Tag: "lawsuit"

Posted June 16, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

In a quick followup, the Minnesota Supreme Court has affirmed the obvious by refusing to review the Appeals Court decision in the TDS (acting as "Bridgewater") v. Monticello case. This means the Appeals Court decision stands; Minnesota cities have the authority to bond for broadband networks. Read our previous coverage of this case here.

When TDS originally sued Monticello, the City had to place the investor money (raised via non-recourse revenue bonds) into escrow for the duration of the case. If the case were not resolved by June 19, 2009, Monticello would have had to return the funds to the investors, leaving it unable to finance the project. Bonding again would have almost definitely resulted in less favorable terms than those achieved before the economic meltdown.

Following the Appeals Court decision, on June 2, 2009, TDS could have had up to 30 days to request review from the Supreme Court. John Baker, an attorney from Greene Espel who represented the City throughout the process, asked the Supreme Court to expedite the review in order to prevent TDS from merely using its thirty days to run out the clock (thus winning the war while having lost every single battle).

Today, the Supreme Court sided with the Appeals Court and an obvious reading of Minnesota law: Minnesota cities are well within their authority to bond for and build broadband networks.

Monticello will immediately start work on the city's publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network. TDS has argued that such a network would now be redundant as they built a fiber network while abusing the courts to stall for time. However, it remains to be seen if TDS is truly connecting all homes with fiber, or is still using copper for that final connection (much like AT&T does in its U-Verse). The top TDS advertised speeds are 25 down and 10 up, which can be achieved with VDSL.

If TDS has truly built a fiber-to-the-home network, Monticello will be the first place in the U.S. with competing full fiber networks. However, I'm not sure that TDS will be able to compete with FiberNet Monticello on some fronts as TDS offers it television via a partnership with a satellite company. Monticello will undoubtedly have more local content and probably better customer service.

Lest you think the court battle is over, Monticello is entitled to recover some of its costs due...

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Posted June 11, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

Chattanooga, Tennessee is predicting it will offer FTTH in its entire service area by next year. The public power company has used fiber-optics in the past to manage its electrical operations and has been planning to offer a full FTTH network for awhile.

"There are two primary components to building this system. One component is taking longer than we thought and the other is happening much faster than we anticipated", said Harold DePriest, President and CEO. "The end result is that services will be available to the entire cities of Chattanooga, East Ridge and Red Bank by summer of 2010."

DePriest says once in place, EPB's fiber optic network will be the largest of its kind in the country.

However, Chattanooga has suffered the same problem that has plagued other publicly owned broadband projects around the country: incumbent telco and cableco lawyers. Comcast has sued Chattanooga in multiple courts in an attempt to limit competition (see here, here, here, and here for a few examples). As with these cases across the country (from Monticello, MN to Bristol, VA, to Lafayette, LA), the incumbents have lost the cases but successfully slowed the build-out, which hurts the community while padding company profits for an extra couple of years.

The network will offer symmetrical speeds of 10-50Mbps while keeping costs lower than the standard prices in the market.

Posted June 2, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

Monticello, a small town in Minnesota just outside the metro area, once again prevailed in court against frivolous charges from TDS Telecom, the incumbent telephone provider (doing business as Bridgewater in the court case).

Monticello, after learning that neither TDS nor Charter were interested in building a modern broadband network in the community, spent years studying the issue and eventually opted to build their own network. After the city secured revenue bonds to pay for the project in spring 2008, TDS began a campaign to delay the network -- a tactic commonly used against community broadband networks across the country.

They filed a lawsuit they could not win, but it prevented Monticello from starting the network. While they waited on the court date, Monticello lost the construction season and investor money sat in escrow. Despite winning court victory after court victory, the citizens of Monticello are unable to build the network they voted for with a stunning 74% yes on the referendum.

When the lawsuit was dismissed from district court, TDS waited as long as possible before appealing the decision in fall 2008. Due to the overburdened and under-staffed courts, the Court of Appeals took another half year to rule. Today, the Court handed down the judgment, finding in favor of Monticello:

Therefore, based on a plain and obvious interpretation of the term "public convenience" and the general intent of the legislature to promote telecommunications, the district court did not err in dismissing the action for failure to state a claim.

Regardless, even if this court were to accept Bridgewater‘s reading of the statute, the Fiber Project arguably qualifies as a utility or utility-like project. A Minnesota statute generally restricting the ability of Minnesota municipalities to issue bonds for projects outside of their jurisdiction provides an exception for bonds issued to finance property for "municipal public utilities." Minn. Stat. § 471.656 (2008). That same statute defines "municipal public utilities" as "the provision by a municipality of electricity, natural gas, water, wastewater removal and treatment, telecommunications, district heating, or cable television and related services."

The main question that remains is this: will TDS find it more profitable to appeal again and delay the inevitable competition? Our courts are overburdened enough, wasting the Court's time...

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Posted June 1, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

A recurring feature in Broadband Properties is the Municipal FTTH Deployment Snapshot. The Aug/Sept 2008 issue featured one of oldest municipal citywide FTTH deployments in the United States - Bristol Virgina Utilities' Optinet.

The article featured a wealth of technical data from the network as a well as a short history of their legal fights and their "Biggest Success."

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