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The Courts Government Communications Networking News

Judge Tosses Telco Suit Over City-Owned Network 281

Posted by kdawson
from the why-not-sue-the-state-for-building-roads dept.
tsa sends along news of the city of Monticello, Minnesota, which was sued by their local telco, Bridgewater Telephone Company, because the city chose to build a fiber optics network of their own. The judge dismissed their complaint of competition by a governmental organization. Quoting: "The judge's ruling is noteworthy for two things: (1) the judge's complete dismissal of Bridgewater Telephone Company's complaint and (2) his obvious anger at the underfunding of Minnesota's state courts. Indeed, the longest footnote in the opinion is an extended jeremiad about how much work judges are under and why it took so long to decide this case."
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Judge Tosses Telco Suit Over City-Owned Network

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  • by mfh (56) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:24AM (#25326859) Homepage Journal

    IANAL, but the second part is a warning to TDS against trying to waste more court time. The judge is saying that he's busy enough and therefore if TDS tries to revisit this, it would be another costly loss.

    TDS lost a lot of money going after the city. They also lost a lot of revenue because they are now going to try and compete with the city (lol). And they lost the support of their community, who knows they sued the city for unwarranted tax dollars, and taxpayers love bailouts.

    • by electrictroy (912290) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:27AM (#25326897)

      Cry me a river.

      They lost money.

      Oh well! UPS and FedEx lose money every day competing against the government's postal service, and yet they both seem to be doing quite well. Instead of trying to use government to give Bridgewater Telephone a guaranteed monopoly, maybe they should take a page from UPS/FedEx and learn to compete.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:30AM (#25326921)
        We can't have any competition that may actually lead to adequate service
        • by jav1231 (539129) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:32AM (#25326929)
          Exactly. Now they're saying, "Well now the town will have 2 networks!" Yeah, you have to COMPETE now Asshat! WTF do these people come from?
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Probie (1353495)
            had it to easy for two long!
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Do you really consider it competition when the government can arbitrarily cripple your business as need be?

            And what if I don't like either service. Where's the 3rd company? Oh, that's right, companies aren't allowed to lay their own fiber - government restriction. You call this competition?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              And what if I don't like either service. Where's the 3rd company? Oh, that's right, companies aren't allowed to lay their own fiber - government restriction. You call this competition?

              I wouldn't say the government can prevent usage of easements for cabling. But they sure can make it a pain in the ass for the company. However, should they prevent usage of the easements, that could be fought in court. So to use easements, you should have some cash in the bank.

              • So to use easements, you should have some cash in the bank.

                Exactly. You would need more money than you would under an entirely free system, so here we have government manipulation of the economy dissuading the existence of competition.

                • True. But you really can't start any business without capital of some kind. (minus the "did my own web page pimping out my coder skills")

                  And with the credit market like it is....well, it'll be a while for new business growth.

            • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 10, 2008 @10:48AM (#25328449) Homepage Journal

              Why would the government arbitrarily cripple a business? Besides the fact that if they did, they would be sued.

              COmpanies lay their own fiber all the time. Yes there are government rule regaurding this, but considering they need to rip up roaads, dig through property, and use the underground infrastruture that makes sense.

              BTW, the 'Government' needs permission to do this as well.

              I mean, really. How do you think the first company got fiber in the first place?

              Yes, this is competition. And no one has to guarantee you a service the meets some standard you want...except government agencies.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by skulgnome (1114401)

              Well, that's the market for you. The government represents the people. The people should be an equal actor in the marketplace, on the same line as a huge ugly telco.

              I don't see anything wrong with that. It's called democracy and a free market (long as the telco isn't charged, you know, customs fees).

              Or would you rather have a stagnant one-pony market, where the best available Internet connection is something like a 128 kbit/s ISDN that you pay per-minute _and_ per-megabyte charges for? Because that's what y

        • by jgtg32a (1173373) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:58AM (#25327191)
          Only on /. would sarcasm be marked as Insightful
      • by SneakyMishkin (1298729) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:33AM (#25326937)
        You had better take a look at this http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2007/06/13/canadapostups.html [www.cbc.ca]. UPS didn't WANT to compete, they wanted to sue. Just like everyone else.
      • Do you send regular mail through UPS or FedEx? No. I don't know about you, but I'd trust them more with my mail than the USPS. I've had so much shit lost/stolen in transit (valuables, loan applications, etc), I'm always surprised when something makes it through. If the government got out of the business of providing a poor, unprofitable service, businesses with an interest in profit could take over and make them profitable, more efficient, and more reliable.
        • by mweather (1089505) on Friday October 10, 2008 @10:27AM (#25328213)

          If the government got out of the business of providing a poor, unprofitable service, businesses with an interest in profit could take over and make them profitable, more efficient, and more reliable.

          More likely private industry would take over the profitable routes dropping all the unprofitable ones, making the service much worse than it already is.

          • What is this based on besides wishful thinking? Look at the history of the light bulb and the early development of the electric grid, and you'll see people making profit while providing a service to everyone.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Research the rural electrification project and ATT's subsidies for universal service. Then look at the bitching over Greyhound dropping routes that are both unprofitable and the only ones touching some small towns.
        • In my experience, I would tend to agree, as it seems (in my area, anyway) UPS/FedEX carriers are lazy, USPS carriers are stupid and lazy.

          The USPS people constantly misread names/building, report false delivery attempts in their tracking system, crush/fold/spindle/mutilate things into the mailbox, forget to leave the "pick this up at the office" cards, etc.

          I once a couple years ago had a USPS package travel from (on its way to me in Virginia) the point of origin in Kentucky through Ohio->Maryland-> Tex

        • I've got a friend who lives on a street called "Southbenton". But there's also a street called "Benton" that has north and south ends. It took him weeks to get his HDTV. He said he's actually watched the FedEx guy drive past his house to the next block, and later found that his package has been marked as a failed delivery because no one was home, even though he was at home. And this happened several times with the same package.
    • TDS lost a lot of money going after the city. They also lost a lot of revenue because they are now going to try and compete with the city (lol).

      For any competent private company, it is very easy to compete with the city. Hence the original suit.

    • by 91degrees (207121) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:46AM (#25327049) Journal
      Costly? They got one of their staff legal team to draft a complaint to tie them up in court for a while. TDS never wanted to win. Just to slow the city down.
    • by Gewalt (1200451) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:19AM (#25327389)

      This was no waste of money.

      They didn't "lose" money on the lawsuit. They "made an investment". The whole point of the lawsuit was to give them a head-start in the competition against the city. They just wanted to tie the cities coffers so they could start their fiber roll-out before the city did. They succeeded in this goal, so their "investment" paid off big time for them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Altus (1034)

        Have they started rolling out fiber?

        Because I know if I were a big wig in this city and this company was stopping this project, I would make a point of having their permit applications for fiber installation conveniently "lost" behind various pieces of office furniture.

        If this gave the telco an opportunity to get ahead its only because the city didn't play hardball.

        • by Gewalt (1200451)

          Have they started rolling out fiber?

          Yes, according to some other article I read on some other site, they have already accomplished 10% of their planned 200 miles of fiber runs. Meanwhile, the municipality could not access the funds it needed to purchase the supplies to begin the project.

  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:49AM (#25327087) Journal

    A jeremiad is by definition an "extended critique".

    May the Grammar Nazis have mercy on you.

    • by LMacG (118321)

      Merriam Webster disagrees - "a prolonged lamentation or complaint ; also : a cautionary or angry harangue"

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:52AM (#25327119) Homepage

    I imagine that the telco must have had to get permits to lay their own fiber. The government could have blocked those requests until the result of the case was decided, thus cancelling-out the telco's attempt to delay the government and get a head start. I wonder why this didn't happen?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:08AM (#25327269)

      Because blocking legitimate requests for development is generally not allowed. I know California has strict time limits for certain actions, and if no action is taken within a given period, there is the possibility for legal repercussions.

      In other words, a jurisdiction can't just say "we don't like it, go away" or "wait until we have what we want." There have to be actual grounds to put something on hold, or even more to deny a project all-together.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by afidel (530433)
        Here's justification for you: The soliciting party is engaged in a lawsuit against the city over a similar plan by the city, until the lawsuit is concluded the city is unsure of how they will move forward with their deployment and if the soliciting parties proposal will interfere with the cities plans. Once the lawsuit is concluded the city will finalize their plans and evaluate the soliciting parties request for permission to dig, the city will provide a detailed plan to the soliciting party no later than
        • How is that relevant to a city permitter? He'd be as likely to suggest that the city and telco collaborate on their digs and share the cost. Shocking, I know.
      • by cHiphead (17854)

        But its not a legitimate request when it is made simply to keep the municipality in question from starting while the litigant stalls implementation. If the requests were made in advance of the municipality deciding to build a network, fine, if not, they should have been required to wait until the dispute was resolved.

    • by hey! (33014) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:08AM (#25327275) Homepage Journal

      Which would actually support the plaintiff's assertion that the government is abusing its regulatory powers to secure an unfair competitive advantage.

      • The government by definition secures an unfair advantage every time politicians accept any bribe, enforce any monopoly through the restriction of competition, or otherwise manipulate the economy by supporting arbitrary causes (related to the bribes I already mentioned).
    • by michrech (468134) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:21AM (#25327409)

      Probably because there was no reason to deny them the permits they needed. To do so would have been a corrupt, let alone shitty, thing to do.

      I don't know about the rest of the world, however, if I were a city entity involved in a lawsuit with a telco company, I'm going to do everything in my power to be seen as treating people (especially those suing me) as fairly as possible. You don't want to get a pissed off judge any ammunition to use in his/her making an example of you. That, and it's just the right thing to do, and I wish more people felt that way.

      • To do so would have been a corrupt, let alone shitty, thing to do.

        But when it's convenient, surely you can throw all principles and rights out the window! ;)

  • I know. (Score:5, Funny)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@exitUMLAUT0.us minus punct> on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:53AM (#25327125) Homepage
    Let's all send the judge $5.00.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      According to Wikipedia, "As of September 2008, the world's population is estimated to be about 7.0 billion (7,002,000,000)."

      Somehow I don't think the judge should get 35 billions dollars for his verdict.

    • by bendodge (998616)

      I think that's called bribery.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 10, 2008 @08:53AM (#25327135)

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet...

    This gives other community precedence in other lawsuits across the nation.

    Once one telco falls, hopefully the other lawsuits will fall also, just like a row of dominos.

  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:00AM (#25327199)
    Because, let's face it, what every telco wants is to provide all communities of 12,000 people with fiber to the house. What a load of crap. TDS was doing their dog-in-the-manger act, and now is only putting in fiber as an act of revenge.
    • What a load of crap. TDS was doing their dog-in-the-manger act, and now is only putting in fiber as an act of revenge.

      Business as usual at $US_PHONE_COMPANY

  • I'm surprised... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:10AM (#25327283) Journal

    Usually a smart telco doesn't sue, they simply bribe the legislature [acluutah.org] into restricting their municipal competition (bottom of page).

    (Basically, Comcast and Qwest bribed the Utah legislature into stopping their multi-muni competitor, UTOPIA, in Utah. The Utah ACLU's letter against such action is here: http://www.acluutah.org/utopia.htm [acluutah.org])

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Let's not be one-sided now. Those companies may have offered the bribe, but the legislature accepted it, and is now enforcing the monopoly. Who's the bigger offender here?
      • Personally I think that being a corrupt government official should be called treason. Corrupting a government official should also be considered treason.

        • Corrupting a government official should also be considered treason.

          How do you "corrupt government officials"? Please explain. Are they puppies without minds of their own or the sense to reject bribes?

          If the government was banned from economic intervention, there would be absolutely no incentive for companies offer any bribes.

  • jeremiad ? (Score:3, Funny)

    by CPNABEND (742114) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:25AM (#25327467) Homepage
    Um, my vocabulary includes FORTRAN, COBOL and BASIC. Couldn't you have said "bitch" instead of "jeremiad"?
  • by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Friday October 10, 2008 @09:46AM (#25327681)
    "jeremiad", now that's what Mark Twain would have called a 10-dollar word. I love it, and now I can dump my 10-cent word "rant".
  • Maybe the judge will have to start working 5 day weeks or holding court past 3 PM.

    Here's an idea to help: just start summarily dismissing criminal charges where there's no victim.

  • The article attached to this piece has a very interesting one liner, "We sue because we care." If only people believed that hogwash. The only reason Bridgewater sued Monticello was because if Monticello had deployed that network, Bridgewater would be out of business. It has nothing to do with care or concern for the citizenry but concern about profit and loss. The only reason Bridgewater was placed in this situation to begin with was because they were not going to spend money to improve the poor quality
  • It sounds like we have a candidate for a solution to our overly litigious society - underfunding of the courts.

  • Indeed, the longest footnote in the opinion is an extended jeremiad about how much work judges are under and why it took so long to decide this case.

    Clearly, this demonstrates the inefficiencies of public services compared to private. If the court systems were run by big business, such problems would be eliminated.

    Hearing this from 'big business' would not surprise me in the least.

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