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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DEC 19 So Bobby Jindal, who is generally unavailable to the Louisiana media on stuff like, oh, the budget, education, health care, is all up in the Phil Robertson thing. Apparently, he can comment if he thinks it will get him some national press. Here's his statement, on WAFB. If you missed it, Phil Robertson has been temporarily suspended from the Duck Dynasty program after he compared homosexuality to bestiality in a GQ interview. (He also talked about hoeing cotton with happy, singing black folks "pre-entitlement" but hey, one thing at a time.)
DEC 19 The same day a BP engineer was convicted of obstruction of justice in the first criminal trial related to the spill, here's a report from NOLA Defender about oil from the spill being found in a tar mat. So far, crews have removed 750 tons of the gunk from Fourchon Beach, the post tells us. Seems that whether it is in court or in the Gulf, this story is far from over.
DEC 19 Tyler Bridges writes in the Lens about higher education and a behind the scenes fight that is going on. It's no surprise that Louisiana's higher ed institutions should be fighting over dollars -- because they've all sustained such devastating cuts over the years of Bobby Jindal's administration. But now it turns out UL, LSU and SU are teamed up to fight a Regents' funding plan, he writes. It's very interesting -- but also embarrassing -- that universities have to do this in Louisiana.
DEC 19 Here's a post on the Education Week blog about the auditor's critical report on our voucher program. The lede is buried, as it was in most of the Louisiana media's stories: In 97 percent of the schools reviewed, the auditor could not tell how voucher funds were spent. In other words, there is no way to find out how these private entities spent our tax money. This is OK?
DEC 19 Shortly after a state audit found myriad problems in spending and oversight of the state's voucher program comes this story in the Picayune about an expansion of it. The Walton Foundation (founded by the owners of Wal-Mart to fund the progression of their idea of what America should be) made a grant to the Alliance for School Choice, and some of those millions will be coming to Louisiana, the story says.
DEC 19 Columnist James Gill writes about the (allegedly) unintended byproduct of a law passed last year, ostensibly to protect the gun-toting rights of upstanding citizens. What is also happening is, it is allowing felons to get guns as well, Gill writes. See, that's the problem with laws: They apply to everybody, not just people you like.
DEC 19 Columnist John Maginnis writes about John Kennedy, our state treasurer, and how he loves the headlines. Kennedy's treasurer gig has allowed him to set himself up as the watch dog of our state dollar, Maginnis writes, but it is clear Kennedy wants a bigger job: Governor.
DEC 19 Jim Brown blogs about the recent tax amnesty program in this week's post. If you're a Louisiana taxpayer, you'd be nuts to pay those taxes on time, he says. If you don't do that, eventually you'll be able to pay them at a deeply discounted rate, and without penalties or fees, he says. But, he points out, we're not really talking about peons like us. Roughly 80 percent of the back taxes were collected from businesses. Interesting.
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