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Telco Sues Municipality For Laying Their Own Fiber

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the we're-here-to-help-and-we-brought-lawyers dept.

Networking 408

unreceivedpacket writes "Ars Technica reports that a company called TDS Telecom is attempting to sue the town of Monticello, Minnesota for deploying their own fiber network. Shortly after the town voted to lay the fiber, TDS Telecom filed suit and notified the town that they would be deploying their own fiber network. The telco has recently responded to Ars Technica, saying they only sued to save Monticello from itself, apparently feeling that the municipality is unprepared for the onerous costs of maintaining such a network, and would lack the expertise to do so."

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Craziness (5, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986235)

Expect to see the telecom draw out this lawsuit as long as they can possibly take it (think SCO here) and deploy their own network in the meantime, then sue the town again if they try to lay their own network thereafter for tortious interference with business practices or other such legal BS (IANAL and don't know what statutes they could use).

Craziness. I hope a judge knocks this down quick, but I'm not optimistic.

It's basically the company telling the town, "Stay the fuck out of our business or it'll cost you dearly. It's our monopoly, dammit."

Re:Craziness (3, Interesting)

erareno (1103509) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986253)

I hope the town counter-sues with anti-trust suits just to screw with this company.

Re:Craziness (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986777)

town doesn't have money to keep fighting legal battles.

Re:Craziness (5, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986827)

Sad...I am pretty much for the smallest, most unobtrusive, non-invasive govt possible, especially for the feds, but, I do feel one of the few things govt. is for, is infrastructure...and to me that would be laying down phone lines, cable and fiber...but, not have them run it. The companies could then have access to them to provide services and have actual competition. Much like the govt. puts down highways...but, private companies run the gas stations along the way....

Doesn't surprise me one bit (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986599)

Much of the populated areas of Monticello resemble an industrial park. Whoever is in control of that fiber is in for some serious cash from the plants that have setup shop there. This will be a damn interesting battle, the city will fight this tooth-and-nail.

Corporatism (1, Flamebait)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986651)

And the neocons say unregulated capitalism isn't destroying our democracy. Eisenhower, how we miss thee...

Re:Corporatism (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986747)

You don't have unregulated capitalism. That would actually be a good thing. While there is a government there is no unregulated capitalism. without a government this wouldn't even be an issue.

Re:Corporatism (2, Interesting)

decoy256 (1335427) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986785)

Indeed, the problem is not capitalism, but corporatism. Corporations are artificial entities created, supported, and given special privileges by government. Capitalism, on the other hand, encourages vigorous competition and everyone is on an equal playing field. With capitalism, everyone wins... with corporatism, a few win and everyone else loses big time.

Re:Corporatism (1)

rho (6063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986771)

Uh, the only way this suit could happen is if the municipality granted monopolies via utility easement regulations.

I mean, it sucks, but attempting to link it to your own partisan purposes makes you a dick.

"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (2, Funny)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986247)

please someone tell me that this is a f@ckin joke.

Re:"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986431)

Well yeah it's a fuckin' joke, just not the "ha ha" kind.

Re:"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986605)

Oh. I get it. Less like a rubber chicken and more like rubbing a chicken.

I'm not sure how that applies to the telco. But I suspect it does.

Re:"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986643)

Less like a rubber chicken and more like rubbing a chicken.

Exactly. With one of them, you're having the time of your life. With the other one you're stuck with a dumb rubber chicken.

Re:"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986805)

Of course they're serious. Everyone who tries to take away our right to choose always has the same excuse: that we'd be better off if we did things their way. Thanks but no thanks.

Re:"they only sued to save Monticello from itself" (2, Informative)

Tmack (593755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986811)

"they only sued to save Monticello from itself"... please someone tell me that this is a f@ckin joke.

The town should look up Dalton Utilities [dutil.com] , Dalton Ga. for some good legal fodder. Back in the late 90's when I was still there working as an engineer in a carpet mill over the summer, they were deploying fiber while pulling new power lines to the mills, mainly for their power monitoring systems. Thus they had a fiber backbone across most of the city before the dot com boom/bust. Using this as a starting point when the internet took off and people started demanding faster broadband, they started deploying FTTH in 2002.

Tm

Down with 'em (0, Redundant)

ohxten (1248800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986255)

Down with the telco!

what? (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986259)

I read TFA and I still have no idea what the legal basis of this claim is. Does anyone have any idea on what grounds they are suing?

Re:what? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986293)

I read TFA and I still have no idea what the legal basis of this claim is. Does anyone have any idea on what grounds they are suing?

On the basis that any suit will cost the town more than it will the telco, if not in dollars then in time. The article explains this quite clearly (make sure you read both relevant Arsicles).

Re:what? (5, Informative)

Red Jesus (962106) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986335)

FTFA:

Bridgewater Telephone argues that the city cannot use tax-exempt bonds to "enter into direct competition with incumbent commercial providers of telephone, Internet, and cable television services."

The city decided to lay cable. Bridgewater Telephone interrupts, "Too bad, because that would put you in direct competition with our cable. The word `incumbent' is probably the reason this argument won't work. Bridgewater's cable did not exist at the time of the city's decision and, in fact, it does not exist now. But according to TFA you say you've read, that's the legal basis of the claim.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986345)

You can sue anyone in America for anything. Now whether you'll win or not, that's a different story.

Basis for the lawsuit? The usual... (0)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986385)

On the basis that if the town were to install a network and the telco had some actual competition in the marketplace, they might not be able get away with screwing the customer. (Just a guess, based on historical experience with monopoly cable companies, Ma Bell (back when it was a nationwide monopoly), utility companies, etc.)

Re:what? (5, Informative)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986449)

Revenue bonds.

The telco is saying that the town would not be able to -even- -think- about building a fiber network if it was taxpayers money footing the bill(many of whom may not utilize the service).

Because bonds are being used, and the business model pays for itself with little financial risk to the town, the telco is saying its an unfair business advantage.

Imagine that... a town with the intellect and means to provide a service the people actually want, and are willing to provide it the way the people actually want it.

suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

I hope the town wins. Hard, and fast.

Re:what? (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986467)

Except you can't sue the government. Federal and State governments have sovereign immunity: they cannot be sued, except on the basis that they have explicitly allowed.

This doesn't apply to city governments though. Residents of Monticello should be expressing outrage with their state legislatures and getting them to pass legislation that will stop the Telco in their tracks.

Re:what? (3, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986603)

We don't need more legislation. We need the judicial branch (ie, the court the suit is going into) to do it's job. Whether that would lie in the town or the telco's favor, I won't side - but this is not something legislation should fix.

Re:what? (3, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986675)

Sure it should. If there is a law that makes what the city government is doing illegal, the legislature can repeal the law.

Re:what? (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986687)

Where I live you have to have a telecommunications carrier license to provide telecommunications services across property boundaries. I used to work for the state road authority and we laid fibre along freeways because we owned all the land. I could get in trouble over this for letting neighbors use my wifi.

Maybe the municipality needs to get a license to lay the cable? They might be okay along road alignments they control but they may be crossing property boundaries at some point.

Phew... (3, Funny)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986261)

If only we had more good corporate neighbors like this that solved our own problems and did our thinking for us so we don't have to.


Good lookin' out, TDS. Cough.

TDS Is An Effing Joke (2)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986263)

They prey upon the rural subscribers here in Oklahoma, they charge horrendous rates for telephone service and charge long distance charges that rival what they charged back in the 1980's...you pay out the nose for these idiots...want to piss them off, move to Vonage or Skype. Fuck you TDS.

Re:TDS Is An Effing Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986517)

TDS Is An Effing Joke

What are you? A soccer mom?
No wonder governments like censorship if people censor themselves.

Re:TDS Is An Effing Joke (3, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986629)

And who are you?? Fucking George Carlin?

If the guy wants to be a namby pamby who can't say what he means, then leave him alone.

Inane (5, Insightful)

runlevelfour (1329235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986277)

In a nutshell the telco is suing the city with the justification that they are protecting the city from itself? I think I would have a lot more respect if they just came right out and said they didn't want the city as competition. If you're going to be a greedy soulless corporation then be one for crying out loud. Knock off the fake altruism because no one is buying it. And I recommend they hire a better legal team. Every soulless corporation requires a top notch crack team of lawyers to distort and manipulate the law in their favor. "any utility or other public convenience from which a revenue is or may be derived." I know next to nothing about law but even I can see this is cut and dry. The city raised bonds to provide what is definitely a public convenience, yet the telco sues anyway. Unfortunately I think their tactic is to try and get an injunction then keep the case in court for the next two decades.

Re:Inane (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986371)

In a nutshell the telco is suing the city with the justification that they are protecting the city from itself? I think I would have a lot more respect if they just came right out and said they didn't want the city as competition.

In the same statement they said that was the SECOND reason for suing the city.

Re:Inane (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986569)

I think I would have a lot more respect if they just came right out and said they didn't want the city as competition.

You mean you have any respect at all for a telco??? Can I perhaps interest you in some prime bridge property in Brooklyn, NY?

Re:Inane (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986639)

Uhhhh, actually ... back then, many bridges were privately owned, and the owners charged tolls. So, it wasn't quite as stupid to consider buying into a bridge as people think.

Re:Inane (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986691)

I bet you're a real hoot at parties.

Re:Inane (3, Funny)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986749)

I bring my own lampshade. Can't rely on the host to have one that fits.

So Just.... (4, Insightful)

mikerubin (449692) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986289)

How do towns set up a municipal electric service without being sued?

More importantly, how many speeding/parking/jaywalking tickets does this Telco plan to get when passing through town?

"they only sued to save Monticello from itself, " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986305)

oh yeah right... how considerate
why you CAPITALIST PiGs!!!

Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (5, Insightful)

mrbah (844007) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986319)

Why let a town build a network with taxpayer money when you can build a network with that same money, then charge them again for using it? It's the classic telco business model.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986513)

Why let a town build a network with taxpayer money when you can build a network with that same money, then charge them again for using it? It's the classic telco business model.

I think you are missing a very key point, here. It's true that telcos were paid government funds to build a significant part of the telephone network. But it's also true that in the vast majority of cases, those parts are the UNPROFITABLE parts.

Let's say you have a water pumping service, doing business in town, and you're making whatever profits you are making. For this example, we'll ignore the fact that most communities have community water. Business is good, you're expanding to cover more and more houses, starting with the most profitable ones first. (densest neighborhoods)

But then de gubbmint comes in and tell you that you have to do a bunch of stuff in order to continue to do business, because of the benefits to the general health of the community or whatever. For example, since you provide water to some houses in your town, now you have to provide water to ALL houses in your town.

Now, it's not as though you wouldn't love to serve all the houses in the town, but some of those houses are over a mile apart! Just the cost to dig the pipes out that far will cost you over $10,000 per house! Since you are charging $50/month for water service, it's going to take almost 20 YEARS before you even break even on the base cost, nevermind the finance charges you'd incur to borrow the money to deliver the service the gubbmint requires!

And you can't charge the homeowners, either - they aren't buying anything, they didn't ask for it, and making them pay would be onerous on them, too.

So, in circumstances like these, it's very typical for the private company (your water company) to ask for funding to assist in the problem areas. It often comes as a sort of deal: Your water company enjoys a monopoly status, subject to various regulations that you have to perform, in exchange for funding to cover the plumbing for the unprofitable areas.

So the net effect goes something like this:

1) Your company is now a monopoly that must turn in a Profits and Loss statement, along with proof of regular water testing to the city council every month or so. You cover 100% of the houses in the community, and you have no effective competition. One of your concessions is that the municipality can levy taxes via your bills. You have to calculate this bill, and turn over the tax money to the city quarterly.

2) The city has now satisfied its goal of everybody having 100% availability to clean drinking water. It's paid for costs of plumbing by taking out a bond, secured against a tax raised against people's water bill.

3) Everybody who lives in the community now pays a 5% monthly tax on the water bill to cover the cost of plumbing outlying areas. Financially, it's a raise in your bill if you were already contracted with the water company when it was all private, it still brings benefits such as improved local economy resulting from the improved infrastructure.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (2, Insightful)

baffled (1034554) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986725)

It often comes as a sort of deal: Your water company enjoys a monopoly status, subject to various regulations that you have to perform, in exchange for funding to cover the plumbing for the unprofitable areas. ... The city ... paid for costs of plumbing by taking out a bond, secured against a tax raised against people's water bill.

How is enjoying a monopoly an exchange for receiving tax dollars to build out your infrastructure?!

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (2, Interesting)

rho (6063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986797)

Because otherwise it wouldn't happen?

Or maybe you'd like to be out there digging ditches and laying pipe for free. Sounds to me like you're willing. You should start cold-calling mayors.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (2, Interesting)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986843)

You get the tax dollars to subsidize the cost of supporting those outliers; the monopoly is natural and is frequently accompanied by regulated profits.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (2, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986731)

The thing is, once those pipes are dug, the outliers are just as profitable as the town center (on a per capita basis anyway. The outlay is a once-off cost, but the monopoly lasts forever. Neither of which matters in this case, because it sounds like the telco hasn't even bothered building the infrastructure, it just plans to in the future.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (2, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986755)

They took the damn money, so they ought to build the network. If they don't, then they shouldn't only allow others to do their job, they should be forced to return the money.

And they haven't been doing the job that they took the money to do.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986789)

Where do I sign up to have the unprofitable parts of my life paid for by someone else? I could sleep in a lot more if only the lost revenue was taken care of.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986807)

but some of those houses are over a mile apart! Just the cost to dig the pipes out that far will cost you over $10,000 per house!

And to think some of us still drink that dirty old free water that comes out of the ground. How backwards.

Re:Support The Municipality (We're Onto You) (3, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986831)

It works rather differently here in outlying parts of Los Angeles County, and I'm sure this isn't unique:

The local water companies charge $15k to hook up to the water network, plus a monthly usage bill.

However, they've lately taken it a step further: If you live within one of these private water districts, drilling your own well is now prohibited (even in very rural areas). In fact, if you have an existing well and it is shut down for ANY reason (even something that would normally be temporary) -- you are prohibited from restarting your well, and you MUST hook up to the water company's system.

Needless to say, this gov't-enforced enhancement of their busines model makes the little local water companies delerious with joy.

Now, if you're starting from no water at all, they're not a bad deal compared to a well -- their water usage rate costs about half what pumping it yourself does, and the hookup cost is about 1/3rd of the price of a new well. But if you have an existing well, and are forced to switch over, you just got robbed of the $40k+ it cost you to drill it, plus the $15k charge for new hookups.

(And no, this isn't hearsay; it's straight from a conversation I had with the president of a local water company.)

Well in that case (3, Funny)

treeves (963993) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986321)

...the municipality is unprepared for the onerous costs of maintaining such a network, and would lack the expertise to do so

It was right magnanimous of 'em to sue.

Thanks, but no thanks (4, Insightful)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986337)

How is this any different than a town building a road. A solid internet infrastructure is just as important to city/state growth as a the transportation system. It's just simple.

"No fair, I can't compete with the state." is not a good enough reason for me to care about your problem. Things like this would have been used to stop building the Interstate system in late 50s. Reasoning like this has allowed the infrastructure of the US to suffer, because someone companies are magic beings that solve problems and the government just ruins your life.

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986417)

The difference is that any Tom, Dick or Harry can go out there and install roads, sidewalks, sewers, water pipes, or put up a building.

But Fiber is different. It's sensitive and you need expensive electronics that you just can't buy on the street corner. And you need to install it and make sure it doesn't bend too much and all kinds of other really technical things. Things which are way more technical than what the city is doing already.

Cities have been doing plumbing for centuries. This electronic stuff is new, and cities have absolutely no experience or track record for installing or maintaining it. Therefore, they should never be permitted to do so.

Right?

Not.

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986823)

I worked for the state road authority here in Victoria, Australia. We did a lot of electronics and employed a few talented techs. When we wanted to lay our own fiber for CCTV we sent the techs away to learn how it was done. Its not hard if you have a background in technology. If you don't it should be possible to find a qualified contractor to do it for you.

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986477)

How is this any different than a town building a road. A solid internet infrastructure is just as important to city/state growth as a the transportation system. It's just simple.

Actually, a better analogy is the power transmission industry. This is exactly what happened in the early days of electric power, with power companies suing cities and trying to lobby to pass laws and bribe officials to prevent cities from rolling their own... even when those same power companies were unwilling to invest in serving those cities.

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986657)

Have you forgotten that the government is a MONOPOLY? That governments get to take your money whether you want to pay it or not? Contrast that with competing companies that have to persuade you to part with your dollars.

Yeah, competing companies are magic beings (although of course they don't mean to be) and the government just ruins your life )when it tries to do more than keep the peace).

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (3, Funny)

stinerman (812158) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986753)

Yeah, competing companies are magic beings (although of course they don't mean to be) and the government just ruins your life )when it tries to do more than keep the peace).

You're not a LISP or Scheme programmer by chance, are you?

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986783)

(nil)

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986833)

I hope not 'cause you have some dangling parens up there)

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986837)

As long as there is going to be a monopoly anyway, the government is the best one to have.

Utilities always end up being (local) monopolies because infrastructure cost makes competition pretty much impossible.

Freaking retarded (5, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986351)

My boss lives in a town that has had their own utilities for over a century and they have stellar service and prices are lower than the crappy monopolies provide. It started with their own power station and over the years they added phone, cable, and fiber internet services. If they need service they get local people that actually care about fixing their issues and local students can get internships that teach them marketable skills. All this and they pay much *less* than the government granted/privately run monopolies in most surrounding areas. A good example of the non-financial benefits this has provided include the fact that they were one of the few communities to have power during the great NE blackout of 2003. Basically it comes down to the fact that there is a certain cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure, and if you let a monopoly private business run it you have to pay those costs over time plus the profits that are expected by the owners of that company.

Re:Freaking retarded (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986451)

Coops and not-for-profits (such as credit unions) for the win.

Re:Freaking retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986683)

This, folks, is called socialism. For clarification, it is NOT communism. Sometimes, things work out a lot better with socialist ideas, but not always. Setting up municipal power, water, internet usually works out better than for-profit ventures.

Yoo Can Do eeeet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986357)

http://www.burlingtontelecom.net/

fiber. to the curb. you can do it too. if you need it to run your life civilly, it's a utility

TDS is U.S. Cellular's parent company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986361)

You can boycott TDS by boycotting U.S. Cellular.

Madness! (4, Funny)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986381)

...they only sued to save Monticello from itself, apparently feeling that the municipality is unprepared for the onerous costs of maintaining such a network, and would lack the expertise to do so...

So the company loves the city more than the city loves itself?

How ironic! This sounds preposterous to me.

These United States never cease to amaze.

Public Ownership of Public Utilities! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986389)

Power to the people!

Municipalities are the only ones who can defeat monopoly service providers. More power to Monticello!

Re:Public Ownership of Public Utilities! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986647)

Municipalities are the only ones who can defeat monopoly service providers.

You were more correct in your first line. If you use TFA link to article about the federal government looking into whether or not municipalalities can build such networks you will see Texas listed as one of the states where it is already blocked by state law. This was a law passed in Texas at the behest of telcos and cablecos who had already lost similar lawsuits or realizing they wouldn't work for them wanted to block such statewide.

One city there, that I am familiar with, won when the cableco ( then owned by AT&T ) sued to prevent the city, who owned its own power company, from getting into the cable tv and internet markets. The city had tired of the cableco and telco kept making excuses for not puting in broadband internet. The cableco threatened to pull out of the city altogether if the city put in broadband internet. The city, who had originally just planned for broadband, sought new bids to include cable tv. The cableco sued and lost so the city began contruction. Before the city completed their construction the cableco and the telco had both suddenly found it feasible to provide service there and had their networks up and running before the city got even the first part of their network up and running.

Before their first year of service was complete Texas had the new law as many other cities were dicussing putting their own networks in too after seeing the success of the above city and others. That city was grandfathered though by having their network up and running. I have no doubt that they would have been without broadband for several more years if they had not decided to put their own network in. Being as it forced the corporations into taking them seriously, there is also competition there now.

In other news... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986391)

The Monticello, MN Nuclear Power Plant was temporarily shut down today due to a tripped breaker.

http://www.startribune.com/local/28283624.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU7EaDiaMDCiUT

Wha?

Re:In other news... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986547)

Basically the really huge freaking breakers at the substation connecting the plant to the grid tripped for some reason. The plant suddenly found itself without a load to support, and quickly shut itself down to prevent massive permanent damage to the equipment. If you generate a ton of electrons without having someplace to send them the equipment that deals with those electrons tends to get VERY hot very quickly and not be very happy about it.

Maintenance Cost of Fiber are Actually Lower (4, Interesting)

absent_speaker (905145) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986413)

From what I understand, maintaining fiber networks isn't all that hard. In many cases, it's lower maintenance than existing infrastructures.

Switching from copper to fiber is a big deal in heavy manufacturing and especially in electric plants. Most electric plants are heavily wired with copper. Problem is that copper is more prone to interference. When copper fails, it can be quite difficult to isolate the failure. Copper is also several orders of magnitude lighter (weight wise) than copper and a lot less bulky. Vendors usually quote a "50%" cost reduction from copper.

In the building trades, fiber only construction saves a good amount of space and labor. I've read that medium size office buildings can sometimes shave $300,000 off their construction costs.

I can't recall exactly, but I believe most new airplanes are being built with fiber. It's much easier to install and maintain than the copper it replaces. I remember reading years ago that some lab at MIT (I believe) developed a device to allow fiber optic cable to directly replace the copper wiring coming out of the instrument panels. I am afraid I can't remember reading if this was ever implemented.

I'm not an expert, but I think the rational for this lawsuit is rather weak. I don't know what else their town is working on, but I doubt they expect their parks and recreation staff to maintain their fiber network. They'll hire a subcontractor, probably the same people the telcos were going to hire and be done.

Good for them.

What a load (5, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986433)

Towns already run their own water pipes, sewer pipes, fire alarm systems, roads, etc. What is one more cable?

I call BS if you say running fiber takes more expertise than running water and sewer pipes. Electrons can go uphill of their own accord, water needs help.

Re:What a load (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986719)

But what about photons?

Re:What a load (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986787)

I call BS on your electrons! Fiber OPTICS -- photons! Light!

Duh...

Re:What a load (1)

rho (6063) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986825)

Let me guess--you've never run fiber or a water line, right?

Can't run our own telco? (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986439)

apparently feeling that the municipality is unprepared for the onerous costs of maintaining such a network, and would lack the expertise to do so.

Ptttht....if the telco really feels this way, I tell them "here, drop the lawsuit, and if we truly can't match par with your network, we'll sell the line to you guys and admit we were wrong."

Would the telco take them up on this? Shah right...

Re:Can't run our own telco? (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986817)

how about "after we're done, we'll sell you space on the line just like anybody else. Take it or don't".

How ISP should be run (2, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986441)

Monticello hatched an ambitious plan to wire up its entire town with fiber, build an interconnect station, and allow ISPs to link up to the site and offer Internet access over the city-maintained fiber links.

Since the fiber plant is going to be a monopoly, this is how internet access should be sold: have the part that is going to be a monopoly be regulated, and then allow competition where that is easy.

The only trick is not allowing the people in charge of just the fiber to interact with the data running over that fiber, as the Canadians are discovering with Bell [arstechnica.com] .

Re:How ISP should be run (2, Interesting)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986815)

That was one of the big issues of the - now repealed - '96 telco reform act. Each incumbent local exchange carrier (Monopoly) would have to give access to their network. However there was no guideline that they couldn't give themselves access also.

The problem was that they would always find ways to sell the service to themselves far cheaper than any competition could get it. It was impossible to compete against say Verizon DSL by buying wholesale access to Verizon networks and rolling out your own DSL.

Of course the best part was all the large ILECs simply stopped having the infrastructure available to even offer broadband. Then their argument, which eventually won the repeal of the '96 reform act, was 'why should we build out a broadband network that we don't make any money at. Repeal the law about us having to share and we'll gladly give broadband to everyone'. The government repealed the law that gave competition at least a ghost of a chance in order to help the common person get broadband, don'tchaknow.

That was the official line that Fred Upton, then chair of the House subcommittee on telecommunications, gave me when I asked him why he wanted to repeal the '96 reform act. Years later and Fred's own district still has horrid broadband connections [216.17.87.52] (Sorry, the local paper herald palladium has a bad online presence).

I'm usually against as much regulation as possible but to level the monopoly playing field your suggestion is spot on.

Simple Economics (2, Insightful)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986471)

How much does it cost to lay, install and Admin a fibre network for the city?? Say $30 million (rough, plucked out of thin air made up figure). TDS come along, and being the concerned citizens decide that the Fibre network is too much for the city so they sue them for $28 million. City settles for $15 million. So now TDS has been given a $15 million discount on setting up the Fibre network... = Profit....

TDS comments smell exactly... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986475)

like someone wiping their corporate ass.

Businesses are looking out for us! Yay! (1)

gozu (541069) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986479)

they only sued to save Monticello from itself, apparently feeling that the municipality is unprepared for the onerous costs of maintaining such a network, and would lack the expertise to do so.

I, for one, am deeply grateful to our corporate overlords for saving the population of Monticello from themselves.

Way to go!

Yes and no (1, Insightful)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986483)

Governments should not be competing with private businesses. It's not their role. Monopolies aren't fun, but government run monopolies are downright depressing. Even if the government allows competition, how do you compete with an entity that has the power to tax or borrow against taxes?

Much of the current "problem" is due to previous government created monopolies in local telephone and cable. The solution is not more of the same intervention.

At the same time, I think the lawsuit is misguided. If I were a shareholder I would be telling the company to cut its losses, pull up stakes, and get out of Monticello. It's clear they've gone over to the dark side, and it's pointless trying to compete with techie-welfare.

Re:Yes and no (1)

daemonburrito (1026186) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986615)

You say that like it's true.

Your devotion to your ideology is religious. Judging by your sig, I guess there's not much I can say to change your mind. But just for kicks, I want to say this: I think you may be well-served by entertaining the possibility that your heroes could have been wrong.

Just sowing seeds...

Re:Yes and no (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986661)

Fiber to the home is what is known as a natural monopoly, there is an (essentially) fixed cost for deploying and maintaining such a utility and it is extremely inefficient and cost-ineffective to have multiple providers of the same service. The most efficient way to address this is to do exactly what the city set out to do, have a government run entity maintain the physical plant and allow competing private business to provide products over that plant. If you allow a monopoly private business to maintain the plant you simply increase the subscribers costs by the profit of the private business (baring any economies of scale enjoyed by the company operating a business larger than the incorporated area, but history has shown this is generally minimal and far overshadowed by the profit costs)

Re:Yes and no (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986699)

Mmmmmm, generally I agree with you (and yes, I am a Freeman subscriber also), but linear infrastructure is hard to provision. A lot of it ends up being sunk cost, which is hard to sell competitively. Think pipes, roads, and wires.

We shouldn't promise people a rose garden. Private linear infrastructure is still going to be mis-priced; just less so than when it's done through taxes.

Re:Yes and no (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986781)

I once lived in a small isolated town (population of about 10,000) that had its own natural gas wells, power plant, water system, and sewer system. The city did a great job of providing natural gas, electricity, sewer, water, and trash removal service at prices lower than in major cities in the state. I know that the city utilities did not lose or make money on the services, although there may have been some cross-subsidization.

Re:Yes and no (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986839)

...And this is why Libertarians are best friends and servants of Republicans, Social Conservatives and similar scum.

When is the U.S. going to stop frivolous lawsuits? (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986493)

How do we prevent more of these pesky lawsuits?

My only idea is we increase penalties so parties like this telco can be ordered to build out the network for free or some major penalty.

Now that would be justice!

Re:When is the U.S. going to stop frivolous lawsui (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986707)

We need our lawyer politicians to enact "loser pays". That will greatly reduce the demand for lawyers and .... um .... nevermind.

When Ann Arbor was about to repave Division st (5, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986497)

I recall, decades ago, when Ann Arbor was about to repave Division street - the main north-south drag for the core city. They were going to do it up properly so it would last.

They'd had a lot of trouble with utilities tearing up the roads to work on their underground stuff, then not restoring them adequately. (In southern Michigan winters this resulted in frost heaves that soon tore the road back open, resulting in the need for more repairs - sometimes over and over. By which time the information about which utility had torn it up originally had been lost.)

They couldn't really ban them from digging up the street to work on their stuff.

So they passed a new ordinance that would result in a MAJOR cost for any company that tore up the street AFTER it was redone, for a decade or so, and gave 'em some large number of months to get their underground installations fixed up and upgraded before the repaving. (I think they imposed some "fee" - read "fine" or "tax" - but don't know the details.)

That street was dug up all summer as the several utility companies rebuilt everything under it and installed new conduit and manholes for future expansion. (Better to get it in now, while there's no special issues on doing the work, than take the chance that the city's post-repaving gotchas would stick in court - or cost more in court fees to get them struck.)

And that road surface stayed pristine for years.

Now it seems to me that, if this telco wants to play hardball, this municipality could find similar stuff to do to them. B-)

Granted that the courts might eventually strike down whatever the city does as unfair competition, too. But it would still cost the telco more money to get that to happen - and tit-for-tat is well recognized as a very successful strategy.

Downside is it needs to be done in a way that doesn't end up stalling both projects while the citizens sit on their thumbs waiting for an internet connection.

= = = =

Also: Didn't a federal court just strike early-termination fees for cell phone providers? Might be possible to go after that if the telco does a long-term contract lockin to try to keep the citizens on their net once the delayed city net is live.

Broadband prices AREN'T coming down (2, Insightful)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986555)

The Telco's have no rights to force people to buy their goods.

I might add that CABLE TV SUCKS too. There is no variety or quality.

Great news! (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986609)

Great news! Now to get my municipality to vote to build their own fiber network, and Verizon will run Fios.

From a former TDS employee... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986619)

Fresh out of college, I got a job with TDS in their Madison headquarters. I was working on one of their new product lines at the time during the internet boom of the late 90s. I know it's been a decade since then, but I'm fairly certain that my comments below will ring true today...

Most people at TDS are reasonable. They're the Dilberts, not the PHBs. The problem is that management in the organization simply doesn't understand competition. They fear it like a vicious dog clawing at their corner office window. Here's an example.

After the Telecommunications Act of 94 (I think that was the year), it opened the door to other telco competition. Their answer was to form another company, TDS Metrocom, to compete primarily against Ameritech. The result was astounding. Instead of one cohesive structure, we ended up with two completely separate companies that didn't get along well. Not just physically separate (different headquarters), but even technically segmented.

Another entertaining example was one of the products I was working on. The proof of concept was showing red flags at every turn. The idea was just plain stupid, but management thought it was going to "revolutionize everything". During a meeting with my Bosses, Bosses, Bosses Boss (i think there were a couple more layers to go above that even), the guy asked me about the product. I could almost hear the sphincter of his direct report slam shut from across the room, and I started speaking the Truth. Hey, I was barely a year out of college, what did I know? After about 5 minutes of explaining in minute detail about how this product was a bottomless pit of time and money, the meeting was abruptly cut short.

So fellow /. citizens, I can tell you that this doesn't surprise me one bit. Those PHBs at TDS simply don't know what life is like in a real market economy. They're in the legal death throws of a monopoly. That's why I don't work there anymore, and why I'm posting as AC.

Not a government's job (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986625)

As little as possible should be done by the government — that's the principle.

Having them provide Internet service is like running word-processing in a kernel.

Re:Not a government's job (3, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986799)

this is a town trying to build out infrastructure to support its residents; it's certainly something within their purview. Personally, I think this is a better setup than letting the telco own the lines, since there's no incentive to gouge, and this sort of thing can work out just fine.

Re:Not a government's job (5, Insightful)

PacketShaper (917017) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986821)

Sorry, wrong. The *federal* government should do as little as possible. Regulate interstate commerce, defend our borders and coin money, specifically.

This is a perfect example of something a *local* government should do, if the local populace votes and approves of it.

Re:Not a government's job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986829)

yup, cause a system where you have a say is just so terrible.

Sometimes you've got to sue a village to save it. (1)

Flavius Iulianus (1093015) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986665)

Hard to argue with that logic. It's always been proven right :>

.Works fine in Burlington, VT (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24986685)

They have there own fiber network. Have for a while. Works great and is cheap. 8Mbps symmetrical for $72 a month (the slowest is 3Mbps for $33).

From their website:

Although we are a City Department, this network is privately financed and clean of any taxpayer contributions. To pay for the effort, Burlington Telecom will provide the three basic services itself: cable TV, telephone, and high-speed Internet. But anyone else will also be free to use the network to deliver these or other services. (This is similar to a City providing public roads while also providing basic bus service as well. Citizens and businesses can use the bus service or they can use the roads to provide their own transportation.)

We believe that the citizens of Burlington deserve to have such open and universal access to a telecommunications network with sufficient capacity and flexibility for the foreseeable future at a reasonable cost. We will strategically and efficiently roll out BTâ(TM)s services to the community in a consistent, cost-effective manner with an emphasis on quality customer service. Here are our goals:

1. to provide the highest quality telecommunication services available
2. to provide superior customer service and technical assistance
3. to provide a single, easy-to-read bill for all your services
4. to be competitively priced if not cheaper than our competitors

www.burlingtontelecom.net

It can be done and done well.

I've got one solution for them... (1)

Puffy Director Pants (1242492) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986733)

Dig up their bones...er, cables! It's time to riot!

Those Damn Phone Companies... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#24986841)

Those damn phone companies think they own you.

Oh, sorry, they do.

TPC forever!
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