-free number is not always picked up. Try it first but be prepared to whip out your cell and call the alternate number.)
Alternate: (225) 342-0991 (Nice lady answers the phone and takes your brief message.)
Fax: (225) 342-7099
Web-based email: Email the Governor (the webmail script does not execute correctly on my setup–though it apparently works for some; the embedded email address is: –it might be wiser to use that than to trust the webmail form.

The stories are actually a lot of fun to read, at least if you have a slightly perverse taste for telecom policy maneuvers.

On the issues:

Under current law, cable providers and other video-service providers that use public rightsof-way must negotiate franchise agreements with municipalities and compensate them for the use. (T-P)

Local governments argue that House Bill 699 would erode their control over rights of way and franchise agreements. (Advocate)

Local officials said they are concerned the telecommunications companies would not provide service to rural and poor communities.

Another concern is that the bill would strip some local governments of the authority to control companies’ access to public property to put in infrastructure, said Dan Garrett of the Police Jury Association of Louisiana, Inc. (Advocate)

Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris said a major concern is the bill does not require telephone companies to provide universal access, as cable franchise agreements do. (Gannett)

Holden conceded that the bill would not affect East Baton Rouge Parish. He said that could change later down the road, citing a push in Congress for a national franchise.

“I don’t want to start watching the snowball effect,” he said. (Advocate) [Note: A frequently expressed concern is that the Bells are using their power to ram through legislation in state legislatures to convince the Congress to pass similar legislation on the grounds that the states want it.]

Qoutes of Note:

“If you lose at two levels, that’s two strikes. You still have another strike before you’re out,” Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden said. (T-P)

“The governor wants to hear both sides because this issue is one that has generated some strong viewpoints from both proponents and opponents,” said Blanco spokesman Roderick Hawkins. (Gannett)

“I wasn’t just overjoyed,” said Ellington, who accompanied BellSouth President William Oliver of New Orleans and CenturyTel representative Julia Thornton in the meeting in the governor’s private office.

Oliver said Blanco was very detailed, getting down to words and phrases in the bill.

“She was as interested in that bill as any bill I’ve ever seen her interested in,” Oliver said. (Gannett)

There is the usual qouta of misinformation: John Hill of Gannett has apparently forgotten that the cable companies signed onto the bill when they got to opt in to the bill’s provisions somewhere between House and Senate markups. His claim that the bill is a battle between the cable and telephone companies was never true and certainly is not now. Similarly, pay no attention to the panicky bluster of BellSouth tool Montgomery who would have you believe that local governments hired “every” lobbyist in town. No such thing–I was at many of the meetings discussing this bill and it was the same harried folks who are always trying to keep up with legislation for the locals every time–local governments don’t have the resources to hire new folks for a single piece of legislation, no matter how important. That is the province of the big guys.

A postscript–apparently the LMA is back on board after falteringly going neutral on 699 at the end of the fight in the senate. Presumeably whoever got to the Vinton Mayor Riggins didn’t have a lasting effect once the rest of the mayors really looked at the legislation. There’s a reason why such organizations have staffs — they’re paid to attend to their members legislative interests and know who is to be trusted and who is handing out BS. Trusting their judgment is usually a good idea, as the LMA has found out to their embarrassment on this issue.

Ok, now write or call Blanco; and get your friends and relatives do the same.

Legislative Session Summary

Here’s our final legislative overview for the 06 regular session of the Louisiana Legislature.

The votes are in and the extent of the damage can almost be fully assessed. HB 699,the state-wide cable franchise bill was by far the most important telecommunications bill of the session. It still awaits the governors signature; she has 60 days from the close of session to ponder her choices. The original bill was horrifically bad. The current, massively amended, version remains extremely bad legislation. What remains most objectionable about the bill is that it explicitly forbids local governments to use their ownership of public rights of way to force telecom providers to offer service to the whole community. By making cherry-picking a state-sanctioned activity this bill all but assures a continued divide between rural-urban areas and between wealthy and poor areas within a community. The state simply should not be stepping in to preempt a local decision on this matter in order to increase the profitability of a monopoly incumbent. With luck, and the loud objection of the citizenry (hey that’s you), Blanco still might veto it as she vetoed the health care perk for legislators. An aroused citizenry can make a difference.

The various bills that offered repeal of the Local Government (un)Fair Competition act that at one time seemed to be shaping up to be a dramatic battleground fizzeled badly when Lafayette and BellSouth cut a deal: BellSouth promised to not sue to prevent the fiber optic bond issue and Lafayette agreed to withdraw its repeal bills and to not oppose BellSouth’s merger with AT&T — those seems to have been the major issues though the full text of the agreement hasn’t been disclosed. Part of that agreement was to have been a bill to help thwart frivolous lawsuits–that bill never materialized.

New Orleans which had pushed for repeal of the wireless portions of the (un)Fair Act in order to keep its heralded free wi-fi system up and running in New Orleans. BellSouth still has not returned service to all of the city. BellSouth and Cox opposed it. A very watered-down version that would have only given the city an extra year and up the speeds legally possible to 512k passed in the house. That died without being heard in Senate Commerce. A truly irresponsible position to take and an embarrassment to the state.

Repeal or anti-repeal in various degrees and flavors:

  • HB 244, Robideaux -in House Commerce, SB 192, Michot–Withdrawn, Poison Pill. These bills would apply most of the rules that apply to municipal telecom entrants under the Local Government Fair Competition Act to “subsidized” private telecom providers.
  • HB 245, Robideaux-in House Commerce; SB 495, MichotWithdrawn, Repeal!! These bills would have repealed the Local Government Fair Competition Act.
  • HB 257, Robideaux-in House Commerce; SB 243, Michot–Withdrawn, Exemptions. These bills would have exempted Lafayette from the Fair Competition Act and have exempted all wireless technologies. Both these bills were to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth.
  • HB 537, Robideaux–Died in House Commerce; Exemptions Redux. This bill would have repealed all the restrictive clauses of the fair competition act except the feasibility study and referendum provisions. It would have exempted all wireless technologies. This bill is among those to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth. [This version of repeal had several Acadiana co-sponsors: Representatives, Robideaux, Pierre, Trahan, and Alexander as well as Senator Michot]
  • SB 395, Ellington–Withdrawn, Blank Check, A placeholder bill that would have allowed the incumbents to come in after the filing deadline and introduce by amendment any changes to the (un)Fair Competition Act they might desire.
  • SB 585, Ellington–Died in Senate Commerce Blank Check Too Without making much discernable difference in the meaning of the Fair Competition Act SB 585 emphasizes that municipalities may buy a network if it leases it to private corporations. Functions as a placeholder.

Wireless-only Repeal Bills

  • SB 211, Murray–died in Senate Commerce, Wireless Exemption, Would exempt all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act.
  • HB 1174, LaFonta–killed by House Commerce. Wireless Exemption for Parish Executives, Would have exempted all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act and vested decision-making power in elected parish executives.
  • HB 1188, LaFonta–died in Senate Commerce, Wireless Disaster Recovery. The original version of this bill would have repealed the Fair Competition Act with respect to wireless technologies. Following the defeat of the similar HB 1174 LaFonta offered a series of amendments in committee that fundamentally altered the bill. It would have extended the life of an emergency WiFi system to one year after a declared disaster ends. The network must be free and not supported by advertising; that is, it cannot be self-supporting. The original law allowed networks with speeds of less than 144 k to be built without regulation. The altered version of the bill would raised that to 512 k. It was bottled up in Senate Commerce (a killing field for rational telecom bills) and died there. New Orleans gets nothing.

Bills that would move cable franchises from local to state control

  • SB 386, Ellington–died in Senate Commerce. No action since 3/27. Was scheduled for hearing on May 1st in Committee but withdrawn from the day’s schedule.
  • HB 699, Montgomery–awaiting the governor’s signature. State Video Franchise, Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in the state. This bill has been extensively modified since its introduction. In its current form it would eliminate local franchising for both BellSouth/AT&T and incumbent cable providers. The last version made a mighty effort to obligate AT&T to provide franchise fees regardless of its status as an information service. (But state law cannot override federal preemption, leaving the security of this money at issue.) Vehemetly opposed by local governments till the final days the LMA went neutral at the last minute, apparently against advice of staff. The left the police juries, and the mayors’ organization fighting on. A final set of amendments attempted to protect private property rights. Governor Blanco has expressed concern over the bill and is being pressed to veto it by opponents.
  • HB 258, Farrar–died in House Commerce. State Video Franchise-PSC, Would have eliminated local video franchises and vest control in the Public Service Commission.

Emergency Telecommunications bills with implications for municipal broadband

  • HB 540, Burns–died in Senate Commerce. Emergency Preparedness, Would have mandated the development of a an emergency preparedness system. Lightly amended on the floor of the house.
  • HB 619, Burns–died in Senate Commerce. Emergency PreparednessCoastal, Would have mandated the development of a an emergency preparedness system in coastal regions. Amended by the house to limit the capacity of a new emergency network to an opt-in, text-based system.

Sunday Fun

I spend some time trying to track what fun sorts of new things are emerging that a community with the really big broadband Lafayette will soon have could turn to its advantage. One of the most interesting things to emerge from the new online world is the ability to make things–the web has never been as solely passive medium. Making web pages was only the start. Blogging now seems obvious and you’ve been able build whole websites online for awhile now. Recently I’ve been fascinated with the recent “web 2.0” online applications that take that further, making it possible to work collaboratively on word processing, spreadsheets, and “to do” lists–to name merely a few examples–that never exist on any individual’s computer.

You have to wonder how far that trend can go…surely, you’d think, there are some things that are just too processor and storage intensive to make doing them online really sensible. Apparently you’d be wrong to think so. The most obvious candidate for being the last bastion of offline creation would be video editing: it requires tons of processing and massive storage. Even so several companies are offering simple online video editing.

Jumpcut, VideoEgg, and EyeSpot all offer free video services–you upload your raw video and then editing, storage, and distribution are all done online. It is changing the way that people make videos. Here’s what a New York Times article (since gone behind the pay wall) had to say about that:

The sites make possible new kinds of collaborative editing. A group of parents attending a school play can upload all their video, and then edit a single version of the play that makes use of the best shots. Or a vacationer who returns with a shaky shot of the Grand Canyon can incorporate another person’s river shot into the video — the home-movie equivalent of stock footage.

And later:

Many of the earliest users of the online editing services report two changes in the way they capture and assemble video. First, they tend not to use their camcorders as much, because the tendency with a camcorder is to record long, meandering stretches of birthday parties and parades, which are time-consuming to import to a computer and edit. Instead, they record more impressionistic scenes of a few seconds or a few minutes, using a digital still camera or a cellphone.

Second, even if they have experience using more powerful, PC-based editing software, they find themselves using the online services more often when they are working with the shorter snippets — and trying to assemble them quickly for a grandparent in a distant city.

Jan McLaughlin of North Passaic, N.J., makes three or four short movies a week, often using her Nokia cellphone. She spends only about 5 or 10 minutes, on average, refining her video with Eyespot.

“It’s the difference between making a gourmet meal that takes days, or throwing something in the microwave,” Ms. McLaughlin said.

If you travel to the sites you’ll see that people are pushing into some very different places. The little videos you find there are mostly don’t feel like movies at all. “Moving pictures” have pretty much been stuck in the patterns established by the written short story genres–pretty much all video tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. That takes time and tight planning. You can’t tell a good story quickly. The devices of cinema–jump cuts, flashbacks, and multiple story lines were all first devices used to enhance written stories. But these little videos aren’t about stories. They are atmospheric. They share a little bit of the way that their creators experienced something. They have a very impressionistic feel. They are something new and hence hard to describe.

Worth thinking about though: collaborative impressionistic short pieces. The seed of a new truly video-oriented model of what to do with moving pictures?

Worth thinking about. My new cell phone takes 15 second videos…hmmn. Anybody have any experience with this. Love to hear about it.


It’s painful to read those well-meaning letters to the editor whose authors reveal themselves somewhere in the letter to be too ignorant to be taken seriously.

Today’s example takes place in the very first bullet point of a letter about traffic problems. The sentence:

  • Scrap the idea of the $125,000,000 fiber optic plan. Use this money to possibly looking at overpasses on the following streets: Congress, Johnston, Kaliste Saloom, and plan for the extension of Ambassador to Hwy. 90.

That’s wrong on so many levels that it makes a reasonable person wonder about the rest of the letter:

  1. The money for the fiber-optic build-out we voted in last year are bonds; no 125 mill pot of money exists today. If we don’t build the system we don’t get the money.
  2. The bonds will be dedicated; nobody can use the money for anything else after the bonds are sold.
  3. They will be revenue bonds–we’re counting on sales of service to pay back investors in the bonds.

The author, of course, just finds it handy to promote his expensive ideas –which might be good ones– by pretending the money to fund them can come from some magical pot that doesn’t involve the citizens paying for them. He doesn’t want to start his letter with the following considerably less punchy opening suggestion:

  • “Scrap the idea of doing much of anything else next year, andraise taxes. Use this money to possibly looking at overpasses on the following streets: Congress, Johnston, Kaliste Saloom, and plan for the extension of Ambassador to Hwy. 90.”

On the other hand it wouldn’t look half so dumb as the formulation he chose and it would have the virtue of being honest. As a bonus playing it straight wouldn’t discredit the rest of the letter.

Cox’s latest anti-competitive outbreak

In Cox’s latest tussel with the people of Arizona the Arizona equivalent of the Public Service Commission wants to fine Cox $2 million dollars for anti-competitive behavior.

As reported in the Arizona Republic, the basic story is that Cox entered into an illegal agreement with the developers of a huge housing tract (17,000 homes) to restrict telecom “easements” (known as rights of way when public entities are providing them) to Cox and Cox alone. Nobody in that 17,000 home would have had any choice about where to buy their phone, internet, and cable TV.

The Cox-Shea Sunbelt deal came to light after a tiny telephone company, Accipiter Communications, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court and a complaint with the commission saying that the arrangement made it impossible for other phone companies to sign up Vistancia customers.

Cox Communications paid Accipiter $1 million to settle the lawsuit.

Under the Cox-Shea Sunbelt arrangement, Peoria allowed the developer to take control of communications access, known as an easement, to govern which companies could provide service to the 17,000-home community.

Cox paid a $1 million “licensing fee” to the developer for the right to construct the wires and sell services to about 45,000 residents.

The ugly word is monopoly. Cox bought a monopoly. Because that is the way they prefer to do business.

What the article doesn’t mention is that this isn’t new behavior on the part of Cox. In 2005 they got nailed on a similar charge. Then back in 2004 the company engaged in some truly outrageous attempts to buy signed promises regarding legislators’ votes on a bill (that had previously failed) to force satellite provider to pay a special tax designed to drive up the cost consumers paid for satellite. The rationale? Satellite providers didn’t have to pay franchise fees to use public property and so cable wanted “a level playing field.” Trouble is, the reason why satellite providers didn’t pay rent for using public property is because they DON’T USE public property. Which didn’t keep Cox from trying to ram through a law whose purpose would have been to force satellite providers to pay for an expense they didn’t have so that Cox wouldn’t have to lower its prices to compete. Awww…poor cher bebe.

If that’s not monopoly behavior it’ll do till a better example comes along.

This is the same Cox that has the gall to claim to be fighting for free enterprise and a “level playing field” whenever it wants to stifle competition from municipal providers like LUS.

This isn’t just a problem for Arizona. The pattern is clear right here in Louisiana. Readers with a long memory will recall the way that Cox has fought to use the state to increase the costs that Lafayette consumers who choose LUS will have to pay. As in Arizona, it takes the form of getting the state to do their bidding. The first example was the passage of the Municipal (un)Fair Competition Act where, among other anticompetitive strategies, the state is forcing LUS to set its rates as if it were paying rent to itself on the right of way property Lafayette owns. (Plus, it has the expense of actually maintaining the property as well!) The idea is to make it illegal (yes, illegal) for LUS to drop its prices to just what it costs to provide the service. That would be too “competitive” for Cox. So faced with choice between lowering their prices to compete or losing business Cox, in Louisiana as in Arizona, chose the third path: demand that the government to raise the costs of your competition. (It worked in Louisiana; it failed in Arizona.)

Now admittedly, Cox shares the blame with BellSouth for the way state law will force up LUS’ prices. But the Broome bill…ah, the Broome bill, written by Cox and introduced by a sponsor who later complained that she didn’t understand what was in it, gives us a pure Louisiana example of Cox’s unfettered anti-competitive tendencies. Among other dark intents, the Broome bill would have fined the people of Lafayette almost a million dollars if they had the courage to vote in a little competition for the monopolists.

Make no mistake, the pattern is clear, here, in Arizona and across the country. These guys are not fighting for any American ideals or for free enterprise when they try and shut out municipal and private competition; they are fighting to remain monopolies.

WBS: Multichannel News on HB 699

Multichannel news runs a short article on the passage of HB 699. It is always interesting to see what outsiders emphasize about a local issue. Louisianaians have to appreciate the whiff of doubt about the clause in the bill that supposedly prohibits discrimination.

The bill seeks to prevent discrimination in service deployment, based on the average income for an area, but it also said a provider can consider technology issues and construction costs when deciding whether to serve an area. Discrimination complaints are to be directed to the state Attorney General.

In fact, the bill goes considerably beyond making exceptions for technology and construction issues: a provider can use also “commercial limitations” as an excuse. So it’s explicitly legal to cherry-pick the most profitable areas. It’s a legal loophole you could drive a truck through–the law is not meant to prohibit discrimination; it is meant to give a clear definition to the conditions under which discrimination is legal in Louisiana.

Multichannel News is a cable industry magazine, it’s no surprise that goes to a cable rep for interpretation of the bill. But there’s one cable-specific bit that bears watching:

Although the bill would give incumbents the ability to apply for state franchises immediately, McCormick expressed doubt that any current provider would pursue one.

“I know of no one who’s expressed interest,” she said.

Hmmn. That’s odd. If cable providers do not expect to make use of the provisions of the bill why did they support it only after they got included during early senate amendments? Telco entry is gonna hurt them, at least some, and BellSouth being allowed to enter and skim the cream off the cable companies current markets without having to meet the universal build-out requirements embedded in cable’s current contracts with local communities must seem very unfair to the cable guys. What cable gets out of supporting this law has always been opaque, at least in the short term. You’ve gotta wonder what the deeper game is.

AT&T rewrites rules: Your data isn’t yours

Big Ma will soon officially enter into a business partnership with Big Brother. The announcement was not made overtly; rather, it came in the form of a privacy policy change that AT&T will make official on Friday.

David Lazarus of the San Francisco Chronicle has the details:

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday. The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers’ personal data with government officials.

The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.

Moreover, AT&T (formerly known as SBC) is requiring customers to agree to its updated privacy policy as a condition for service — a new move that legal experts say will reduce customers’ recourse for any future data sharing with government authorities or others.

The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

A pretty novel approach: when privacy concerns rear their pesky head, do away with customer rights! Here’s more:

The new version, which is specifically for Internet and video customers, is much more explicit about the company’s right to cooperate with government agencies in any security-related matters — and AT&T’s belief that customers’ data belongs to the company, not customers.

“While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T,” the new policy declares. “As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

It says the company “may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process,” omitting the earlier language about such processes being “required and/or permitted by law.”

The new policy states that AT&T “may also use your information in order to investigate, prevent or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud (or) situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person” — conditions that would appear to embrace any terror-related circumstance.

Ray Everett-Church, a Silicon Valley privacy consultant, said it seems clear that AT&T has substantially modified its privacy policy in light of revelations about the government’s domestic spying program.

“It’s obvious that they are trying to stretch their blanket pretty tightly to cover as many exposed bits as possible,” he said.

Gail Hillebrand, a staff attorney at Consumers Union in San Francisco, said the declaration that AT&T owns customers’ data represents the most significant departure from the company’s previous policy.

“It creates the impression that they can do whatever they want,” she said. “This is the real heart of AT&T’s new policy and is a pretty fundamental difference from how most customers probably see things.”

AT&T also makes use of a legal classification that is familiar to anyone who’s followed the company’s fight to elude payment of cable franchise agreements: the company says it can turn consumer viewing and Internet records over to the goverment because it is an “information service.”

In a section on “usage information,” the privacy policy says AT&T will collect “information about viewing, game, recording and other navigation choices that you and those in your household make when using Homezone or AT&T U-verse TV Services.”

The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 stipulates that cable and satellite companies can’t collect or disclose information about customers’ viewing habits.

The law is silent on video services offered by phone companies via the Internet, basically because legislators never anticipated such technology would be available.

AT&T’s Britton said the 1984 law doesn’t apply to his company’s video service because AT&T isn’t a cable provider. “We are not building a cable TV network,” he said. “We’re building an Internet protocol television network.”

Meet the new Ma; meaner than the Ole Ma!

Statewide Franchises: The right to Cherry-pick and Red-line

Lightwave reports that AT&T has announced a big fiber to the premises project in the Houston area — and it confirms the worst about what all this statewide video franchise hoopla is all about. It’s about the right of the phone giants (and, under the pending version of Louisiana’s HB 699, the cable companies, too) to cherry-pick and red-line neighborhoods either into or out of the high-speed network services world.

The first couple of paragraphs in the Lightwave story spell it out:

June 21, 2006 San Antonio, TX — AT&T Inc. announced an agreement with General Growth Properties to build a fiber-to-the- premises (FTTP) network to deliver the AT&T U-verse suite of services — which includes integrated digital TV, high-speed Internet, and voice services — to a 20,000-home master-planned community near Houston.

The agreement, AT&T’s largest such contract to date, underscores one of the company’s key strategic initiatives for connecting customers to its Project Lightspeed fiber footprint. It will enable AT&T to make Internet Protocol-based communications and entertainment services available to the estimated 65,000 residents who will move into Bridgeland, a 10,000-acre residential development currently under construction.

Yep, AT&T is ALL about skimming the cream off the market top and leaving the rest of the area gasping for bandwidth. This is the AT&T target: green field (that is, spanking new), upscale developments. I wonder how easy it will be for, say, a cable company to get permission to run their fiber and/or coax lines in that development? Reads like AT&T has gotten themselves an exclusive agreement with the developer.

So much for the company’s hunger for competition.

Governor Blanco should read this article and think long and hard about signing HB 699.

HB 699 will make the digital divide the official state policy in Louisiana. It’s already AT&T’s official corporate policy.

In Case You Weren’t Clear On How…

…The Telcos Screwed Everyone”

Techdirt is willing to put you onto a source which will give you the low-down in book-length form.

Bruce Kushnick, the author of The $200 Billion BroadbandScandal has decided to give his book away in PDF form for a week–you’ve got till next Monday to download it for free. It’s really a pretty amazing read. The phone companies have run a number on state and federal legislators ever since the breakup of AT&T–they’ve been promising fiber-based service for years (45 megs up and down in some cases!) in order to get price hikes and other regulatory breaks (like the ability to kick CLECs off their network) for years and have yet to keep their promises –obviously.

Kushnick claims it adds up to $200 billion dollars scammed from the public. And nobodyis holding them to their word. Painful stuff.

Go get your own copy.

–tip o’ the hat for the link to a reader who doesn’t trust the telecos either–

LUS Wins In Court on Bond Issue


According to postings in both the Advertiser and the Advocate LUS won the initial round in its latest legal fight to implement what we voted for last July 16th. From the Advocate:

District Judge Ed Rubin ruled Monday that Lafayette Utilities System has complied with the law and an appeals court ruling in its latest attempt to issue bonds to fund its telecommunications business.

The ruling came during a hearing that took less than 30 minutes before Rubin, who cut through a series of procedural arguments and went straight to the issue.

Attorneys for both sides spent as much time packing and unpacking boxes full of documents and charts than they did making arguments.

Apparently the judge cut back the class-action suit lawyers complaints to the one which claimed that LUS hadn’t met the 3rd ciruit’s standards and tossed all the others as complaints that shouldn’t even has been brought before him before deciding emphatically in favor of LUS and Lafayette.

With multiple appeals over the lawsuit’s handling already in place and with an appeal of today’s ruling a certainty we’re not out of the woods yet. But this is subtantial progress and even with the anticipated appeals the basic issues of this lawsuit should be settled by mid-August at the latest.

I certainly hope that those boxes of legal documents with charts, graphs and the “twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one” cost the plantiffs and their lawyers a bunch of money and wasn’t just boxes full of stuff from the BellSouth warehouse. They are angling for a little extortion here and a big win on a long shot gamble. They really ought to have something to lose besides the respect of their community and their legal colleagues.

For those keeping track of how much the obstructionism of the plantiffs and these lawyers is costing the people of city be advised that the Feds appear ready to raise the prime rate yet again. These people’s greed and subservience to outside corporate interests is costing the people of Lafayette real money.