Feeds

US telco: 'Public broadband is illegal'

Judge: 'Pull the other one'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Like dozens of other communities across America, the tiny town of Monticello, Minnesota wants to build a fiber-optic broadband network. In September of last year, its citizens approved the project via referendum, with 74 per cent of voters giving the nod. But thirteen months later, its fiberlicious dream is still on hold, thanks to a lawsuit from the incumbent phone company.

Monticello - population 12,000 - had no intention of using tax dollars to finance the network. It issued bonds. But with its May lawsuit, TDS Telecom - which is also building a fiber network - argued that the city has no statutory authority to do such a thing.

Christopher Mitchell - a kind of public network watchdog for a non-profit known as Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) - has seen this before. "You get these lawsuits in almost every community that tries to do this," he tells The Reg. "The phone and cable companies perceive it as a direct attack. They don't want competition."

Thankfully, the tactic rarely works. Yesterday, Judge Jonathan Jasper, of Minnesota's 10th District Court, shot down the TDS lawsuit, ruling that Monticello does indeed have the authority to build its own bond-funded network. TDS is still mulling whether to appeal.

According to Christopher Mitchell - who heads ILSR's "Telecommunications as Commons Initiative" - fifty or sixty US communities have launched their own public fiber projects, from Lafayette, Louisiana to Burlington, Vermont. "Vermont is known as liberal and Lafayette is on of the most conservative cities in the United States," he says. "So it runs the gamut."

Of all the phone and cable lawsuits brought against these projects, Mitchell doesn't know of one that's actually succeeded in quashing a public network. But he says that such suits often work as a delay tactic: "Lawsuits are destructive because they waste time, disrupting business plans, and put a city behind on its debt payment schedule."

Many suits claim that public networks put the taxpayer at risk. But in the case of Monticello, tax dollars weren't touched. TDS argued that Minnesota law did not specifically authorize the city to issue revenue bonds for broadband. "It was very clear that the statute authorized a telephone network or a cable network," Mitchell says. "But TDS alleged that the law did not allow them to offer internet service."

The statute does allow the city to issue bonds for "other public convenience." And Judge Jesper has confirmed that fiber-optic broadband does indeed qualify as "other public convenience."

"The [Monticello fiber-optic] project is similar to the express grant of authority given to cities to construct a telecommunications system and the goal of the project fulfills the expressed legislative intent to bolster telecommunications services," the judge wrote in his decision. "The project is not different in character from other utilities the municipality is authorized to build through the issuance of bonds."

TDS tells us it has 30 days to appeal, as it continues to lay its own fiber. "This decision does not impact our current work in the city of Monticello," the company says. "We will continue to move forward with our construction plan to complete our fiber network by the end of the year.

"We are confident our technical expertise, dedicated employees and long-term experience will prove to be a solid competitive advantage for TDS as we move forward bringing advanced communications services and innovative new products to the citizens of Monticello."

Meanwhile, the city of Monticello's fiber funds are sitting in escrow - where they'll stay until TDS runs out of appeals. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
'Serious flaws in the Vertigan report' says broadband boffin
Report 'fails reality test' , is 'simply wrong' and offers ''convenient' justification for FTTN says Rod Tucker
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
Apple Watch will CONQUER smartwatch world – analysts
After Applelocalypse, other wristputers will get stuck in
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.