This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 19, 2002 3:42 PM. The previous post in this blog was The season for giving is upon us. The next post in this blog is Just kiddin' around. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A complete and total bust

Yesterday's Oregonian newspaper contained an interesting piece about how the City of Portland's quixotic plan to force the cable TV industry to allow other companies to use their cables to sell high-speed internet access has turned out to be utterly fruitless. Not only did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decisively reject the city's authority to impose this kind of restriction, but now the FCC has also decided not to force so-called "open access" on giants like Comcast, which just swallowed up Portland's cable monopolist, the good folks of AT&T Broadband.

Regular readers of this blog can guess my reaction. One question I have seen asked but never publicly answered is how much precious public money the city spent in fighting this silly fight, which no other municipality was pollyannaish enough to lead. Not only were in-house city attorneys involved: outside Washington, D.C. counsel was also hired to bring the losing case before the Ninth Circuit. Were there better places to spend these tens of thousands of dollars in the Rose City? Of course there were.

Another fundamental question is whether the city was even on the right side of the case. AT&T provides high-speed internet access to my house for about $45 a month. For that I get ISP service and the freedom to use my home telephone line for other purposes, even if I surf all day and night. Does the City of Portland really think that I would have been able to get this service more cheaply from another company operating over AT&T's lines?

Although this may all appear to be ancient history, that history is repeating itself. That same city government is currently spending hundreds of thousands of public dollars to flirt with taking over a huge electric utility, all supposedly in the name of lower rates. Those of us who open our water and sewer bills and faint -- even when they are delivered on time and are correct -- cannot picture getting cheaper power from City Hall.

Then there is the matter of the Bull Run reservoir, which the city wants to sign over to an amorphous board run by folks from the suburbs. More expense to study another weak idea in the utility field.

Will the city ever get it right?

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