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Telco Sues City For Plan To Roll Out Own Broadband 681

Posted by samzenpus
from the forcing-the-hand dept.
Syngularity writes 'MaximumPC is featuring an article about one broadband provider's decision to sue the city of Monticello, Minnesota after residents passed a referendum to roll out their own fiber optic system. TDS Telecommunications had earlier denied the city's request for the company to provide fiber optic service. During the ensuing legal battle, which prevented the citizens from following through with their plans, TDS Telecommunications took the opportunity to roll out a fiber system.'
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Telco Sues City For Plan To Roll Out Own Broadband

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  • That'll learn 'em. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@@@exit0...us> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:45AM (#29908827) Homepage
    Next time the town should be more careful about granting exclusive contracts.
    • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:13AM (#29909069)

      Easier said then done..

      Outside of large metro areas where we might be lucky if we have 2 options, most smaller areas are outright monopolies. I personally do not consider DSL broadband anymore, then again I have FIOS :) ....

      I believe that the municipalities should put in the backbone connecting all the housing and business infrastructures of an area with their choice of networking, then lease that to the telcos and ISPs, that way, anyone who wants entry into the market just has to provide the infrastructure up to the municipal peering locations.

      That would provide competition.. and easier entry for non incumbents...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by socsoc (1116769)
        Even in major metro areas, good luck. It's usually between the local telco and cable operator. If you're really lucky there's a third game in town and hopefully at least two of them service you. I'm so fed up with AT&T that I canceled their DSL and Comcast doesn't service my block (in the middle of a metro neighborhood), so I'm basically fucked.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        "...then lease that to the telcos and ISPs..."

        FAIL

        "...then lease that to whoever wants to provide service..."

        FIXED

        That's the kind of thinking that gets you into these constricted agreements.

        Perhaps some building owners would like to contract for service. Around here (Phoenix), Qwest bundles DirecTV with DSL and POTS to entice us to jump ship and kiss cable goodbye. A complex could certainly negotiate a deal.

        Of course, in Tempe, the municipal WiFi failed spectacularly. The provider didn't complete the net

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by corbettw (214229)

        I believe that the municipalities should invest all of the capital in the costliest part of rolling out broadband, then lease that to politically connected telcos and ISPs at costs so low the bonds used to build the network in the first place will never be repaid, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill

        FTFY.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dissy (172727)

      Next time the town should be more careful about granting exclusive contracts.

      What was given by the government, can be taken away by the government.

      It is just sad they do not do so when the other side has so clearly violated the terms of the exclusive contract.

    • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @10:07AM (#29909737) Homepage

      Next time the town should be more careful about granting exclusive contracts.

      Exclusive deals usually go sour before the ink is dry. It's not a new problem and if it were easily solved, it would be solved by now. Here's the obligatory quote summing up the problem:

      "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped or turned back, for their private benefit."
      --Robert A. Heinlein

      It's tenacity probably owes something to shortcomings in human nature and the inability of society to self-correct in those areas.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:48AM (#29908851) Journal

    Problem solved. Actually I bet just the threat alone would be enough to make TDS fall on its knees and obey the government.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by COMON$ (806135)
      Ya that is just what we need Gov't run backbones. That will solve ALL the problems, we would have to fear the big brother antics of major corporations or "father knows best" mentalities...

      Sorry I am not a tinfoil hat person but even I think this asking for trouble.

      • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:42AM (#29909421) Homepage

        I appreciate your fear and concern about government run communications networks, but there are constitutional and other laws in place to ensure that whatever the government does in terms of snooping or investigating is available to public scrutiny. One way the government uses to get around this is by asking non-government entities to do the spying for them.

        I think the concerns are the same regardless of who is running the show. But in this case, especially, it was the community at large who pushed for the creation of a fiber infrastructure. I think there would be less to fear from this particular government body than from the typical self-appointed/self-anointed government players we typically see day-to-day.

      • by remmelt (837671)

        Though your point is fair, the other side is what you have now. Bottom line is (short term) profit measured in dollars American, not customer satisfaction or cultural significance or being leaders in the online community or any of that socialist crap. Shiny green dollars.
        So what if you live in a moderately large city without a good deal on dsl? So what if your neighboring city does have decent broadband? So what if your connection is flaky? There is no competition due to the exclusive license and the way to

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @08:59AM (#29908933)
    I think the best Facebook group ever is 1 Million Strong Against our SOCIALIST Fire Departments:

    For too long now, fire departments across the United States have been SOCIALIST organizations, resulting in TAXES on the American people.

    FACT: Most Americans never use the socialized services of the fire department. We have the best fire departments in the world in the US, but that doesn't mean that anyone (even non-US citizens) should be able to dial up and have fires put out, etc. There are private companies (Halliburtion, Etc.) who could step in tomorrow and take over every fire department in America and charge the consumer directly.

    This is AMERICA. NO FREE FIRE SAFETY.

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in asbestos and carrying a fire hose."

    This is THE new political movement in America. The Birther movement and The Teabagger movement have FAILED. We are The Flamer movement, and we are succeeding at tearing down ALL forms Socialism - starting with our Fire Departments.

    Please tell everyone you know about this group.

    When it comes to ObamaFireCare, remember, we are: Taxed Enough Already For American Red Truck Socialism.

    "This is America. Pay to Spray." - Member Susan Weinberg

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      This is the most funny post I have read about the wingnuts and their search for a cause. You win the internet ... oh wait, that might be anti-Flamer as the internet was built by the government
    • Umm, yeah, we don't need them. Volunteer fire departments are more efficient and don't bankrupt cities with the longstanding obligations they create, as they have in California, and now in Houston.

      When I had a house fire a few months ago, the first truck on the scene was from a volunteer fire department, and they got there something like 3 minutes after 911 was called. Damn efficient, and at no cost to the taxpayer.
  • by dunezone (899268) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:05AM (#29908985) Journal
    I used to live in a Tri-City area outside of Chicago. The three towns were going to go in on a municipal internet system that would have provided TV, Phone, Internet, over fiber-optic.

    Comcast did a massive advertisement campaign against the system and how if it failed we would foot the bill. They also had techncians out for three weeks straight installing new lines across the town. When it came to vote in my city of the three city's it failed 6000 votes to like 7500 votes, the funny part is, if the 6000 people who voted yes bought into the system and the system lasted for 5 years it would have paid itself and would have become self-sustaining.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      So, rather than deploy it as a government system, why not deploy it as a non-profit cooperative?
  • Ha! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:08AM (#29909013) Homepage Journal

    My company actually did some of the design for this. Now I know why they wanted such a fast turn around time on it.

  • by figmagee (1183813) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:10AM (#29909037)
    has had a municipal fiber-to-the-premises system for the past two years. I doubt I would have been alive long enough to see FIOS rolled out, particularly since the outfit that Verizon dumped^H^H^H^H^H^H sold their landline infrastructure to, Fairpoint, has just filed bankruptcy. Comcast, the only other game in town, has been howling to the state regulators about the sheer UNFAIRNESS of a publically-owned body actually implementing something that they had no intention of providing (in their neverending quest at maximizing shareholder value). Most recently, certain parties (first two guesses don't count) have been agitating to have the city shut down Burlington Telecom over perceived financial malfeasance. After all, it's downright UN-AMERICAN to have such an important piece of infrastructure exist without money flowing into corporate coffers!
  • Privitization (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:11AM (#29909047)
    Can you imagine what this country would look like if we had treated paved roads like we have treated much of the rest of our infrastructure (i.e. only allowing private companies to build and maintain them). Does anyone honestly think we would have an interstate system today (or even standardized road signs) if we had followed that model?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Actually, for a period of America's early history there were many privatized roads - the word turnpike actually comes from the idea of having a pointy gate (resembling a row of pikes) that is turned aside to let a horseman or wagon pass only after a toll is paid. I'm not sure if any toll roads today are privately operated, but it is the same idea.
      • Re:Privitization (Score:4, Informative)

        by griffinme (930053) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @10:25AM (#29909983)

        I used to live near one of those in suburban Chicago. It was still called Plank Road. An excerpt from a local paper (http://www.ledgersentinel.com/article.asp?a=5946).

        "The roads were financed by private, state chartered corporations, in which stockholders expected to make a profit. Tolls, generally a penny a mile for a one-horse buggy or wagon and an additional half-cent for every other animal providing the power. Up in Wisconsin, driving from Milwaukee to Green Bay via the plank turnpike cost $3.78—a not inconsiderable sum when government land was selling for $1.25 per acre.

        Here in Kendall County, Oswego was the target for two plank road ventures. According to “A History of the County of DuPage Illinois” published in 1857: “The Naperville and Oswego plank road was laid through the central part of this town [Naperville]. The projectors of this road thought to facilitate the communication between Oswego, Naperville and Chicago...The road was completed from Chicago to Naperville, but no farther. The project was a failure; the stock was worthless, for people would travel by railroad. The material of which the road was constructed is now being torn up and converted to other uses.”"

    • Re:Privitization (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:49PM (#29912381)

      You don't have to imagine what the country would look like - there's actually a neat historical example in Germany for this. At the end of the 18th century, Germany was splintered into many local city states, and had approximately 1800 customs barriers. The impact on traffic and goods was so blatantly obvious to everyone that the states voluntarily abandoned their individual independence and formed toll coalitions.

      The people who argue for privatization of everything are merely ignorant of history. Most of their ideas have been tried already, and abandoned because of their catastrophic impact.

  • by Simulant (528590) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:17AM (#29909119) Journal

    ... on what grounds TDS sued the town? This is not explained in the article.

  • by Rolgar (556636) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:19AM (#29909145)

    I'm as free market as anybody, but wiring is infrastructure, and I don't have a problem with infrastructure being provided by the government. Let the local government, through the power utility, run fiber optic to everyplace that receives power, unless a private company provides a 100MB connection to the house for less than $20. That 100MB line should have low enough latency to provide live TV and VOIP phone connections. If the private companies won't build a better product than can be provided publicly, they shouldn't expect protection from competition.

  • So what we've learned from this is that if a city wants to get fibre deployment in their area, all they have to do is threaten to do it themselves. Then private companies will fall all over themselves to provide the services immediately.
  • free market (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:48AM (#29909489) Homepage Journal

    So, they're not friends of competition, are they?

    50-100 years ago we had this collective dream of free markets, capitalism, solving our problems.

    Then, corporations found out that the actual free market is bad for profit margins. Once they grew powerful enough, they started changing the game.

    Events like this should have the capitalists and free market supporters up in arms. But it doesn't. Why?

  • by HikingStick (878216) <z01riemer AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:57AM (#29909577)
    Telco Sues Municipality For Laying Their Own Fiber on Friday September 12 2008, @08:28PM http://tech.slashdot.org/story/08/09/12/2326251/Telco-Sues-Municipality-For-Laying-Their-Own-Fiber [slashdot.org] Your Rights Online: Judge Tosses Telco Suit Over City-Owned Network on Friday October 10 2008, @08:23AM http://yro.slashdot.org/story/08/10/10/1243212/Judge-Tosses-Telco-Suit-Over-City-Owned-Network [slashdot.org] Telco Appeals Minnesota City's Fiber-Optic Win on Saturday November 08 2008, @11:15AM http://yro.slashdot.org/story/08/11/08/1532237/Telco-Appeals-Minnesota-Citys-Fiber-Optic-Win [slashdot.org]
  • Greenlight (Score:4, Informative)

    by jDeepbeep (913892) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:59AM (#29909613)
    This is a very familiar story, that we have seen play out with Greenlight [greenlightnc.com] in Wilson NC.
    FTTP, up to 100 symmetric bandwidth, and the telecoms threw a freaking fit, and did their best to annihilate municipal broadband, and failed to stop it.
  • by kenp2002 (545495) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:59AM (#29909615) Homepage Journal

    The Constitution defines the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. All other powers are reserved for the state. Nothing, even in looking at the founding father's writings imply that LOCAL GOVERNMENT cannot compete with private industry. The City of Monticello is not, despite the suprising ignorance shown here this topic, part of the Federal Government.

    The City is more then capable of telling you what colors you can paint your house, where you can and cannot plant trees, and so forth. The issue building permits and license everything from the number of dogs you can have to how often you can water your lawn. They also can restrict businesses from opening from granting licenses to zoning requirements.

    Cities and Counties and even States run and operate businesses as far back as the 13 colonies. We have Police Depts, Fire Depts, various inspectors (electrical (state), building (city), surveyors (county), assessors, DNR, etc... All of which can be hired in the capacity of a business in the form of permits and special services (Fire dept. will burn a building down for you, police can be hired for security for special events, etc.)

    The sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of what the Constitution of the United States actually does is astonishing. The fact that when I was in high school and we were required in social studies to actually read the federalist papers compared to the teachers now that, "that stuff is nothing but a bunch of lies" thank you teachers union in district 622 here in MN speaks on how much misinformation exists on the purpose.

    Of course I expect little from my home state now, we've elected a wrestler and now a bad comedian. Perhaps Louie Anderson can run against Frankin... Hell I'd be happy to have KKKKAAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN! KKKKKKKAAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN!!!! tossed out...

    For those that do understand the Constitution, kudos for keeping the arguments rooted in reality.

    • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @11:08AM (#29910665)

      Don't knock the comedians. Most comedians are very intelligent people, and as knowledgable or more than the averaged informed person. They are so intelligent, in fact, that they long ago realized that the best way to put out controversial statements is through comedy, that the best way to combat ridiculousness is not by shouting it down, but through ridicule.

      You can't say certain things and get away with it, but comedians can in their routine. Why do you think the Daily Show and Colbert Report are so popular? They say the things that we're all thinking, but we can't say for fear of the repurcussions. You don't see people calling Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert unpatriotic when they constantly derided Bush and co. But any other public figure would've had hell to pay had they said the same thing, on or off the air.

      So don't go knocking comedians. They make people think while making them laugh.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:30PM (#29912017) Homepage

      Al Franken wasn't elected because of his comedy work exactly. Starting with Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot he used his comedy celebrity to engage in political advocacy. You may disagree with his politics, but he does actually stand for something, and if you read his books and listen to his speeches he'll let you know exactly what he stands for.

      I mean, if we're going to have a "no celebrities in politics" rule, then obviously Ronald Reagan should never have been president, but often the same folks who vilify Senator Franken for being an ill-informed celebrity are the same folks who wanted to name an airport after Reagan.

  • It's like the electric companies taking the city to court for allowing a band of citizens from using solar panels to get their electricity.
    Seriously, they are way too greedy, and need to be reminded how this works. If citizens bought the optic fiber and lay it down at their cost from house to house, to share within their own network , the advantage of using optic fiber, then so be it, how can you say they do not have the right, especially if it was voted on and passed as a bill by the council themselves. Th

  • by bryanp (160522) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @10:12AM (#29909799)

    My available options for broadband in my home?

    Comcast and TDS.

    And yes, I get better customer service from Comcast. Which should tell you something about TDS.

  • Link to the Decision (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rageon (522706) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @10:16AM (#29909855)
    From the text of the decision, this was the telco's argument:

    Bridgewater's statutory claims focus on two provisions in Minn.Stat. 475.52, subd. 1. First, Bridgewater contends that Monticello did not have the statutory authority to issue the bonds because the Fiber Project is not a “utility or other public convenience from which a revenue is or may be derived.” Minn.Stat. 475.52, subd. 1. Second, Bridgewater asserts that Monticello intends to improperly apply the bond proceeds to pay current expenses, which is explicitly prohibited by the statute. Interpretation of these statutory provisions is an issue of first impression in Minnesota.

    http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/ctappub/0906/opa081928-0602.pdf [state.mn.us]

  • by Sun.Jedi (1280674) on Friday October 30, 2009 @12:07AM (#29920479) Journal
    ... a well placed town backhoe trench. Oops.

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