Bells’ ‘War Against Consumers’ Tour Rolls into Pennsylvania

Today’s iteration of The Washington Post’s Filter column on technology contains the latest report from the frontlines of the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) effort to suppress bandwidth access that does not trip a pay meter somewhere in their organization.

This time, the front is in Pennsylvania and the war is against municipalities offering Wi-Fi services. The lead combatant in this effort is Verizon Communications.

Here’s the relevant paragraph, which cites a Wall Street Journal article as its source:

The paper reported on recent efforts by Verizon Communications in Pennsylvania to lobby the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which “passed a bill with a deeply buried provision that would make it illegal for any ‘political subdivision’ to provide to the public ‘for any compensation any telecommunications services, including advanced and broadband services within the service territory of a local exchange telecommunications company operating under a network-modernization plan.’ Verizon is the local exchange telecommunications company for most of Pennsylvania, and it is planning to modernize the region using high-speed fiber-optic cable. The bill has 10 days for the governor to sign it or veto it. The Pennsylvania bill follows similar legislative efforts earlier this year by telephone companies in Utah, Louisiana and Florida to prevent municipalities from offering telecommunications services, which could include fiber and Wi-Fi.”

The Louisiana effort cited was the attempt last spring led by BellSouth to pass legislation which would have banned any municipal efforts to get into the telecommunications infrastructure or services businesses. The measure targeted the Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) fiber to the home plan which was then little more than a concept. Thanks to strong backing from Governor Kathleen Blanco, LUS and its allies were able to modify the bill so that it, in effect, became a road map for municipalities to enter the business from which BellSouth and Cox sought to bar them.

One can only hope that municipal broadband proponents have been in touch with LUS to learn about how this legislative jujitsu was executed.

Yes, Pennsylvania, the RBOCs can be beaten. If you want to learn how, come to Louisiana!


Free Press has a story from on the Pennsylvania fight, noting that cable giant Comcast (the largest cable provider in these United States) is also supporting the municipal broadband ban.

Verizon Joins LUS in its Belief in “Future Proof” Fiber

Hoover’s Online reviews the baby Bell’s embrace of broadband-based video in the context of their deadly competition with the cablecos. Worth reading for the overview, the story contains a strikingly forthright quote:

“‘Everybody in the industry knows and believes that fiber is the overall answer, long-term,’ said Mark Marchand, a Verizon spokesman. ‘The real question becomes, do you do it now or later? We want to do it once. We think this future-proofs our network.'”

Indeed, everyone does. Including those local and regional executives who have wanted us to believe otherwise and their bought “experts” who continue try and deceive us about the ultimate value of fiber to the home.

Lafayette takes first step into the great fiber optic unknown

Meandering style aside one has to regard Bill Decker’s latest foray into commentary on Lafayette’s fiber optic venture as yet another sign of just how thoroughly LUS has carried the day on this issue.

Close watchers of the local newspaper will have followed Decker’s slow evolution to this almost-endorsement from his first less than thoughtful (and less than useful) immoderate attack on LUS, from which I quote: “What’s next? A five-year plan? A hall of socialist labor heroes?” We are no longer comparing LUS to Communists, no Stalinists—and that’s real progress.

So I report the flaws in this latest missive with a great sense of appreciation for what it is not. Still, there’s still some distance to go if we are to get to truly informed and informative commentary. Decker spends the first three paragraphs telling us what isn’t accomplished by last Tuesday’s vote before getting to half of the story about what it did accomplish: “the vote did express broad council support for the LUS proposal.” It, of course, misses the primary purpose of the vote: to comply with the state law requiring public hearings to explore and a vote to approve the plan. The vote was the test set up by law to approve the idea….that has been the central and most important question all along; one that is now settled. All the rest is mere implementation.

There is a bit more obscurity about the competition increasing services, LUS’ bonding status, a twitch about the design of the rollout—none of which mature to a firm conclusion about what the commentator believes is actually supposed to be happening.

But in the end there is a cheering bit of approval for Lafayette doing what the author sees as is its “best shot at guiding the region’s development in a positive way” by embracing “the cyber-future — hyperfast data services available to industry, business and consumer alike, everywhere in town, for whatever you want to learn, invent, make or sell.”

Decker closes with:

“Nothing says Lafayette is ready for that future as clearly as the City-Parish Council’s vote.”

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Sins of the Father: Why voters are (not) rejecting municipal broadband

The Sunday Advertiser has an obnoxious “guest editorial” from a man named Titch who represents himself as an expert from the Heartland Institute. While that is one of his affiliations (and more on that later) the affiliation that is most likely in play here is his business: Expert Editorial Inc. a self-admittedly research-for-hire organization.

Here is all you should need to know from that organization’s front page:

Expert Editorial adds a critical “third-party” viewpoint for media and customer marketing campaigns. We can provide your target audience with the context, background and significance of your technology from an analytical perspective that supports, yet remains detached from your own marketing and sales personnel.

Want a little translation from a recovering academic? Here you go: Hey corporations, look over here! We are willing to pretend to be a disinterested third party “research” provider who can say anything you want us to say without involving the good name of your company. And especially without involving your own marketing and sales people in an effort that might well be discredited. And all you have to do is pay us. Deal?

That’s what is being said. My question is, and yours, (and the Advertiser’s for that matter) is who is doing the paying this time?

I’ve got family obligations right now, but more later, I promise. This far too rich to let go of so easily. You’ll also want to know what else the Heartland Institute supports, for instance. Nothing with much heart, I assure you.

Durel, Fiber, & the Sewers of New Orleans

Today’s Advertiser has a story, “Durel pushes fiber optic plan” It covers Durel’s appearance last night at the Fontana Center last night and serves to underline Durel’s support for the fiber initiative. Here’s a nice pull quote on the risk of the venture:

We would do a section at a time, and if not enough people buy in, we would stop, he said. So, within about $5 million (investment), we would probably know if well be successful. I consider this an extremely low-risk venture.

Fiber was not the only on topic on the agenda. An interesting little bit of news is probably not really connected to our fiber dreams but you never know…

He said he is holding bi-monthly meetings with other elected officials throughout Acadiana and hoped that both Lafayette and New Orleans would benefit from recent meetings he had with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

The mayor of Broussard has made it clear that he would like intercity cooperation to extend beyond the water supply issues that animated his honor earlier in the year. He’d like a slice of the telecom pie as well. As for Nagin…that continuing relationship has just got me curious. I can’t help but think about that “fiber optics in the sewers” project down there. It’d be great if Louisiana could go the way of Utah and now Iowa—with Lafayette rather than Baton Rouge or New Orleans at the center of the web.


It’s time and past time for Lafayette Pro Fiber to get out of its “defense of fiber” crouch and get on to the more serious business of dreaming, fantasizing and looking forward to what we might do to together here in Lafayette. We announce our intention to do that here.

Don’t expect the acid-tongued persona to vanish. It’s imminently justified. But look for an increase in the work of trying to make sense of background issues and to work out the implications of choices made for our community’s future.

The real work is ahead for us all. Tuesday was a success, and that success is not fully secured. But now is the time to begin the hard work of dreaming. And we will be doing that here.


Note: This post has been sitting in “draft” status for more than a month awaiting this Tuesday’s vote. Hey it’s Friday…time to get back to work

Digital Divide Issues Come to the Fore

The Advocate runs a story at the top of the Acadidana section today that tracks a major shift in the public focus of the fiber to the home story here in Lafayette. The story, LUS to override digital divide, is given banner headline status on that page and is even graced with a subhead: Plan to connect lower-income areas.

The prominenant placement is appropriate—this will be the most important part of the story now that the bare fact of the system being built is largely settled.

For my money the ideas floated in public aren’t yet ambitious enough—but more on that later. For now get yourself up to speed on the story; this is an aspect well worth following.

LUS prepares for next move on fiber-to-home front

The Advertiser does its follow-up story, assessing or rather not assessing the significance of yesterday’s vote and the likely path ahead purely in terms of it stodgy “he said, she said” style.

It’s not that the story is bad, not really. It’s that it isn’t good. This method of writing is always mediocre and prone to systematic distortions.

An example of distortion: Early in the story the paper sites Councilman Broussard’s bald assertion that they city wasn’t really building fiber until it voted money. He tried to get Huval to agree with this assessment. Huval, perfectly aware that this is untrue, that Tuesday’s vote was pivotal and decisive politically, declined to agree. He also declined to openly disagree with one of his bosses. A “Good Move,” most would agree. But the underlying meaning was also crystal clear to anyone paying attention; including, I strongly suspect, Mr. Broussard. A mediocre story reports only what is clearly said and passes on. A better story would have noted that really, “according to those familiar with the politics of the matter” this vote was decisive and satisfying digital divide critics was probably the most significant barrier in a fight that now appears to be all downhill for the city. The opposition is in disarray and there is no significant group that distrusts LUS or believes the plan unworkable. A wrap-up story that doesn’t get to these hard facts but relies only on what people are comfortable saying before cameras not only misses what is really important but actively distorts the meanings of events.

Lafayette deserves better.