Yesterday (July 16) marked the one-year anniversary of the voter approval of a referendum in Lafayette, La., to fund a $125-million municipal fiber-to-the-home system. To date, nothing has happened with this project. It remains tied up in court following a series of lawsuits, brought first by Cox Communications and BellSouth, the incumbent cable and telephone companies, respectively, with whom the taxpayer-backed system would compete. Lafayette Utilities System (LUS), the municipal utility, lost the first court challenge on the basis that its financial plan improperly relied on revenues from its monopoly electric utility to back the broadband bands. In May, however, LUS won approval from a U.S district judge on its revised financing plan. Still, at least three other court cases tied to the project remain. In the latest development, two Lafayette residents have announced their intention to appeal a ruling to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, charging that LUS is already overcharging electricity customers, ostensibly to build a bankroll for broadband. If the case proceeds, a decision may not come until mid-August. If LUS wins, the earliest it will be able to sell bonds is the fall. If it can sell the bonds (a challenge itself) the earliest it will break ground would be some time in 2007.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.