It’s BS

BellSouth is trotting out an attractive story about HB 699, the bill that would transfer cable franchising power from local governments to the state. But since BellSouth’s purchase by AT&T is currently being finalized, company representatives are making promises they are in no position to keep.

BS representatives are telling local officials and the Legislature happy stories about lower prices, providing services to rural and poorer urban areas, allowing local governments to control their own rights of way and paying franchise fees to local governments..

Contrary to what BellSouth is claiming in Baton Rouge, AT&T is singing an entirely different tune in every other corner of the country.

BellSouth in Baton Rouge

AT&T in California, Illinois…

Tells everyone prices will fall.

Says don’t expect prices to fall. (1)

Tells committee will use current broadband, which runs past 85% of all phone users.

Tells investors they will need to do massive upgrades and “plan” to serve 52.5% of all users. (2)

Tells the Legislature that they’ll serve rural and poor urban communities.

Tells investors they’ll serve 5% of “low-value” customers. (3)

Says nothing about how AT&T will fund the purchase of BellSouth and who will be served after AT&T closes the deal.

Sold off 650,000 rural lines in Texas and Michigan to fund the purchase of AT&T wireless. (4)

Tells local communities that they’ll pay franchise fees.

Tells the federal government they are not bound by franchise provisions. (5)

Claims that local governments will still be able to control their rights of way.

Tells towns that “because we have a state franchise already” they can put 5 foot tall, 2 x 4 foot boxes anywhere they want. (6)

Can’t recollect what the phrase “information services” in SB 699 means. Doesn’t mention “telecommunications services.”

Tells local governments that they are only offering “telecommunication services” and don’t have to abide by any local or state rules. (7)


AT&T Chairman Edward Whitacre tried to assure Wall Street types at a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. media conference in New York this week that the entry of telcos into the video space would not lead to price cuts in video service.

When asked whether a price war between telco video, like AT&T’s Lightspeed service, and cable wasn’t inevitable, Whitacre said: “If I were the cable companies I guess I wouldn’t be offering discounts.”


[Slides show that SBC, now AT&T, showed to its investors made clear that, even in their most ambitious plans, the company is not planning to serve more than half its customer base with new, video-capable technologies in the foreseeable future.]

If you figure out the “promise” SBC/ATT is making, it works out to about 52. 5 percent of the total population, a little over half of the people in the communities they serve. The wealthiest half.


During a slide show for analysts, SBC said it planned to focus almost exclusively on affluent neighborhoods. SBC broke out its deployment plans by customer spending levels: it boasted that Lightspeed would be available to 90% of its “high-value” customers — those who spend $160 to $200 a month on telecom and entertainment services — and 70% of its “medium-value” customers, who spend $110 to $160 a month.

SBC noted that less than 5% of Lightspeed’s deployment would be in “low-value” neighborhoods — places where people spend less than $110 a month. SBC’s message: it would focus on high-income neighborhoods, at least initially, to turn a profit faster.


SBC also has announced a rural line sale in Michigan and Texas, offering approximately 650,000 lines that are expected to fetch $1.5 billion. These funds will contribute to the company’s wireless purchase (AT&T Wireless by Cingular — as SBC owns half of Cingular, it will owe in excess of $20 billion for the deal). Since this rural line sale will put a small dent in its share of the wireless deal, we can expect additional repositioning activities.

BellSouth is expected to borrow $10.5 billion for the AT&T Wireless purchase. We further expect that they will put some of the steady income-producing local lines on the block to invest in areas of higher revenue growth.


[Senator Dingell’s question about the bill, supported by AT&T currently before Congress:]

Would AT&T’s planned IP video service be eligible for national franchising under the Committee Print of the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006?

[AT&T’s response:]

While AT&T is confident in its interpretation of the law as applied to its IP-enabled video service, many franchising authorities and incumbent cable operators disagree, and have taken concrete steps to hinder AT&T’s deployment of its next-generation broadband capabilities and IP-based video services.

[AT&T is referring to its answer to question 1, where it asserted that it was not a cable service and hence not able to be regulated under cable franchses. There it said about its services:]

IP-enabled video service is delivered over a two-way, switched broadband network that is designed to deliver a suite of integrated advanced services, not just video. The video service itself is an inherently interactive, two-way service . . . . In short, because AT&T will not be providing a “cable service” over a “cable system,” it cannot, by definition, be a “cable operator” under the Act. . . .

If AT&T’s service were conclusively determined to be a “cable service,” then clearly the service would fall within the ambit of the national franchise. If not, then AT&T would not be subject to franchise regulations under the Cable Act, including as modified by this draft bill.


Julie and Sean Whiteley have a nickname for the hulking gray box in the front yard of their Grand Fir Drive home. But it’s not an affectionate one.

“We call it ‘the refrigerator,’ ” Julie Whiteley said. “We were just talking about if we were going to hide it with landscaping…”

AT&T has already approached [the Illinois town of] Lodi about installing 10 boxes near apartment buildings, the start of its Project Lightspeed work in Lodi. The boxes AT&T proposes would be 5 feet 3 inches tall, 43-1/2 inches deep, nearly 21 inches wide and be placed in the public utility easement, typically 10 feet in from the sidewalk…

“Under state law, because we have a statewide franchise already, we can upgrade our infrastructure in the public right of way,” said Diamond, who added he did not know how many of the large cabinets are planned for Lodi . “What it all comes down to is educating the cities on what we plan to do and how we plan to do it.”

When a handful of Illinois cities balked at letting AT&T install similar boxes, the phone company sued.


The telephone company sued Walnut Creek, Calif., late last year, contending the city violated state and federal law by awarding siting permits for the telco’s hardware — but with the caveat that the company would have to seek a cable franchise at a later date.

In discussions with officials across the country, AT&T has argued that its planned pay TV service, dubbed U-verse, is not a cable service because it will employ an Internet Protocol distribution method that transmits video channels as packets of data, at the request of an end user.

Rather than accept the conditioned permits, AT&T stopped work on its telephone-plant upgrade in Walnut Creek and filed the federal suit. AT&T wanted the court to issue a declaratory judgment that the city’s franchising authority was pre-empted by the section of the federal act that explicitly bars franchises on “telecommunications services.”

AT&T also argued that it has authority to use rights of way in Walnut Creek and other cities by virtue of its grant to operate as a telephone-service provider.

“The Telco TV Boxes Are Coming!”

SaveAccess latched onto the same story about the Telco TV “refrigerator” boxes that I mentioned recently.

Telco TV boxes may be coming to a sidewalk near you – and there is likely nothing you will be able to do about it! The loss of local control of ‘right of way’ under new state and national video franchising laws (HR.5252 and S.2686) means that your local city will have to yield control of public spaces to telephone and cable companies operating under those franchises.

But Save Access went out and had a bit of fun with it. The picked up on pictures of the actual new Teleco TV boxes and photoshopped them into various pictures to give folks a sense of how this might change the look and feel of neighborhoods. Here’s one that looks like it could be in Baton Rouge’s Spanish Town neighborhood.

That’s good, clean fun but, as has been pointed out to me recently, the mess that the legislature seems bent on creating doesn’t stop with ugly rights-of-way. The state is granting rights to all publicly-owned property. If they want to plop one of these things down in the center of Girard Park and trench up the park to geth their wires to it there would be nothing your nor I nor the city could do about it.

Anybody know someone from the historic preservation societies who might want to oppose Louisiana’s version of this bill? The more the merrier!

ALERT: Write or Call Today on State Franchising Bill

HB 699, the state-wide franchise bill goes to the floor of the state Senate today. It has already passed in the House. It is our best chance to defeat the bill. Public outcry is critical.

Please email or call you Senator and ask for a vote against HB 699, misnamed “the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act.”

The easiest way to get the necessary information to do so is to Look Up Your District on the legislature’s search page. Then ask your friends to do the same.

It so clearly deserves defeat that it is embarrasing that our legislature is considering it. A quick set of talking points:

  • It is an uncalled-for intrusion of State Government into local affairs.
  • It amounts to a “taking” of local right-of-way property by the state and transferring those rights to, mainly, BellSouth.
  • It’s chief purpose is to remove the rights of local governments to insist that ALL its citizen’s be offered service for the same price. HB 699 specifically forbids local governments from insisting on this in contracts to use the public’s rights of way. It legalizes redlining out “low-value” customers and will increase the digital divide.
  • Language in the bill, which BellSouth refuses to remove, will allow it, and AT&T when the current sale goes through, to exempt its cable service from paying ANY fees to local governments. This fees are substantial and losing them would inevitably mean raising local taxes.
  • The bill unconstitutionally allows Cable companies to break their otherwise legal contracts with local governments. The end result will be to further impoverish local governments.
  • BellSouth, and AT&T who is purchasing BellSouth, are frankly not to be trusted. The history of their opposing the Lafayette’s decision to build its own competing system–voted in finally 62 to 28%–was ugly and included deliberate deception. The current legal battles to prevent the will of the people from being carried out only demonstrates further how driven they are by pure self-interest. New Orleans’ post-Katrina wi-fi system met a very similar style of opposition. The interest of communities in Louisiana and the interest of huge telecommunications monopolies are not the same and our legislators should be encouraged to vote in their constituents interests, not the interests of a single company that would rather change the rules than play by them.

Please email or call.

Local Media: AOC show on Net Neutrality and the Local Cable Franchise

As important bills approach passage in both the Congress and the state Legislature the AOC show, News From the Underground, will air a live segment on telecom issues:

  • Net Nuetrality, what it is and why we should all care,
  • the survival of Local Access channels like AOC,
  • the fate of local franchising and with it local requirements to serve all for the same price

will all be discussed.

These are all issues which are before our representatives right now–and this is the moment when an understanding of what they mean could be

Tune into AOC-TV Channel 5 LIVE
Monday night, 9 to 10 o’clock p.m.

Host Ruth Yeager will have as guest John St. Julien (yes, yours truly), Mike Stagg, and a pre-taped segment from Ed Bowie, the AOC’s director. I’m sure the range of interests and personalities will make for a very interesting show.

(An earlier AOC show on net neutrality can be downloaded and watched in your browser or standalone viewer. I was a guest on that one and modesty aside, think it makes a good introduction to the issue. You can skip the first 8 minutes and 30 seconds in the show–that’s commentary from the Meet the Democrats host, Stephen Handwerk, on news that is pretty stale now.)

Decker on LUS

Bill Decker rendered his editorial judgment on the LUS fiber to the home efforts in the Advertiser this morning:

LUS still can succeed in its plans to offer telecom services here. It probably will. Even if it doesn’t, the municipal utility already has changed the competitive situation here in a way that still promises more choices, fewer regulations and lower costs.

He’s right about that, (except for the fewer regulations fantasy) and it is a huge movement in the direction of quiet sanity for the online editor of the local paper. Those of us with a long memory will realize how far he’s come from his first essay on the topic of LUS’ fiber plan which fulminated with strange darkness: “What’s next? A five-year plan? A hall of socialist labor heroes?”

We could get even more specific with our assertions that Lafayette merely planning to take control of its own destiny has benefited the community: there’s not been a price hike in Lafayette since the plan was announced; previously the price had been jacked up as much as 3 times a year. Note please, that this advantage isn’t limited to the city–the entire parish and beyond is benefiting from the mere threat of competition at the core of the metro region. Cox at least is clearly settling in for a real bout of head-to-head competition. BellSouth, regardless of its current flurry of self-promotion at the legislature as it tries to push through its state-wide franchising bill looks pretty dead in the water in terms of upgrading to the capacity that could challenge Cox, much less LUS.

Lafayette actually providing, rather than merely planning to provide, it’s own competitive services should bring even more benefits: actual price reductions rather than a stand-still regime. It should also move Lafayette to the top of the list when new technologies and services are developed–and even to being a testbed location for imaginative new services–would be a smart competitive move on the part of the incumbents. Decker’s continuing ideological blind spot also keeps him from mentioning one of the nicest by-products of taking control of our own destiny: restraining taxes. LUS’s fees for the services they offer, all of which will be freely chosen by members of the community, will generate non-tax income for the city and hold down the need for new taxes. Initially, while cable services are the lions share of the income, revenues will tend to balance out–income from cable subscribers will come from both Cox and LUS. But in later years as other services grow up that like Cox’s current VOIP or internet services do not count toward franchise fees we’ll be very glad to have an increasing income while other cities see that portion of their funding drying up. The best is yet to come.

Decker is right to think LUS will be competitive. The gold standard here is bandwidth and LUS will have enough to be able to offer all of the services any of its competitors offer and few more besides. It will be able to offer them at a higher speed and likely with better integration. They won’t have to be smarter or unusually aggressive to do this. LUS will simply have plenty to work with; matching and exceeding the competition won’t be hard.

I’m very much looking forward to LUS getting into the business. Not only do I expect better packages and better service but I am always pleased to be able to buy from local businesses. I’m happier making groceries at Breaux’s Mart than doing so at Target and prefer Guidry’s hardware to Home Depot. I think most of us feel thf same. No need to be fanatical about it, but when prices and services are equal are better who wouldn’t prefer to leave their money in local hands? It’s an old principle of economics that our parents understood better than we: buy local and build the local economy; in the long run we all benefit.

It’s not your property and we’ll put a refrigerator on it if we want to

Lousiana’s not the only state dealing with state-wide cable franchising laws. In California they’ve already got a law that shifts local control over local rights of way from communities and gives it to the state. They’re starting to see the effects of the first effects of the power grab.

Julie and Sean Whiteley have a nickname for the hulking gray box in the front yard of their Grand Fir Drive home. But it’s not an affectionate one.

“We call it ‘the refrigerator,’ ” Julie Whiteley said. “We were just talking about if we were going to hide it with landscaping.”

The metal box, which contains telephone equipment owned by AT&T, is one of many utility structures sprouting from residents’ yards, containing everything from electric transformers to cable TV connections.

They’re not being too dramatic when they call it a refrigerator; it is:

5 feet 3 inches tall, 43 1/2 inches deep and nearly 21 inches wide and be placed in the public utility easement, typically 10 feet in from the sidewalk.

You think you might object too? I sure would. But AT&T knows it can do what it wants to. It’s got a state-wide franchise. It’s not your property if a telecom company wants to use it (though you’re legally required to mow it, landscape it, and generally keep it up as though it were yours). It used to be you could appeal to your local councilman on issues like this. No more. Says Diamond, an AT&T rep:

“Under state law, because we have a statewide franchise already, we can upgrade our infrastructure in the public right of way,” said Diamond, who added he did not know how many of the large cabinets are planned for Lodi . “What it all comes down to is educating the cities on what we plan to do and how we plan to do it.”

That’s pretty big of them…they’ll “educate the cities” on their intent. And do exactly as they please with property they neither own, nor maintain, nor have any contract with the owners to use.

There is no reason to think AT&T will act any differently here in Louisiana when they own BellSouth.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Louisiana we can maintain local control of local property–if the public is willing to stand up and say that’s what they want.

Get in touch with your legislator and let him or her know you want him to vote against SB 699, the state-wide franchise bill.

Endless Lawsuits parts 27 & 28

Here’s the story, direct from the lead:

Attorneys representing two residents filed yet another appeal Friday in the Lafayette Utilities System fiber-optic legal saga.

Yet another. That’s pretty much all you really need to know. It’s all about delaying Lafayette’s fiber optic build.

The rest is only interresting if you can somehow find a way to make it at least marginally entertaining. Luckily there is an amusing aspect: The lawyers from Plaquimine are getting a little desperate to stay in the game. According to the story they are appealing a ruling that dismissed a request they made. At first that sounds reasonable. But then you find out that the reason the judge dismissed their suit is because (get ready): they’d already gotten what they asked for. They wanted the LPUA to adopt rules governing rate appeals. The LPUA did that last week. The judge pointed that out.

The amusing part? They’re suing anyway. You’ll hear me saying these guys will sue over anything to stop Lafayette…but I never expected such a dramatic conformation: They’ll even sue over getting their way. Go figure.

Less amusing: this filing just makes sure that they have an lawsuit, no matter how frivolous, active just in case Lafayette tries to sell their bonds and they need even a weak tool to buy a week’s worth of delay.

Not to worry; the story reveals that they’re planning to roll out yet another lawsuit. This one appealing their failed attempt to entagle the bond sale with the rate issue at the LPUA.

Plaquemine attorney Patrick Pendley, representing Naquin and Eastin, said Wednesday that they return to court to challenge a bond ordinance adopted in March by the LPUA and City-Parish Council.

Now I thought they were in the middle of a “suspended” hearing in Judge Rubin’s courtroom on that very issue. So maybe appealing that would be getting ahead a little bit. Even if the lawyers think they’ll loose in court it should be basic good manners to wait until the judge hears your case before appealing. Otherwise you and your clients appear desperately self-serving.

You, know this isn’t all that amusing after all.

“Debate: Is TV via Internet a ‘video service’?”

A very good thing has happened; major media is beginning to pick up on the real implications of BellSouth’s attempt to kill local cable franchising and transfer it to the state. That’s a necessary part of rousing the public to the dangers of the bill.

Michelle Millhollon at the Advocate has picked up on the central question in the ongoing debate over HB 699, the state-wide cable franchise bill being considered by the Louisiana legislature. It is an issue we’ve been pounding (2, 3, 4) here at LPF: Does the proposed law contain a loophole that will allow AT&T, when it completes its purchase of BellSouth, to refuse to pay a penny to cities and parishes in return for using their rights-of-way.

The straightforward answer is: it does.

The article cites Dan Garrett of the police jury association on the loophole:

Garrett is concerned that the “information services” language creates a loophole that could exempt telephone companies from paying franchise fees to local governments for providing television to consumers.

Garrett said he thinks the conflict in the bill’s language is a deliberate attempt to hoodwink legislators into thinking local governments would get paid for television services provided by telephone companies.

AT&T Inc. has contended in legal action in several states that it does not have to enter into franchises to provide Internet Protocol Television because it is a “information service” and not a “cable service,” Garrett said.

A lot turns on whether or not you trust BellSouth/AT&T. BellSouth claims that it will pay fees and that language in the law obligates it to do so. But BellSouth representatives consistently avoid dealing with the implications of clear language of the law. In the story, Boggs, a BellSouth representative evades dealing with “information services:”

But he would not say whether BellSouth — or its successor — will seek to have IPTV deemed to be an “information service.”

Boggs pointed to language in the bill that defines video services as including IPTV.

Garrett agrees with Boggs.

But Garrett pointed out that in the formula for calculating what is owed to a local government, “information services” is exempt from the definition of gross receipts.

He said BellSouth refused to have the exemption for “information services” removed from the bill.

“They could clear this up right away,” Garrett said.

Boggs said “information services” means e-mail.

Garrett is right. And Boggs is being evasive; deliberately evasive.

Garrett is right that as long as “information services” is excluded from the definition of “gross receipts,” and its legal meaning at the federal level not dealt with explicitly, the loophole remains regardless of other smoke-screen language. If BellSouth/AT&T would openly admit what it means on the federal level the only logical next step would be to explicitly waive that classification for their product in Louisianar. (Or to openly admit they plan to stiff everyone’s local government.) Not surprisingly, they just refuse to acknowledge the implications of their using that term in the law. That they won’t openly deal with this obvious issue is the best evidence that don’t want to provide real assurances that they won’t exploit the loophole.

Bogg’s evasion is simply not credible. The phrase “information services” is absolutely central to his company’s current business plan. BellSouth’s entire DSL/Internet business is built on the back of the FCC’s definition of this term. Without the FCC defining it out bounds for state and local regulation BellSouth would face the same rate regulation on DSL and the internet that it faces on phone services. NO competent BellSouth executive could possibly not be aware of how important the phrase is. Nor is it “old” history: cable modems were only recently definitively decided to be “information services” and that definition put the cable companies and the phone companies in direct competition. BellSouth DOES know what this means, contrary to any silly evasion that tries to limit its meaning to “email.”

LPF’s own Mike Stagg makes the point (and his testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee was no doubt a prime factor in prompting the story–way to go Mike!):

Mike Stagg, a Lafayette information technology consultant, said BellSouth will not be the one that determines what “information services” is because AT&T is in the process of acquiring the company.

Stagg said AT&T has been filing lawsuits or being sued in other states over whether franchise fees apply to its television service.

“I definitely do think there’s deception involved,” Stagg said. “BellSouth is giving assurances when they’re not going to have any say in it.”

This end run doesn’t only concern Louisiana. Much the same game is being played in Congress where a nation-wide cable franchise bill is in the works. The Advocate story reports:

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan asked AT&T to clarify what IPTV is.

Dingell wrote AT&T and asked whether proposed federal legislation to create a national cable franchise would exempt the company from paying a fee to local governments.

Timothy McKone, AT&T’s executive vice president, responded with a five-page letter.

McKone’s reply said: “If AT&T’s service were conclusively determined to be a ‘cable service,’ then clearly the service would fall within the ambit of the national franchise. If not, then AT&T would not be subject to franchise regulations under the Cable Act, including as modified by this draft bill.”

That makes it sound as if AT&T doesn’t have a hard and fast position on the question–it sounds like they are waiting to “find out.” But actually reading the letter makes it clear that it does have a hard position on it–and that, when forced, it is telling Dingell directly that its arguments DO amount to the claim that the federal bill (and hence our similar Lousiana bill) are exempted from regulation by the draft law. Here’s what AT&T says when pinned down by a US Senator:

As AT&T has explained in comments filed with the Federal Communications
Commission and elsewhere, its IP-enabled video service is delivered over a two-
way, switched broadband network that is designed to deliver a suite of integrated
advanced services, not just video. The video service itself is an inherently
interactive, two-way service that allows subscribers to communicate on an
ongoing basis with the network, tailor their video service to create a personalized
viewing experience, and integrate the video service with other services and
devices enabled by the broadband network. For these reasons, AT&T’s Project
Lightspeed, IP-enabled video service is not a “cable service” under section 602 of
the Communications Act, 47 D.S.C. § 522(6), which defines “cable service”, in
pertinent part, as a “one-way” transmission of video programming services.

AT&T’s video service is NOT a cable service and is NOT subject to regulation under the law Congress is considering because the Communications Act excludes it. And it won’t be covered under Louisiana’s law either. We need a legislator who’ll “do a dingell” on AT&T (NOT BellSouth) and ask whether AT&T thinks it is exempted from the franchise fee portions of the law its agents are promoting.

It all comes down to whether or not you trust AT&T/BellSouth to treat local communities fairly. Here in Louisiana we have the examples of the way BellSouth has treated New Orleans and Lafayette that teach us not to believe a word they say. The nation should learn from our experience.

Legislative Update 6-2-06

It is time for another installment of our legislative overview. With a little less than three weeks left in the session some bills are moving forward and others have effectively been abandoned. By far the most important bill left undecided is the state-wide cable franchise bill. Repeal of the Local Government Fair Competition Act, a theme early in the session is now effectively dead for this session.

Here is your updated list of muni-related telecom bills.

Repeal or anti-repeal in various degrees and flavors:

The Robideaux-Michot series of repeal-oriented bills and Ellington’s bills were to be withdrawn as a consequences of a deal cut between Lafayette and BellSouth. Michot’s have been officially removed from the calendar. Robideaux’s versions haven’t moved since the deal was cut and would seem to count as dead as well. One of Ellington’s bills was to remain as a vehicle for Lafayette to push for a restriction on “frivolous” lawsuits and perhaps other matters–that has yet to take shape.

  • 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–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–in Senate Commerce 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–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–in Senate Commerce, Wireless Exemption, Would exempt all wireless technologies from the Fair Competition Act. No action since 3/27
  • HB 1174, LaFonta–died in 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–awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor. 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 now extends 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 current version of the bill would raise that to 512 k.

Bills that would move cable franchises from local to state control

  • SB 386, Ellington–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 a vote on the Senate Floor. 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 bill contains an explicit exclusion for income arising from “information services” a federally defined category that excludes DSL and, AT&T claims, its IPTV services from local or state control. As a result of the passage of this law would be that when AT&T acquires BellSouth it would not be obligated to pay any of the local fees to use local rights of way that cable currently pays for that privilege. Vehemetly opposed by local governments. Intense lobbying effort underway by both sides.
  • HB 258, Farrar–in House Commerce. State Video Franchise-PSC, No action since 3/27. Would eliminate local video franchises and vest control in the Public Service Commission.

Emergency Telecommunications bills with implications for municipal broadband

  • HB 540, Burns–Pending Senate Introduction. Emergency Preparedness, Would mandate the development of a an emergency preparedness system. Lightly amended on the floor of the house.
  • HB 619, Burns–Pending Senate Introduction. Emergency PreparednessCoastal, Would mandate 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.

Cox internet service goes down [update]

[update: a slightly fleshed-out article developed from the newsflash discussed below was published this morning.]

According to a newsflash on the Advertiser site internet service for much of Acadiana went out this morning:

A routine procedure gone wrong,’ is the way Cox Communications is describing the outage which shut off telephone and Internet services for between 10,000 and 20,000 Acadiana customers this morning.

“Our television product is fine, but there was some maintenance done on some lines in a road-widening project and something went wrong,” said Sharon Kleinpeter, vice-president of governmental and public affairs for Cox Communications in Baton Rouge.

KATC says:

Internet phone lines are down for some residents in Lafayette, St. Martin, and parts of Vermilion and Acadia.

A peek at the cable map reveals that the description pretty much fits the whole Cox footprint in Acadiana. It makes sense that VOIP phones would go down with the internet services they depend upon.

I experienced this outage myself and have to say that it didn’t seem much like the simple line damage as Kleinpeter’s description would suggest. I cycled in an out of getting no signal at all. My issues persisted well into the afternoon. At times I could go to some places on the net but not others (most notably I could not get to this blog site all morning). For a while Google was impossible to use but Yahoo was fine. Some issues seemed like DHCP problems, others like more basic routing outages, and, at times, some of it did seem like dead line.

I’ll be interested in hearing the final explanation. 10-20,000 internet customers is a lot of customers out.