Tag: "minnesota"

Posted June 2, 2009 by christopher

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 April 30, 2009 by christopher

Competitive broadband service and pricing is within reach of most Minnesotans if anti-competitive polices and practices are removed and municipal governments build broadband infrastructure, according to a new report released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). The findings are contained in "Who Will Own Minnesota's Information Highways?", a report issued by the New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

"Minneapolis and Saint Paul have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop an affordable, high quality broadband infrastructure that would benefit city offices, consumers and businesses," said co-author Becca Vargo Daggett, a former information systems administrator for a private company.

"But to make that a reality, Minneapolis city leaders must revisit their decision to depend on a private company for future information needs," Daggett warned. "Given that Minneapolis has spent the last 10 years trying to get its cable company to live up to the provisions of its original franchise contract, it is remarkable that it wants to travel that same privately owned information highway in the future."

When cities offer broadband services, the competition with private companies drives prices down and improves service. The experiences with community-owned systems in Buffalo, Chaska, and Windom, Minnesota support that conclusion. The city need not act as a service provider, however. Publicly owned networks in Philadelphia and Western Utah will sell network access to private service providers, who will in turn sell services to consumers.

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