Lafayette Utilities System’s ultimately successful bid to create LUS Fiber is used an example of municipalities triumphing over powerful corporate tele-communications companies working through the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington lobbying group that has gotten a lot of bad press recently.
In an article headlined “ALEC Wants You To Pay 750 Percent More For High-Speed Internet,” writer Zaid Jilani offers a compelling account of how ALEC, working through elected officials at the state level and backed by a king’s ransom in corporate money lavished on those lawmakers in the form of campaign donations, throws up roadblocks to prevent projects like LUS Fiber from ever getting off the ground:
ALEC also unsuccessfully worked to undercut a public broadband system proposed by the city of Lafayette, Lousiana. ALEC’s Louisiana state chair (a legislator) introduced a bill that would’ve placed onerous restrictions on how the city could use fiber-optic cables to provide cheap broadband. The broadband-undercutting bill “almost word for word, matched a piece of legislation kept in the library of the American Legislative Exchange Council.” The most damaging provisions of the bill were removed before it was passed, and major telecom companies sued to try to stop Lafeyette from building its system anyway. Fortunately, they lost.
The “Louisiana state chair” of ALEC cited in the article was state Rep. Noble Ellington, a Dem-turned-Republican from Winnsboro who was term-limited out of office after last year. This week the current (actually, recently former) state chair of ALEC, state Rep. Greg Cromer, R-Slidell, resigned from the group.
ALEC widened its mission in recent years to promote, among other things, laws purportedly aimed at combatting election fraud — legislation critics argue is really aimed at suppressing voting blocs that typically vote Democratic — as well as so-called “stand your ground” gun laws. The group recently announced it will pull away from such extraneous efforts and focus on “pro-business” legislation after major players like Coke, Pepsi, Kraft Foods and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation withdrew their membership.
Published on the website PublicReport.org, the reporting arm of the nonprofit, nonpartisan United Republic, the article peels away the layers on legislation from ALEC’s bag of bills that, at the behest of major, for-profit telecom companies, is designed to make it practically impossible for municipalities like Lafayette to create their own broadband networks. Essentially, ALEC provides model legislation that state lawmakers then customize to their own states. ALEC’s raison d’etre could be succinctly be characterized as “Just Privatize It Already!”
In a revealing and lengthy article from Bloomberg Businessweek published last December — an article that begins with the sentence, “Joey Durel likes to describe himself as a private-sector guy.” — reporters Brendan Greeley and Alison Fitzgerald chronicle the fight to establish LUS Fiber against the strong resistance of ALEC and its corporate masters.
The Businessweek story, titled “Pssst ... Wanna Buy a Law?” can be read here.
Click here to read the PublicReport story published this week.
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AUG 29 Everyone who cares about Louisiana should take time to peruse this story about coastal loss from Bob Marshall of The Lens. It's not enough to call it a story; it's an interactive experience packed with data and amazing graphics, timelines, history, photos and excellent writing. Set aside some time, because you can't go through this one in a few minutes.
JUN 29 This bizarre story from the Advocate on the shooting of a Baton Rouge television personality reads like the script of a soap opera - but not a good one. The allegations against him include sexual abuse of children, including the alleged shooter, and a sham immigration marriage involving his own daughter. The other side? He was a chaplin for the Sheriff's Office in Baton Rouge and preached in a local church.
AUG 29 Here's a story from CBS News about a killer amoeba found in the water system of St. John the Baptist Parish. The story made all three networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) as well as Fox "News," although they have not yet found out how it is Obama's fault. Seriously, the good news is that so far officials know of no one sickened by the water.
AUG 29 Huffington Post has a blog called Love Letters, which is grandly described as "an anthology of reflections on places the world over." This entry is from LSU Football Coach Les Miles, who, it appears, loves Baton Rouge. (Of course he does; he's a rich straight white man.) And certainly Baton Rouge loves him - unless he loses (ask Curley "Golden Flake" Hallman about that) or leaves (ask Nick Saban).
AUG 29 Blogger Bob Mann comments here upon Governor Bobby Jindal's federal lawsuit about Common Core. Mann calls it a "thinly veiled campaign document" and that might be the nicest thing he says in this post. Most troubling for Jindal and his aspirations, Mann has unearthed what Bobby said just a few years ago when he first decided to shove Common Core down our throats.
AUG 29 Blogger Tom Aswell has several developments here related to the so-called Edmonson amendment. The most entertaining one is possibly Tom's acknowledgement that a State Police official is (allegedly) calling the bloggers covering the story some colorful names. Listen up, cowboy: You really think two veterans like Tom Aswell and CB Forgotston care if you call them idiots?
AUG 29 Gotta love those journalists who write something with the enthusiasm that implies they're the first one to figure something out. Mostly, they're not. This is one of those times; the post on Slate Magazine says that Bobby Jindal's Common Core lawsuit is a political stunt. Well - Duh.
AUG 29 This story by WVLA tells us about a guy who got busted for speeding in Baton Rouge. Who cares? This guy took that infraction to new heights by going 129 miles per hour on Nicholson Drive. Poor fella - he probably has spent so much time sitting in Baton Rouge traffic he just had to cut lose.
AUG 28 As the controversy surrounding the Office of Group Benefits intensifies, blogger Tom Aswell gives us some background on the current problems. The OGB, which handles health insurance for current and retired state employees, is deep in the red since it was privatized by Jindal, and Aswell gives us the skinny: this great plan was designed by ALEC. The company handling it? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana - a longtime member of ALEC.
AUG 28 Blogger CB Forgotston has a concept for a new reality show: the wives of the "Dork Dynasty." That's the name that some troopers have given to State Police Commander Mike Edmonson and his inner circle. The ladies CB has picked for his cast are not just housewives, however, and the connections here are pretty interesting.
AUG 28 Blogger Ian McGibboney is writing about the strife in Ferguson in this post, and articulating what many people down south are saying. There's a fairy tale about how there's tons of racism in the South, but it's all hunky dory up North. (Really? Look again.)
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