The Advertiser is at it again. There is a strong strain of sensationalism that peeks out all too often and the latest article on fiber, Petition on fiber plan wired for success, is an example. We get a headline, a lead in to the story that makes a casual reader think that the petition is taking off and is on solid ground. A closer reading makes it clear that neither the petitioners nor the author of the story really understand the basics well enough to say what is possible. The story is at least premature. And the headline downright misleading.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t real fiber news in the story. If you wade down into it you find the actual news oddly wedged in between bits of petition confusion.
The real news is that the city is going to the public for input on the digital divide issue and a committee is forming under the leadership of Walter Guillory. This is far and away the most important fiber issue of the day and the outcome of the work of that committee will be potentially as important as the construction of the network itself for Lafayette’s future.
On the petition drive itself what you find is that the same kind of confusion that the organizers showed in city council meetings. It isn’t clear what portion of the law applies to this case and, since more than one part of the code addresses it, what provides controlling authority. It pretty clear that they aren’t sure and the Advertiser is reduced to listing all the possibilities. What do they need? 5%, 25%, or 15%? No one knows, not the author of the piece nor the supporters of the petition. The state legal eagle says: “normally, the city-parish charter would dictate how to place an item on the public ballot.” That is what everyone has been assuming right along. But this fact is so buried and deemphasized that you could read this article twice and not really understand that what the state lawyer thinks is most likely on first blush is that Fiber411 will have to go with the procedures set out in Lafayette’s home rule charter—a much more formidable task than they have been advertising.
It isn’t just that they are confused about the numbers. They sort of petition they put together will vary with which part of the legal code they are trying to satisfy. The paper refers the reader to their website where you are supposed to be able to find more on the petition, but where, in fact, you cannot.
To go before the public this uncertain of what it is you are trying to accomplish (are they against fiber, bonds, or the business plan?), so uncertain about how to accomplish “it” (5, 15, or 25%) and so uncertain about how to phrase the petition itself (we haven’t seen one since they don’t really know what conditions they have to satisfy) is embarrassing—and could have been predicted based on the quality of research that they brought before the council. There they put before the council material that either did not apply to the Lafayette case or was built on corporate press releases or was just plain wrong (the wireless claims in particular showed a deep misunderstanding of how wireless bandwidth is provisioned). It finally got so bad that the more technically adept in the audience finally begin to set up a murmur in the back of the room that consisted mostly of amazed disbelief. It got loud enough to upset the councilman who voted against LUS’s plan and who asked the crowd to be quiet. It would be nice if they’d gotten their act together before they went public–and even nicer if the Advertiser could tell that they haven’t done the work to warrant the sort of promotional coverage they received.