“Telecoms Sue Over High-Speed Links”

It’s the same all over dept.

The National Law Journal carries a summary article focusing on the propensity of the incumbent telecoms to sue when a local community decides to build its own high-speed fiber network. One of our own kicks off the story:

“It’s a national playbook. The longer they [telecom companies] delay things, the better for them,” said Patrick Ottinger, general counsel for Lafayette, La.

That’s precisely right and could stand as a summary for the entire article. But reporters, being reporters it goes on for quite a bit longer. And I have to admit that it is interesting to catch up on Lafayette’s friends in other places. Even if you do have to listen to the same old groaners from those who are trying to justify their delaying tactics. Does this sound familiar:

Attorneys for telecommunications companies say the litigation is needed because municipalities with the ability to borrow money cheaply — and not hobbled by the need to return a profit — have unfair competitive advantages.

“Our position has never been that it is unlawful for cities to do this, but you can’t use your powers as a city to create an uneven playing field,” said David Goodnight in Stoel Rives’ Seattle office, who has represented Qwest Communications International Inc…

The idea that a companies like Qwest, AT&T, or Cox could ever, under the most extreme imaginable situation, ever, ever operate at a unfair competitive disadvantage to some local utility is laughable. It is not an “unfair” competitive advantage to not desire to stick it to your community…it is the way that little local phone and cable companies used to think all the time. The enormous political and economic power that vertically integrated mulitnational corporations with effective monopolies in their core products wield makes their occasional local competitors look like flies… If a community utility wins customer loyality it’s because they’re offering a better, more desireable product despite the power difference that is stacked against them.

Also covered are legal entanglements in Utah, and Monticello, Minnesota–our comrades-in-arms at the other end of the Missississippi are facing a delaying lawsuit that is reminiscent of those Lafayette had to push through.

(Tip o’ the hat to my local legal informant.)

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