The future is South Korea (and Lafayette)

Here’s a story which appears to be about America’s falling rank in the high-tech industry and Korea’s rise to dominance…and it is. But for us here in Lafayette it has other, more hopeful implications. We are poised to be for America what Korea has become for the world as whole. Read on.

The San Francisco Chronicle, perched out there on the west coast facing across the Pacific, has noticed that Korea is now the world’s leader in technology and the development of digital products. Coming from the newspaper that’s just down the way from America’s Silicon Valley, that realization must have a particular sting. The title and subtitle of the story is particularly striking: The future is South Korea; Tech firms try out latest in world’s most wired society.

It’s all about big broadband. Korea has it. We don’t.

Pick up your mobile phone and watch your favorite TV show. At home, on your computer, download a feature-length movie in no time at all.

If you live in South Korea, it is an everyday reality to have always-on superfast Internet — broadband — both in your cell phone and in your home…

While South Korea leads in the rollout of broadband, the United States — supposedly the world’s technology leader — comes in no better than No. 13, according to experts…

Because broadband is available to all (very cheaply, though that crucial point is not covered in this article), Korea has become one giant test market for consumer appliances of all sorts. The future of the digital world is apparent, so think the marketers of the world’s most advanced products, in Korea.

As Silicon Valley’s biggest corporations complain about the relative backward state of broadband in this country, they are rushing to South Korea to see if their products pass muster with some of the world’s most demanding technology customers.

Silicon Valley companies view South Korea as a sort of time machine when testing broadband applications, a place where they can get a glimpse of what Americans will use in the future.

The San Francisco Chronicle is one of the nation’s top newspapers and its quality shows in a very thoughtful and well-informed discussion of why Korea has succeeded and the United States failed to get real broadband out to its citizens. That alone is worth clicking over to the Chronicle’s website. But part of what we here in Lafayette can learn from that part of the discussion is that Korea has a very different history of technological innovation, that it has a very different culture, and that mix of technologies available there is substantially different from what will be available in the US because of those differing histories and cultures.

What American high-tech companies really need is an American “Korea.” Korea is a valuable test ground only because it has adequate broadband to run the devices and programs of the future. On almost every other account, an American community with the size, diversity, cultural history, and technological mix that better match American markets would be a better test bed.

We don’t often recognize just how unique Lafayette would be once we had municipal fiber. All the municipal installations of fiber are in smaller cities and the ones that come close to being our size — for instance Provo, Utah — are not nearly as diverse as Lafayette. Conical installations do not run into every disadvantaged neighborhood and they are more expensive to purchase. Low price and universal service yield relatively high “take rates,” simulating a market demographic that will not be available in most locales decades. If what is wanted is the largest possible community with the highest take rate in every market segment, Lafayette will be an obvious choice for years to come.

Lafayette is positioned to be the place in the United States for testing the devices, software and marketing tactics of the future. That role is ours for the asking. Sound ambitious? It is. But the people of Lafayette have always been ambitious for our city. We’ve made bold decisions that grasped the possibilities of the moment with railroads, electricity, the interstate, and the oil center. Broadband is our generation’s opportunity to build on that tradition.

Building a big broadband infrastructure was the key in the leap that has taken Korea from second- or third-world status to being the world leader in the commercial of advanced technologies. There is no reason, other than fear, not to grasp the possibility that big broadband could be the basis for dramatically moving Lafayette up in the ranking of American cities. We could easily become the place that gets everything new first—the place where success can make a product viable.

Breathing life into that possibility will mean real work. We’ll need to make sure that our diversity becomes an asset by making every effort to close the digital divide. LUS will need to actively encourage innovative uses of big broadband and free us from internal bandwidth restrictions as much as possible. But most of all, we need fiber — as quickly as possible.


A friend of Mike’s, Doug, and an Anonymous commenter on the blog all alert Lafayette Pro Fiber to a new pro-fiber website: Fibre911 (note the spelling). It appears to focus pretty tightly on providing access to good fiber information available on the world wide web. It promises to be a great resource and fill a hole in information ecosystem here. Welcome!

(Hmmm, with both the local Republican Party and now Fibre911 using this new spelling, I wonder if there is a little Frenchification move afoot locally. I can see the grin now. A little sly spirit never hurt anyone.)

“Huval responds to criticism of FTTH”

Local fiber news has been slow this weekend, though that should change this week. Today, however, we have the relatively unusual event of Terry Huval responding directly, and in the daily, to a misleading letter to the editor published by The Independent local. In his response Huval takes to task a February 25th letter from Ryan Patin for distorting the economics of LUS’ Fiber for Our Future plan.

(An almost identical letter appeared in this week’s Independent—where Patin’s original remarks were published.)

Follow-up on Global Tech story

The Advocate follows up an earlier story on Global Tech’s becoming a wholesaler of LUS bandwidth with a story that digs into the history of the wholesale business. Terry Huval is quoted extensively. He recounts the history of the wholesale business and reveals that, pretty much on schedule, LUS is making its first year of profit. It’s an interesting read and serves to dispel some of the unfounded talk that we are hearing too often these days.

Go give it a read, if only for the background it supplies.

“Lafayette’s GOP supports LUS plan”

The Advocate carries a full story on the Lafayette Republicans’ endorsement of the LUS fiber-to-the-home plan. From the story:

Mark Gremillion, a member of the local Republican executive committee, said the group had a spirited discussion before passing the endorsement 9 to 4.

The resolution states that LUS is acting within the law to pursue the plan, that it would be a benefit business growth and education and that other utility providers aren’t likely to provide a comparable service any time soon.

“Everyone agreed, both proponents and opponents, that this is an infrastructure issue, that this is not a public vs. private issue,” Gremillion said…

Gremillion said because the kind of people who serve on the executive committee tend to get involved in issues they see as important, many will likely want to take part in activities supporting fiber in the community if a vote comes.

The Advertiser carries a brief piece covering the story. While short, it provides some additional interesting detail about the debate.

With both local Democrats and local Republicans endorsing LUS’ plan it becomes clearer that the idea of a municipal fiber infrastructure for Lafayette can serve to bring us together. Possibly the best thing about this endorsement is that, should this come to a referendum fight, it won’t be possible to try to divide Lafayette along political or ideological lines. This isn’t going to be a left/right issue but a question of infrastructure and local self-determination.

What is needed now is for other crucial institutions to follow their lead and endorse the fiber project–not only because it is the right thing to do and in their own best interests, but because it is the best way to ensure that during any fight over fiber, the community will be treated with respect.

Stand Up! We need a pro fiber citizen’s group!


We need to build a citizen’s group—a broad-based coalition of all of Lafayette’s people—to support the construction of a municipal fiber-optic network in our city.

We need a group whether or not this issue goes to referendum quickly; we’ve needed one for a while. It is now clear that there will be delays and a public battle no matter what happens next. The truth is that we’ve let the city and LUS fight our battle for us and carry water for us for too long already. It’s time, as Durel says, to stand up.

Lafayette Pro Fiber issues the call for a citizens’ group today. You can express your interest in supporting the community by emailing:

We hope you’ll email us with support and with ideas for how we might best put together an organization that will serve us all. We need letter writers, programmers, and talkers. We need wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, cousins and couzaans. We need political organizers, businessmen, Creoles and Cajuns. We need the young and the old; we need the black and the white. We need Republicans and Democrats; we need liberals and conservatives. We need graphic artists, musicians, painters and photographers. We need carpenters, plumbers, lawyers, and legislators. We need pamphleteers and people to walk the streets.

We need us all. And we need to start now.

Please email your support and ideas. We are hoping to set up a public meeting soon. We’ll let you know what comes next and publish a list of first suggestions at

Lafayette Republicans go ‘Pro Fiber’!

It’s official! Last night, the Lafayette Republican Parish Executive Committee adopted a resolution in support of the LUS fiber project. They did this after a couple of meetings worth of discussion, including the one last night.

Don Bertrand of committee forwarded Lafayette Pro Fiber a copy of the resolution. It makes a succinct and powerful endorsement of the project, putting it within the historic context of the city and within the ideological boundaries of free market Republicanism.

Here it is in its entirety:

State of Louisiana Parish of Lafayette

Resolution by the Republican Executive Committee of Lafayette Parish

• Whereas, Lafayette Utility System (LUS) was formed in 1897, as a municipally owned utility corporation, to offer utility services not provided by the private sector, and

• Whereas, LUS has meritoriously performed said services for the growth and economic vitality of Lafayette for more than a century, and

• Whereas, LUS is recognized as a leader in the utilities industry by the State of Louisiana and the Public Service Commission and the residents of the City of Lafayette, and;

• Whereas, we recognize fibre optic technology is classified as a utility, and

• Whereas, LUS would act in its legal capacity as a Municipally Owned Utility to provide “Fibre Optic Service To The Home” utilizing the existing “Fibre Optic Loop” currently in place, and

• Whereas, “Fibre Optic to the Home” provides further infrastructure development and expansion, for the continued economic success of Lafayette well into the new millennium, and

• Whereas, this initiative is designed to place Lafayette in a position of advantage as a technologically competitive community now and into distant the future, and

• Whereas, other utility providers will not offer the service of “Fibre Optics to the Home” in the near future, and

• Whereas, the service provided by the “Fibre Optic to The Home Initiative”, would provide opportunity for business growth and expansion, and

• Whereas, Lafayette competes globally, and is challenged by a world economy, and,

• Whereas, the United States of America currently has slipped in rank to 15th in the world as a nation of technology, and

• Whereas, this “Fibre Optic to the Home” deployment initiative would place Lafayette at the pinnacle of technological development, Lafayette being the largest city to date to pursue this initiative, and

• Whereas, this initiative will assist the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in its continued drive for excellence in new and exciting fields of computer technology research, development and curriculum, and

• Whereas, this community resource addresses long term solutions to closing any digital divide, and reaching all of the community, it’s schools and libraries, and

• Whereas, the “Fibre Optic to the Home” service would create the potential for new economic opportunity for Lafayette, and in our opinion far exceeding the financial risk,

• Whereas, we believe the LUS Plan represents an investment in infrastructure as opposed to direct competition between government and private business, which would violate a basic principle of Republican Philosophy,

• Be it Resolved this 10th day of March, 2005, the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee (RPEC), endorses and supports the effort by the Lafayette Utility System to make “Fibre Optic to the Home” services a reality for the citizens, institutions of learning and business’ of the City of Lafayette and beyond as time and resources allow.

Resolution by the Republican Executive Committee of Lafayette Parish

To that, let me just add, “BRAVO!!!”

Fiber a hit—in Ascension

The Advocate covers EATEL’s new fiber optic network build in Ascension parish. The heart of the story is in the first paragraph:

“The response to Eatel’s new fiber optic television service exceeded the company’s first week expectations, said Jason Domangue, the company’s marketing manager.”

LPF has been relaying news about EATEL’s ambitions for itself and its local community for a while. Dramatic moments included a rare moment when the local government defied the cable company, Cox, when it tried to use its monopoly to force the local council to run the public TV channel the way Cox wanted it run. The Council defied them and won—something that would have been politically impossible to risk had not EATEL been waiting in the wings with locally-based competition.

EATEL’s vision, and its clear success in the initial build (it appears to be building the new infrastructure in waves, a conservative tactic that LUS is also planning to follow), demonstrates you don’t have to be a large company working in a dense urban area to be successful with fiber optics—you only have to have the vision and courage to build for the long term health of your company and its community rather than your own short-term stock price.

Other telephone companies in small towns and rural areas who actually care about their own communities are quietly and without controversy making the smart move to fiber. Even in such rural areas, the long-term economic value is not contestable. Ask Kaplan Telephone. Or Cameron Telephone. You know, in Cameron Parish (big cities: Cameron, Hackberry), you can get Fiber-To-The-Camp on a lonely little two-lane road running beside the gulf. Fiber is the obvious choice of people who are in the telecom business for their customers and for the long term. We should all stand up and cheer for the foresight of some local businesses.

It’s too bad we don’t have a local telephone company like EATEL in Lafayette. BellSouth is playing an entirely different game with entirely different values. It might be good for their stock value and consequently for the income of its executives, but it’s not good for the communities it pretends to serve.

Let’s go local.

St. Julien issues call for grassroots support for LUS

In this article from Friday’s Advocate, John has begun the essential work of making the case for grassroots citizen support for the LUS fiber project. It appears likely that there will be a public vote on the issue, although the details aren’t certain at this point.

What this vote will do is reveal the true nature of the fight. It is about the ability of this community to control its own economic destiny. It is also about the ability of a duopoly of Atlanta-based corporations to use their dollars to try to turn public sentiment in this community against the community’s own self-interest.

The Sock Puppets were out doing their “black is white” bit last night at the Republican Parish Executive Committee. All but predicting that black helicopters would be swooping down in backyards across the City any shortly after LUS would win the right to deploy its system. The Republicans weren’t buying it and, an emailer informed me, voted to support the LUS project.

I had a chance to talk with Don Bertrand of the RPEC a couple of weeks ago about the project. Don is an old friend and he called to talk about the project. His core insight into the LUS proposal was this: “Unless LUS does this project, it doesn’t get done.” That’s it in a nutshell.

BellSouth isn’t going to build a fiber to the home project here, despite Bill Oliver’s hinting that BellSouth would probably (at some unspecified point in the future) deploy a fiber to the curb system here. Does this guy ever come out and make a simple declarative sentence? He clearly implies things but leaves himself room for deniability, as he did with The Advocate editorial board a few weeks back with his threat/none threat that Cingular would pull out of Lafayette if LUS moved ahead with its plan.

Cox is looking to unload about 900,000 cable customers, even some in Louisiana — but not Lafayette. Lafayette’s growth makes it a market that Cox wants to keep (not so for Alexandria and Lake Charles), but no commitment of the company to deliver fiber to the home technology here.

What neither BellSouth nor Cox (nor the Sock Puppets) will admit is the fact that should new investments from either of these Atlantans ever flow here, they would not serve the entire community. That is, they would, in effect, red-line sections of the community, some neighborhoods would get the investments but not all.

One major benefit of the LUS project for Lafayette as a community would be the fact that their system would indeed go to every home and business in the LUS service area.

This will do more than close the digital divide in Lafayette, it will also create a bridge across the racial divide that still plagues Lafayette and hampers our progress as a community. Forty years after the march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Lafayette remains a community that is still significantly segregated.

The fact is that the challenges and opportunities ahead of Lafayette are too great and too demanding for us to engage in the foolish notion that we can bring to be anything less that the full weight of the talent and resources of ALL of this community to bear in meeting those.

The LUS fiber project and the debate over it offers a once in a generation opportunity to develop a shared vision of what kind of community Lafayette can become. More importantly, it will get us focused on what kind of community we WANT Lafayette to become.

All the opponents have is their “No.” They offer no alternative vision. Just “No.” Nothing. Nada. Negative. What can you build with that?

The coming debate and vote will be a defining moment for this community. Through this process voters will be forced to choose between an essentially optimistic vision of this city and its capabilities, or if they are pessimists and believe we should not invest in our own prospects. When these moments have arisen in Lafayette’s past — more than a century ago when LUS was formed and when Herbert Heyman decided to develop the Oil Center — the answer has been “yes, we’re optimistic.” As a result, Lafayette’s growth accelerated, surpassing that of other communities in what we know as Acadiana to become the economic hub of the region that it is today.

With this election we are being asked if we are satisfied to lead a small region, or if we have greater ambitions for ourselves, for our children and those that will follow.

The moment of decision is coming. The decision we make on this project will affect the kind of community Lafayette will be for the first half of this new century.

Do we have the faith in ourselves and our prospects that those before us had in themselves?

We’re about to find out.