Lafayette Chamber Declines to Oppose Self-Reliance

The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has issued a new position paper, Public vs. Private Sector Investmen (PDF), that joins its earlier Broadband Position Statement (Word doc) to flesh out previously unknown category of public position statements: The “We are gratified to announce that we do not condemn that which we should endorse.”

It comes in 5 clauses marked by roman numerals for which, even though they are not in Latin, translation into standard English may prove useful and efficient:

1. Private is good.

2. Public support of private companies is good provided that the benefit is of the sort that can be measured, that outside people think its worthwhile, and the company can make good money.

3. It’s ok to give money to private companies and it is ok for public entities to partner with private ones.

4. If private companies won’t do it then the people can do it for themselves.

Between this document and the Broadband document the good news is that the Chamber is taking the stalwart position that it will not actively and as a matter of principle oppose Lafayette’s Fiber For the Future Initiative.

What it does not exemplify is community spirit, rational self-interest, or leadership.

Community Spirit: Building a true broadband network is the development opportunity of a lifetime–or several. There is no single investment in ourselves more likely to propel Lafayette and her people from game players in the middle of the pack to clear and proud leaders. A cheap, high-quality telecom sector can serve to equalize opportunity between this community’s haves and have nots. It’s sad that community spirit alone is not enough to move the chamber.

Rational Self-interest: The people in the community that are most likely to benefit first and most directly are local business (new and not yet formed) that will get cheap bandwidth on our version of information super highway that will equal the resources available to the worlds largest corporations at a tiny fraction of the cost. It is our businesses (as opposed to Atlanta’s) that are bearing the brunt of what MIke correctly calls the “Incumbent Bandwidth Tax:” that additional cost that locals pay for being in Lafayette that their competitors, headquartered in places where big broadband is available less expensively, do not pay. It’s sad that the “leadership” cannot see what the benefit of cheap fiber to every corner of this town could mean for local businesses.

Leadership: I do not believe that many, no most, of the chamber membership doesn’t get this–or couldn’t be easily lead to see what is so clear and so much a part of their business life. The failure is at the leadership level where there appears to be an unwillingness to risk power and position in pursuit of what is right for the community in the face of the few, who ideologically or through personal ties and ambitions, are committed to the cause of corporations that do not care about Lafayette or her people. The problem here is that while folks may believe that they are preserving power and position for later use the truth is that influence unexercised atrophies. Use it or lose it. Exercise makes not only muscles stronger. The chamber may emerge from this without offending any fraction of it membership only to discover that the community no longer believes it can count on the chamber for leadership that puts the community first. Leadership is a precious commodity in any community; it is sad to see it squandered on mere personal self-interest.

All that said, there is a part of me that is gratified for anything I can get from this quarter and the assurance that LUS and the City will not be blindsided by Picard’s Chamber is substantial comfort.

And that is the saddest comment of all.

Has BellSouth Been Helping Spy on Your Email?

Friday’s a good day for catching up on things. One very interesting development on the national scene recently has been the scandal over warrantless spying on Americans by the current administration and whether or not it could be justified.

That may have sounded a little familiar to readers that recall local fiber disputes. During the fiber referendum one of the sillier things that opponents brought up was a baseless fear that the local government would spy on you. The retort at the time was that LCG wasn’t the level of govt. to worry about–that Joey showed no interest but the feds certainly had. Recent developments have proven that retort pretty insightful–and have implicated our phone companies. From O’Reilly:

All the warrantless wiretapping we’ve recently heard about required help from the telephone companies and Internet service providers. These companies knew they were not only aiding the government in breaking the law, but were themselves violating terms of service for their customers–and in the case of telephone companies, also breaking the law. One law mentioned at the public form (and submitted years ago by the forum’s moderator, Congressman Ed Markey) forbids cell phone companies from revealing the location of cell phone users–except with a court warrant.

In fact, the NSA wiretapping scandal represents one of the largest conspiracies in recent years: a conspiracy between telephone companies and the government to defraud Americans out of our Fourth Amendment rights.

What didn’t occur to any at the time of the referendum, but is now clear, was that in order for the Federales to spy on you they would need at least the tacit assistance of the Bells who own and maintain the big trunk lines headed across the country and overseas. What’s come out recently, in dribs and drabs is that “tacit” wasn’t needed: the Bells are willing to hand you over without qualm–or warrant. Mostly this has come to light through two avenues. First universities, over whose servers and trunks internet based traffic escapes the Bell networks, have put up the resistance that the Bells didn’t citing old-fashioned, academic things like “illegal,” “warrantless,” and “the freedom of speech.” The universities have been given, point blank, the old childhood excuse: “Everybody does it.” Being a tad more mature, the universities aren’t buying that schoolboy excuse. The second avenue, of course, has been the recent scandal that caused a few reporters to go back to those odd, underreported remarks by universities.

The administration has said that surveillance has been limited. Unfortunately, given the technologies involved, that’s simply not possible. The decentralized nature of the internet, nonserial flow of packets, and the inclusion of encrypted data makes massive data mining–winnowing through all those packets the only practical way to pull coherent data out of the net. You have to look at ’em all to get to the ones you want. Targeted warrants are pretty hard to execute in the real world. There is just too much to examine. The easiest way to make the flow more manageable is to cut back what you examine–to, for instance, all of the data flowing out of the country. To do that efficiently the best bet is to have access to the Bell switches routing traffic outbound. They know where that data is coming from and so federal agents wouldn’t, for instance, try and puzzle out encrypted data from the banks or calls originating and terminating overseas. Stories have made it clear that international traffic originating or terminating in the US is what is being spied upon without warrant. From an article in the Chicago Tribune:

The decentralized nature of the Internet and the multiplicity of ways to communicate further complicate the task of wholesale eavesdropping, said Daniel Berninger, a communications analyst with Tier 1 Research.

By focusing on traffic that leaves the country, government agents can tap into optical fiber lines that are buried on the oceans and on radio signals bounced off satellites in space, Berninger said.

This provides some identifiable “choke points” where communications enter and leave the country, he said, providing an easier task than trying to randomly monitor domestic traffic that flows on the Internet in all directions around the country, he said…

Looking at data such as which phone numbers are called from which numbers can provide a lot of useful information, said Paul Bradley, a consultant with Apollo Data Technologies LLC, a Chicago-based data mining software firm.

The revelation that the Bells handed over your privacy without a murmur merely give us another reason to favor having local people, answerable to local concerns is preferable to the current setup in which the corporations are effectively accountable to no one but a few buddy-buddy federal bureaucrats. Most certainly they feel no necessity to respect their customers.

If it makes life a little easier for the big corporation to give the feds warrantless, baseless access to your phone and DSL switches, well why not? Who, that the phone companies care about, cares? Surely not the FCC. Just about the only people in this country who can effect your bottom line are in the federal government. Why not please ’em?

I say we are better off trusting local institutions; especially municipalities that have to operate under the glare of Open Access laws. After all, public universities is where this story first started to surface. As the O’Reilly article points out:

One might argue that the pressure would have been even stronger if ISPs and phone companies were smaller, but size obviously hasn’t helped them put up any resistance. Believe me, if we had an industry of scrappy Mom-and-Pop providers like in the 80s and 90s, word about this civil liberties horror would have come out sooner.

The Chamber’s Silence on the LUS Project — Hoisted on their own Picard?

The Independent’s cover story last week was on the leadership transition taking place at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.

But, Tyrone Picard taking the helm of the Chamber has significant implications for the ability of the organization to take a position on the LUS fiber project. The Chamber may pride itself in taking a leadership role on important issues in this community but, as an employee of Acadiana Ambulance, it will be interesting to see whether the interests of Picard’s employer will trump the community interest in getting the LUS fiber project built.

What’s Acadian Ambulance got to do with the LUS project? Well, Acadian Ambulance is a major customer of BellSouth’s and Acadian’s Richard Zuchslag is rumored to hold a substantial number of shares of BellSouth stock, and to have long pined for a seat on BellSouth’s board.

Zuchslag surrounded himself with BellSouth higher-ups at his DC Mardi Gras Ball reign, according to these photographs from The Advertiser. Guess it’s just a coincidence that about the only photo without a BellSouth rep in it was the one with Mayor-President Joey Durel!

Now, because Picard serves as corporate counsel for Acadian, BellSouth has, in effect, a proxy seat on the Chamber’s board — even though BellSouth is no longer a member of the Lafayette Chamber.

If the Chamber couldn’t bring itself to address the LUS issue when Gary McGoffin was heading the group last year, it’s difficult to imagine how they’ll muster the leadership to come forward on this issue this year with a staunch BellSouth ally leading the group.

The Chamber’s silence on this issue is deafening.

The LUS fiber project is the single most important economic development initiative to be introduced into this community in at least 50 years (since the Oil Center) and quite possibly 100 (since LUS it self was created in the late 19th century).

Every day that Cox and BellSouth are allowed to continue their duopoly, Lafayette businesses and consumers pay more for bandwidth than their counterparts in larger cities in the service areas of either company. This is the bandwidth tax that Lafayette pays as the cost of subservience to the corporate interests in Atlanta.

The LUS project will bring direct economic benefits to EVERY business in Lafayette by driving down the cost of bandwidth. Once the LUS project is built out, businesses in Lafayette will pay less for more bandwidth than either Cox or BellSouth make available for their best customers anywhere in their respective service areas. How can this be? Well, LUS is going to make 100 megabits per second network capacity available to every business and residential customer. Neither BellSouth nor Cox can deliver that capacity now any where in Louisiana and, likely only in a handful of places in the entire operation of either company.

What this means is that the LUS fiber project will give incredible competitive advantage in the form of lower operating costs to any company that relies on the Internet to connect to suppliers and customers. In other words, it will be cheaper for any company that plans to be successful in the 21st Century (that is, depend on the flow of information between customers and suppliers) to do business in Lafayette than just about any other place in the country.

And, still the Chamber remains silent.

A few weeks ago, I found a quote from a famous American that, if you substitute “organization” for “man,” applies here. Here’s the quote:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”*

Now is a time of controversy in Lafayette. The Chamber would have us believe that they are leaders in this community. Leaders take stances.

Where does the Chamber stand on the LUS fiber project?

Will the Chamber have the courage to standup for the small and medium size businesses in this community who will be prime beneficiaries of the LUS project? Or are they hoisted on their own Picard?**

* Rev. Martin Luther King

** OK, it’s a pun on “Hoisted on their own Petard.


Truth is not only the first casualty in war, it is apparently also the first casualty when telecom execs talk to Louisiana business and political leaders.

The Lafayette Daily Advertiser carried a story in Saturday’s paper on the economic development lunch that is part of the annual Louisiana Mardi Gras function in our nation’s capitol.

While The Advertiser included only a few quotes from BellSouth Chairman Duane Ackerman in its story, let’s analyze them to determine if the BS in BellSouth does, in fact, flow from the top.

Paragraph one:

WASHINGTON – BellSouth Chairman Duane Ackerman urged Louisiana’s leaders Friday to avoid ignoring the state’s established businesses in a push to attract new companies to the state.

While there is no quote here, if The Advertiser‘s Gannett reporter accurately captured the flavor of Ackerman’s speech, it’s safe to say that “the state’s established businesses” would include things like incumbent telephone companies — even struggling Regional Bell Operating Companies. Ackerman, whose company is writhing under a market assault in Louisiana by Cox, didn’t plead for help, but one can imagine that there’s some behind-closed-door whining going on to state government officials that Lil’ Ole BellSouth might be in a hell of a jam if the State of Louisiana decided to actually demand state-of-the-art services from its telecom vendors.

Paragraph two:

Speaking at an economic development lunch as part of the 58th annual Louisiana Mardi Gras in Washington, Ackerman said the state stands at a crucial point in its development as it seeks the right balance between tradition and transformation in working to build a strong future for state residents.

Ah, “the right balance between tradition and transformation”! Damned! I think Duane is actually pleading for state leaders to continue to allow BellSouth to levy what amounts to a bandwidth tax on Louisiana businesses and consumers. That “tax,” in the form of high bandwidth charges over old infrastructure is being used to fund BellSouth service upgrades in other states and ventures such as paying for the company’s share of the Cingular buyout of AT&T Wireless. In essence, Ackerman is saying ‘stick with us and we’ll keep you in the minor leagues.’ Sounds like the recipe for mediocrity one might expect from one who rose through the ranks of a bureaucracy. Good advice for corporate ladder-climbers. Bad advice for states looking to shake their economic doldrums.

Paragraph three:

Ackerman called on the state’s business, civic and elected leaders to take a new look at the old rules that govern existing businesses and to help eliminate regulation where customers have choices and where costs outweigh benefits.

Absolute HYPOCRISY!!! Recall, dear readers, that it was Ackerman’s BellSouth that ran to the Louisiana Legislature seeking to prevent municipalities like Lafayette from getting into the telecommunications business. That was a blatant attempt to stifle competition. In the Orwellian parlance of corporate America, the bill came out being called the Municipal Fair Competition Act, after much strenuous lobbying on behalf of Lafayette and other municipalities, but the intent was to stifle competition.

This is consistent with BellSouth’s long struggle to prevent consumers in Louisiana and other states in its service area since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. BellSouth resisted orders to open its network to competitors, refused to pay money owed CLECs who were hosting Internet Service Providers, and is today refusing to invest in advanced DSL technology because DSL runs over copper elements of its network and doing so would require BellSouth to give competitors access to that portion of their network.

So, the notion of BellSouth as a defender of the rights of choice for consumers is laughable. About the only people who believe that are their local partners in opposition to progress, DULL. But, no one with any knowledge of the telecommunications industry believes it.

Paragraph four:

Ackerman used the communications industry as an example of a situation where technology has outpaced policy and where regulation is hurting.

This is clearly wrong. The Bells have won the right to exclude competitors from their new network infrastructure investments, specifically, fiber. Now, if Ackerman is saying that requiring the Bells to keep their copper networks open to competitors, he’s asking to kill the v very competition he was praising (hypocritically, of course) a paragraph earlier. See, what Ackerman and his RBOC cohorts have been fighting for since the passage of the past nine years is for a return of their monopoly status, albeit under the name of “competition.” That is, they want to require any potential competitor to be required to build their own networks fresh out of the box. The Bells, it must be noted, built those copper networks when they in fact operated as regulated monopolies. Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, this mantra of the Bells to keep competitors off their networks has taken on the air of the guy who was born on third base and claimed to have it a triple.

Paragraph five:

“That disconnect between policy and reality has very real consequences for communities in Louisiana and around the nation,” he said. “In an area of rapid technological change, can government really meet the needs of consumers better than private industry?”

Oh, Jeez! Does this guy have no shame? Uh, NO! The fact is that technology is evolving rapidly, but the one constant over the past decade has been the fact that fiber optics have been recognized as the infrastructure of choice, the infrastructure that will not become obsolete. Look at where BellSouth and the other RBOCs and telecom companies in other countries are putting their infrastructure dollars in the communities and projects they most value: fiber optic lines.

What has happened with BellSouth is that technology has outstripped its wallet. If BellSouth had spent as much money on technology as it’s spent on lawyers and lobbyists over the past nine years, they’d have better technology in the field. But, BellSouth is a monopolist at heart. It’s never been about delivering value to customers. It’s all about responding to the corporate vision.

The United States ranks 14th in the world in broadband network penetration. The RBOCs and the cable companies have had control over their corporate investment decisions during the past nine years when that slide has taken place. Rather than invest in new technology, the phone companies invested in buying other phone companies. Rather than deploy new networks, the phone companies spent their time and effort in the courts fighting regulations designed to enhance competition. Rather than innovate, the phone companies preferred to litigate. As a result, cable companies like Cox are poised to eat the lunch of companies like BellSouth because they have been investing in their infrastructure.

The notion that municipal entry is a significant concern to BellSouth is a reflection on just how poorly the company has managed its infrastructure investments. BellSouth’s real threat in Louisiana is Cox. The fact that BellSouth chooses not to invest in new infrastructure here explains both why Cox will become the dominant provider of voice, data and video in South Louisiana, but also why municipalities like Lafayette feel compelled to make their own investments in fiber optic networks — essentially, if they don’t do it, no one else will.

Paragraph six:

Commending the state for providing tax incentives to new businesses, Ackerman asked that Louisiana not lose sight of the companies that are already there.

Translation: “Even though we’re not investing any significant dollars here, don’t forget that we’ve contributed to many political campaigns in the past and — if you roll over and do what we want — we might make some more contributions in the future.” Shameful!

Paragraph seven:

“Give all companies incentives to invest,” he said. “And, most fundamentally, let us trust the marketplace. That trust has made this country the most prosperous and technologically advanced on the planet.”

The incentives Ackerman wants is to either regulate or legislate competition out of the marketplace. Either one will do.

“[T]rust the marketplace”??!!!?? Don’t do what we do, do what we say. Ignore that monopolist behind the curtain. The record declares emphatically that BellSouth has NEVER trusted the marketplace. In fact, whenever given the opportunity to trust the market, BellSouth has refused to do so, and instead has resorted to lawsuits to resist being forced to do so.

Well, it’s Washington. It’s Mardi Gras. The truth, apparently, was not invited.

•* District of Columbia BellSouth Bullshit.

Austin Envy Reversed? The New Tech/Music Center Emerges

It has become habitual for folks around the country to envy Austin as a bastion of clean, enlightened, info-age development with a really exciting ethnic music scene. Baton Rouge, in particular, has a bad case of Austin Envy with multiple visits to the city to study their successes over the years. A “young” reform group even calls itself “Austin 6.” (A decisions which seems surpassingly strange on only short reflection.) But it seems that some in Austin might have caught a case of Lafayette envy. Read on.

It’s welcome to see, even in the midst of ongoing obstructionism, that out of state companies are begining to make their decisions based on Lafayette’s potential and its anticipated fiber-optic infrastructure. The Advocate notes that Austin-based Ninjaneering is making a move into Lafayette that UL and the city hope will become the basis for a thriving computer gaming industry in the city. The company has inked a contract with UL that will offer opportunities–while they are in Lafayette–to UL students. With fiber coming in there is no reason that those students will ever need to leave. The bandwidth will be here to move the required enourmous files around with ease. In fact the bandneck bottleneck won’t be in Lafayette or on the nation’s fiber backbone. It will be in Austin. (You like good music? Why not move to Lafayette?)

Part of the attraction of Lafayette is the plan of the Lafayette Utilities System to install a fiber-optic network, Zuzolo said.

‘It interests us greatly,’ he said of the plan. ‘Lafayette is going to have the network and the pipeline for content. We have to make sure that, where ever we go, we have the infrastructure.’

…..The fact that LUS, which is owned by the people, is laying the fiber is “huge” for Lafayette, Zuzolo said.

“It’s a great asset for the community, and it fits well with the goals we have, in helping business develop around the game industry,” Zuzolo said.

It’s great for folks outside our community to see the potential of what we are doing here–and sensible for them to move in to begin to take advantage of it.

To return the favor it’s worthwhile to explicitly notice the power and potential of computer gaming. The Advocate story does a good job of that but the basic point could stand a little sharpening for our readership: Computer gaming is already, in terms of consumer dollars spent bigger than movies and music combined. Computer gaming has driven the computer industry, hardware and software for the last several generations of chipsets, operating systems, networking architectures, and graphics rendering engines. What NASA’s space program was to technology in the 70’s, producing everything from teflon to the technology behind areodynamic cars, gaming has proven to be for the digital age.Quite simply to be on the cutting edge of gaming technology is to be on the cutting edge of digital technology. It is where all the most advanced work comes together.

Make no mistake, this is not about “just games.” It’s about being out in front…which is exactly where we want to be.

Quick Update 2:30–MY BAD–The Advertiser also has a good article on this story: Game maker courts UL,” and I missed it on my first pass through the paper and Jordan Hernandez and the Advertiser deserve credit. It fills out the tale by noting the relationship to the new undergraduate curriculum in video game design and development and by linking in ATIC and LONI. The best pull qoute is the closing paragraph:

“Expanding is a distinct possibility. We’d love to open a Ninjaneering Lafayette. We’d really like for the students to have somewhere here that they can practice what they’re learning and certainly the last thing you want is for the students to go to Boston or New York or San Francisco to find work,” he said. “Ideally, you’d want students interested in it getting their education here, making games here and then breaking into entrepreneurship and starting a game design company here.”

That’s the whole point. Always has been.

The Lucky Cowboy Chronicles: Loneliness, Learning & Lafayette

The Advertiser runs today a nifty personality piece (or perhaps I should say a nifty dual personality piece –read the story) whose hook is the plan of Firefly Digital’s Mike Spears to take some time off to feed his adventurous side by walking the Appalachian Trail.

Of most interest to me, though was the educational framework that wraps around the event. The plan is for this to be a connected solitary adventure. As Spears walks those lonely trails folks will, for instance, be able to monitor his heartbeat from the (really cool) Lucky Cowboy site. (One can imagine one day’s Burning Question: “Is Lucky Cowboy up to making it over the saddle tomorrow? Today’s vitals indicate…..LC addresses the issue in tonight’s blog entry.) As much fun as that is, and as much use as I can imagine classroom teacher’s making of the adventure, the fuller story includes the backend content developers of the website, Academy of Information Technology at Carencro High School:

Becnel and academy co-director Joel Hilbun will form a team of students to research, write and implement the Appalachian Trail content for the Web site. Students will compete for positions of student CEO, managing editor, graphic designers and more, Becnel said.

The Academy, from a quick look at its website, appears to go considerably beyond just being a schoolish way to get a leg up on IT work. After putting on my old “Professor of Educational Theory and Technology” hat I have to say that it looks like they’ve got a good handle on what I believe will prove to be the upcoming next round of crucial educational issues: project-based, activity-oriented education based on students developing useful solutions real problems.

(Wouldn’t it be something if Lafayette Parish could get a reputation for being ahead of the curve with progressive projects like LUS’ fiber optic telecom utility, an aggressive program of of lowering class sizes, and the Carencro Tech Academy’s advanced curriculum all building (and contributing to each other) at the same time?)

The project will be the seed for a larger Appalachian Trail Encyclopedia with a permanent home on the Appalachian Trails Website. What the students do will have a real use and a long life. It’s hard to get more useful than that.

This has got to be a great model for what we all want to see result from the gumbo of Acadiana’s ethnicities, the arts, technology, bandwidth, and education. Geaux!

“Wolf in the Bayou” – BellSouth and Lafayette continue feud

Whew! Broadband Reports, the largest national broadband information clearing house has a discussion string going that is focused on BellSouth’s little betrayal here in Lafayette. Apparently it is isn’t only folks down here who get hot about incumbent deceit.

Also, a very healthy representation of locals is spending time blasting BellSouth. Perhaps some have heard of Durel’s call to let BellSouth know how “furious” they are even if the media chose not report that call. Or, more likely, they don’t need to be told to be furious.

Call BellSouth. Let Williams know how little you like what Oliver and the company he represents are doing.

(337) 261-2800


Does anyone know if EATEL is accepting new applications for service? How to? (VOIP stories?)

Blowback—Dailies Cover City’s Anger

The Advertiser in “Officials lash out against suit” and the Advocate in “Durel decries BellSouth suit” report on yesterday’s press conference. (Our take on the event was posted yesterday.)

The long and the short of it is that both articles report press conference pretty accurately. (I don’t recollect the mention of Fiber411 that the Advertiser refers to—once the tone became clear I was listening to see if they’d diffuse their focus by hitting the petitioners; I was impressed that the kept their laser-like focus on BellSouth.)

The Advocate’s version reports a bit more about the consequences of the delay the suit will entail and some interesting bits from the subsequent council meetings but both articles deserve review.

Lagniappe: I am happy to have that new little bit of Cajun French from Huval’s presentation yesterday to use in this situation: gourmandise–the overtones of gluttony (a deadly sin) are particularly pleasing for use in our food-happy region.

BellSouth Louisiana: Suit to Defend Bandwidth Tax A Desperate Act of Doomed Company

The anger that Mayor-President Joey Durel (and probably Terry Huval) feels as a result of BellSouth’s ‘friend of the DULL’ suit over the issue of which law sets the petition rules on the LUS project is palpable.

BellSouth is talking sweet one day and suing the next.

The company has a profound personality disorder and it has manifested itself in a number of ways in the LUS fiber issue. Rather than attribute its sometimes bizarre behavior to malice, I prefer to read it as sporadic psychosis induced by a series of unpleasant and untenable choices the company is being forced to make these days, particularly in Louisiana. This once-mighty monopolist is on the ropes in Louisiana and its leaders know it. Making matters worse, there’s just nothing they can do about it.

To understand what is happening, we need to look a bit beyond Lafayette out into Louisiana as a whole. BellSouth is in deep trouble here. They are in trouble primarily because Cox has bought and grown itself a very large footprint across much of South Louisiana. Cox is offering voice, data and video over networks that they have spent many pretty pennies to upgrade. Cox’s networks may be near state of the cable art — so, nowhere near what LUS will offer in terms of robustness — but they are significantly better than what BellSouth has in the ground in South Louisiana.

Now, back in the halcyon days of their so-called alliance with Cox in opposition to the LUS project — way back in the late summer of 2004 — BellSouth spokesmen were making strange gurgling noises about what wonderful things the company would be able to do with upgraded formulas of DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology. ‘It’s gonna get a lot faster and we’ll be able to run video over it,’ they said — or words to that effect.

Well, they’re absolutely correct, there have been some technological innovations on the horizon in DSL technology which might, in fact, let a phone company run some video over those lines.

But, there’s a HUGE problem with this entire scenario. That is, the ‘last mile’ (actually, up to about 15,000 feet) of a DSL connection can run over copper. Why is that a problem: Well, the FCC has ruled that Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) have to let Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) have access to their copper infrastructure — which the RBOCs (like BellSouth) detest. There was a good bit of RBOC crowing among last year when the FCC said RBOCs could exclude competitors over new fiber networks. If only the Michael Powell-led FCC had locked CLECs out of the copper lines, it would have been a perfect RBOC world.

So, while there may, in fact, be technology coming down the pike that could theoretically enable RBOCs like BellSouth to ramp up their DSL capacity to the point where they might actually be able to run a few channels of pre-HDTV video over that copper infrastructure, their rigid opposition to the idea of letting competitors have access to the copper that enhanced DSL would run over will prevent them from allowing themselves to deploy this technology.

Why is this critical? Well, it seems that the BellSouth Louisiana crowd can’t convince the corporate types in Atlanta that investing in new infrastructure here makes business sense. That’s understandable due to the rather large shoe Cox has lodged firmly on the larynx of BellSouth Louisiana by way of its Triple Play over its newer infrastructure.

See, the ‘Louisiana Logic’ out of Atlanta is that BellSouth can’t justifying any significant new infrastructure dollars here until it has some idea of what the bottom of its share of this state’s market looks like. That is, why invest significant new dollars here when we don’t know if we’re going to end up with 60 percent marketshare, or 20 percent market share. Cox is fervently committed to helping BellSouth find that market bottom just as quickly as it can via new services over its (comparatively) enhanced network.

So, cut off from the capital it would take to build out new fiber infrastructure, deploying DSL-enhancing technology would look to be the cost-effective way of enhancing BellSouth’s service offerings here. Except, that because it runs over copper infrastructure — read that “open to competitors” — the gang back in Atlanta won’t even allow those much smaller amounts of money to be spent here.

So, BellSouth Louisiana is doomed. It can’t get the money it needs to build a world-class network that would let it fend off Cox and any other competitors. But, the corporation’s virulent anti-competitive, monopolist DNA won’t let it invest in the technology which might at least enable it to cling to a few points of market share with its copper.

The talks with LUS may well have been some form of exquisite torture BellSouth inflicted on itself, knowing full well that Atlanta would never let the company buy access over the LUS network for the same reason they don’t want any competitor to access their network: it’s all about being a monopolist and that’s all about not sharing.

Filing the lawsuit over the DULL petitions is an act of desperation. Cut off from big infrastructure bucks by Atlanta and cut off from the technology that could make those old copper wires useful for a few more years by its corporate culture, BellSouth Louisiana has entered into what will likely be a precipitous decline.

It’s already evident in some ways: A few months ago, BellSouth Louisiana’s Bill Oliver was feigning chumminess with Cox Regional VP Gary Cassard. Today, he’s feigning chumminess with the DULL crowd, seeking to defend his company’s bandwidth tax on businesses and consumers by supporting handful of ideologues who worship the ground he walks on.

What a long strange trip this must have been!