Veto Message

Governor Blanco’s veto message is now up on the web. Take a look–what she ends up endorsing is everyone collaborating on a model local ordinance.

Sounds interesting–and like a real win for local communities.

It’s worth noting that as bad a policy as this bill would have made–so it seemed utterly sensible to veto it from the point of view of supporting local communities and not entrenching the digital divide–it wasn’t easy for the governor to decide to override the legislature on this; important political supporters–not the least BellSouth itself–urged her otherwise. A note of thanks would always be in order. (She’s gonna get a bunch of the other sorts of letters…) You can sound off in suport at:

Governor VETOS Video Bill!!


Governor Blanco has vetoed HB 699, BellSouth’s state-wide video franchising bill.

John Hill, writing for the Gannett papers confirms what an anonymous commenter at this site said this morning: Governor Blanco vetoed the bill late last night. Apparently this took place at at 11:35 last night. From the article:

House Speaker Joe Salter, D-Florien, said following a telephone conversation with the governor at mid-morning that she mentioned scratching four special appropriations and the cable competition bill that proponents said would lead to cheaper television services.

The house sponsor, Montgomery, says he was informed around 11:00 this morning (so our anonymous informant had the news before he did).

This is very good thing–as regular readers will no doubt recall Lafayette Pro Fiber has taken a hard stand against this bill and encouraged others to do the same. It was a bad bill that gave away local options to corporations that had demonstrated that they did not have the best interests of Lousiana communities at heart. The Governor’s veto means that the state will have avoided embarrassing itself by making red-lining state policy. Local governments, the ones that actually maintain and own the property that BellSouth wanted free reign to use as they please can still make any sorts of bargains with BellSouth (soon to be AT&T) that are in the best interests of their citizens. And they may decide to enter into contracts that resembles the clauses of the late HB 699–but that will be their choice and not a one-size-fits-all choice dictated by the state that clearly served only the interests of a monolithic phone monopoly.

It’s a good day for Louisiana. Congratulations go out to all who worked on this issue! It was a long shot from the beginning and what turned it around was that the people who saw how unjust the law would be refused to back down or give up.

Down to the Wire

Just when you thought it couldn’t be put off any longer it turns out that we’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear whether or not Governor Blanco will veto the state-wide video franchise law. According to the Advertiser:

Although the constitutional deadline was midnight, the governor has an additional 24 hours to notify the clerk of the House.

“We will make the announcements Wednesday,” Roderick Hawkins, Blanco’s deputy press secretary, said Tuesday…

Blanco and her staff were trying to sort out worthy projects from the frivolous, a sometimes difficult task as the added projects had no explanatory language accompanying them.

Also backed up against the deadline was the bill that would make it easier for telephone companies to offer television services in competition with cable companies, House Bill 699 by Rep. Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton.

The Advertiser misses the real issues, of course. It’s pretty clear that the sort of competition that sold the bill to the legislature–the promise of lower prices–is not something that AT&T has any intention of following through on. When talking to investors and banks rather than legislators they are clear on the fact that they have no intention to get into “a price war.” And we hear similar comments from the cablecos. It’s a classic duopoly situation. No, the real reason for this bill is, as we have insisted here from the begining, to allow AT&T/BellSouth to cherry-pick only the most profitable (read: wealthy) areas to serve. Only local governments, with their stubborn insistence that if the corporations wanted to use commonly owned property for their private profit they’d have to serve all the owner, stood in their way. What this bill changes, and very little else when it comes down to it, is to cut local governments out of the equasion.

And to make red-lining state policy in telecommunications.

Legitimating BellSouth/AT&T’s bad business practices is not a worthy purpose for state legislation and the bill should be vetoed on that ground alone.

On the Governor’s Desk

BellSouth’s HB 699 –the statewide video franchise bill that makes redlining an official state policy– remains on the governor’s desk and action on it is going to go down to the wire. The deadline for action is midnight tonight or it becomes law without her signature.

According to The Daily Advertiser:

Another controversial bill awaiting final action is one that allows cable television competition. After the Legislature approved it, mayors from around the state urged Blanco to veto it, claiming that the bill would trample on their authority and cost them huge sums in cable contracts.

Most of the reporting this morning is over a website tossed up by a Baton Rouge man which channels anti-“pork” emails to the governor. He hopes that will move the governor.

We’ve had a similar hope: that emails will move her to veto HB 699. But a phone call would be even better. (Havn’t been following this one? More info can be found in an earlier post.)

One last time to the trough:

  • 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.

Advocate Brief on Veto Deadlines

The Advocate carries a brief bit today on the possible veto of the no-good, very bad video franchise bill pushed through the legislature over local objections.

Terry Ryder said 16 bills were pending action as the weekend started, including the budget and state construction program, one that could shield nursing homes from budget cuts and a cable TV competition measure.

So far, the governor has publicly announced the veto of one measure. Ryder said several other bills have been vetoed but phone calls are being made to proponents and reasons for the vetoes written for delivery to the House and Senate.

You can still add your voice to those who’d like to make sure that one of the bills that the Governor is making polite notifications calls letting sponsors know she has vetoed them is HB 699.

See the bottom of this recent post (correction!-that should have been this post) for the list of phone numbers and email address through which you can let Blanco know your mind.

Coops for the Last Mile?

Here’s something to think about: Ownership of the last mile of network connectivity. In Lafayette we’ve already thought some about this–and decided that the alternative of an advanced, publicly-owned last mile network should be available to our citizens. We got there the old-fashioned way: via a fight with incumbent providers who refused to provide what the community wanted.

Robert X Cringely has joined a chorus of folks in the national debate in asking if its not time to consider a solution to the net neutrality problem that cuts the big guys/bad actors out of the control of the crucial last mile of the internet. Monopoly/duopoly control of the last mile is all that gives them the power to insist on organizing the net to maximize their profit.

The insurgent idea comes down to folks in the last mile forming Cooperatives (like Slemco but probably smaller), to fund the build with cheap loans from the likes of Microsoft and Google and to simply bypass the incumbents in enough places to force them to act like free enterprise entities rather than monopolies. It’s a structural rather than regulatory solution.

Cringley has put up a short list of links to some of the proponents of the ideas–and once you’re started you can find more discussion on the net–so if you want to spend a part of your day creatively exploring the possibilities I’d be interested to hear what you come up with. (I’ve got my own opinions, natch, and will try and put something up on that when I make it back to town.)

Cingular accused of deceiving customers

What happens to the customers when AT&T takes over a competitor? According to a recent set of reports on a class action lawsuit filed against Cingular (ironic, eh? poetic justice, no?) the picture is pretty ugly. That’s not reassuring as the South braces for the buyout of BellSouth by the newly reconstituted AT&T.

According to the accusations Cingular failed to maintain the customers’ network as promised and “nickel and dimed” the customers with transfer fees and by forcing them onto new phones.

The lawsuit, which alleges breach of contract and violations of consumer protection laws, seeks class-action status on behalf of the more than 20 million customers AT&T Wireless had at the time of the merger. Many paid $18 “transfer” fees to switch to Cingular plans and were required to buy new phones or pay other fees, said the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

“Everyone who signed an AT&T contract had their service degraded,” attorney Mike Withey said at a news conference Thursday.

In a strange twist of corporate irony, the company accused of abusing AT&T Wireless customers will soon to be AT&T Wireless again.

Cingular is supposed to take on the name AT&T Wireless after the takeover of BellSouth. BellSouth is currently a 40% shareholder in Cingular and it is widely bruted about that AT&T is not buying BellSouth for its Southeastern network–which is losing marketshare and lines every year–but to gain full control of Cingular which is making nice piles of money.

The switch to the name AT&T Wireless makes sense in a way–when SBC bought AT&T recently it took on its historic name. Having AT&T in the name of both the wireline and the wireless services would unify the brand. What’s a little odd is that Cingular bought AT&T Wireless back in ’04 and didn’t take the name then. The scuttlebutt was that it had become damaged goods.

The experience of AT&T Wireless customers does not bode well for BellSouth’s customers. AT&T customers could, at least, wait out their contracts and jump ship for a competing wireless service if they wanted. BellSouth’s landline customers will have no such alternative.

Municipal Broadband a Threat

Analysts at Pike & Fischer say: Municipal Broadband Will Pose Growing Threat to For-Profit Operators.

The analysis concludes that muni nets — depending on the type of broadband technologies used — could grab up to 35% of the market share for video, fixed voice and high-speed Internet services, and up to 20% of the mobile-services market.

That’s a pretty succinct rendering of the competitive threat that municipalities provide the private providers. BellSouth and Cox have always talked out of two sides of their mouth on this. Mostly the incumbents have claimed that “of course” municipal broadband must fail–even in the face of the success of municipal electricity.

But if that were really true why did they go into panic mode to oppose it instead of just sitting back, competing it into the ground and taking over the network at pennies on the dollar? They fought like tigers because they knew that what they were telling the public was not true. They knew that municipalities could take significant market share, and even more importantly, drive down prices.

The combined effect of taking market share and lowering prices could be dramatic:

Cable operators, DSL providers and other incumbent broadband service providers could eventually see their revenues fall by as much as 48% due to competition from city-run broadband networks

And, of course, part of the danger is that publicly funded municipal services wouldn’t be analyzing the value of their networks solely in monetary terms. A different metric–one that private providers seem incapable of matching unless they are small and local–would be in play:

“The competitive impacts of municipal broadband will be especially threatening to incumbents to the extent that muni nets can be cost-justified by increased efficiencies, cost-savings and other ‘internal’ or ‘social’ benefits captured by local governments, schools, and other public institutions,” the report states.

That’s a lot closer to the truth than any stuff that will be feed you by the local duopoly.

They’re panicked about the competition and they don’t tell us that because they don’t figure we’d be very sympathetic.

And we’re not.

BellSouth’s Cable Franchising Bill

Well folks we’re in the last days of waiting for Governor Blanco to decide whether or not to veto, sign, or allow HB 699 to become law without her signature. She has (and you have) until July 10th, next Monday to act.

We’re hoping for a veto, of course. The law remains a terrible one that strips local governments of the control of its own property, transfers that control to the state, which then does nothing with it other than to free mostly BellSouth/AT&T of its previous obligation to serve the whole community instead of only the most profitable parts. It’s a bad idea on its face.

The fact that AT&T, the company that is buying BellSouth and to whom the excess profits of this law will flow, has always promised that its services will NOT be cheaper than cable’s means that even the promise of “competition” for the rich won’t save anybody much money. In truth what this bill will do is to bolster AT&T’s bottom line at the expense of the “lower value” neighborhoods and rural communities.

While those essential elements of the bill have not changed and remain a firm basis for repeal, opponents should be heartened by the changes the public outcry has wrought. The most appalling add-ons to the core bad idea have been stripped from the bill: a self-interested new state bureaucracy has been stripped away, the fee loophole that BellSouth designed for itself appears to have been closed, and the ability of corporations to ignore the local government owners of property it uses has been narrowed. Public outrage has made a difference in this bill.

Public outrage might yet spike the whole thing. She heard from the public earlier, recently she heard from the state’s parish and municipal leaders. In these last days she might well be waiting to see if the concern about this bill will fade. Your job is to make sure that she understands that you (and your friends) haven’t forgotten about it:

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.

Municipal broadband and wireless map

CNet, back when it did it’s article on municipal broadband, produced a nifty map of all the public municipal telecom projects in the country. It was a great idea. Trouble was it wasn’t all that accurate on day one and rapidly became outdated to the point of being misleading.

It was a poster child for the consistent web problem of not updating or taking down pages with rapidly changing data.

That’s changed–at least for now. The page has been updated, it appears to be basically accurate about what it references for those areas that I know something about (for instance Louisiana is now listed as a state with a restrictive law and it catches some obscure rural wifi attempts). And, happily, the page now contains a “last updated” tagline which will allow future users who stumble across it to know the age of the data.

Take a look, you’ll be surprised at how many projects there are…not everyone is willing to wait for the big boys to come in to offer the service they need.