Municipal networks gain ground

Telephony Online, an industry news site, has a straightforward story, Municipal networks gain ground, focused on why municipal telecommunications networks are gaining so much traction.

The article reports both sides of the article but it is clear where the author’s sympathy lies. That technical writers are starting to show their impatience with industry hype is not as significant, perhaps, as the IEEE’s making an open declaration for municipal broadband. But it may prove as practically important. Those who understand the technology and the business are moving toward an unambiguous endorsement of allowing the people to do for themselves what the corporations are unwilling or unable to do.

From the article:

Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg last week was outspoken in his opposition to cities and towns building their own Wi-Fi networks for broadband Internet access, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that city plans to build networks “could be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

But backers of municipal networks are fighting hard against such claims and are increasingly winning the support of a high-tech community worried that Asia and now much of Western Europe is pulling ahead of the U.S. not only in broadband penetration rates but also in quality and cost of service.

“We’re a joke compared to Europe and most of Asia,” said economist John Rutledge, the author of last summer’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on the need for telecom regulatory reform. “In the U.S., most people think of broadband as a cable modem — that’s like turtle mail in Japan and Korea,” where broadband services typically run at 20 Mb/s and higher at costs similar to what U.S. consumers pay for 3 Mb/s service, he added….

Companies such as Intel and members of the High Tech Broadband Coalition — an alliance of industry associations representing hardware and software vendors — are now speaking out in favor of municipally owned broadband networks and encouraging states not to pass provisions that restrict or prevent cities and towns from building networks when incumbent service providers will not.

In response to the criticism that municipalities are just plain incompentent, the writer reports:

Such thinking ignores the track record of U.S. municipal networks today, according to a coalition of consumer groups, media organizations and municipal broadband advocates who claim a campaign of disinformation by incumbent carriers had created the false perception that municipal networks drive out competition and that they often become financial disasters, causing massive losses to taxpayers.


“They are consistently saying things that are untrue,” said Moline, at a Washington press conference in early April. “They are making stuff up. The principal reason why local governments are offering broadband is to do economic development, pure and simple.”


The momentum against such measures, like the one passed in Pennsylvania in late 2004 and others on track in Florida and Texas, may now be shifting in favor of cities and towns that say they need broadband networks to survive economically. While a number of states have considered bills this year to restrict or prohibit municipally owned communications networks, none have been passed yet this year.

It’s not just in Lafayette where we’ve come together in an amazing fashion to defend our right to do for ourselves what the corporations won’t do for us. (When was the last time you saw the Dems and Repubs agree on anything like this?) You can feel the momentum moving in the direction of the light across the country.

Flattening World Explains Need for Fiber to the Home

New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman’s Friday column makes a pretty compelling case for why the LUS fiber to the premises project is critical to the economic viability of Lafayette.

It goes like this: Technology is flattening the world. That is, it is knocking down barriers to participation in the economy, thereby making the economy truly global — that is, it is enabling people to live just about anywhere in the world and participate in and contribute to the world’s economy.

So, when we think about economic development — and the battled for competitive advantage that rests at the heart of that process — we have to understand that Lafayette is not just competing against Baton Rouge or Birmingham or Austin. We are competing against Shanghai, China, Bangalore, India, Singapore and other distant communities in what is really a global competition for talent.

Here’s a relevant passage from Friedman’s column:

“For the first time in our history, we are going to face competition from low-wage, high-human-capital communities, embedded within India, China and Asia,” President Lawrence Summers of Harvard told me. In order to thrive, “it will not be enough for us to just leave no child behind. We also have to make sure that many more young Americans can get as far ahead as their potential will take them. How we meet this challenge is what will define our nation’s political economy for the next several decades.”

Here’s another:

Meeting this challenge requires a set of big ideas. If you want to grasp some of what is required, check out a smart new book by the strategists John Hagel III and John Seely Brown entitled “The Only Sustainable Edge.” They argue that comparative advantage today is moving faster than ever from structural factors, like natural resources, to how quickly a country builds its distinctive talents for innovation and entrepreneurship – the only sustainable edge.

Friedman goes on to note that there is a sense of urgency in China and India about catching up in the competition for talent. They are doing it by focusing on developing their own talent and through bringing home those who have ventured off to technology centers in U.S. and other countries to help build their own competitive advantage.

A consistent thread in the comments of those who oppose the LUS plan is ‘what’s the rush?’ ‘Let’s wait and see what develops over the next five to ten years. Maybe something else will develop during that time which might give us something else to oppose.’

The fact of the matter is that Lafayette and Louisiana are net exporters of talent and IQ. We don’t currently have the kind of economy that produces the opportunity and jobs that are enticing enough to convince our best and brightest college graduates to stay here.

About three years ago, I attended the U.L. Lafayette graduation ceremony for the Center for Advanced Computer Studies. There were about 55 graduates with masters degrees in computer science. Of those masters graduates, only ONE was staying in Lafayette and that was to pursue his Ph.D. ALL of the other students were leaving Louisiana and most of them were going to put their newly minted degrees to work in places like Texas and California.

They are leaving Lafayette (often with a heavy heart) to pursue challenging technology-based work in other communities where someone had a sense of urgency to create opportunity.

The opponents of the LUS project insist that we can afford to continue with business as usual; that we can grow our community while acting as a talent farm club for other, more aggressive cities who have a sharper appreciation the economic stakes at hand.

In the opponents’ view, Lafayette should be content to be running somewhere near the rear of the middle of the pack of cities in the country currently ranked 14th in broadband access — and be damned grateful for even being ranked there.

What would Lafayette be like today if those who came before us had listened to the naysayers who claimed their plans to run their own utility system were too risky? What would Lafayette be like today if the local leaders who put up the money to start what has become UL Lafayette had surrendered to the doubters who said that Lafayette could not support a university? What would Lafayette look like today if Maurice Heymann had not believed that this city could develop into the hub of oil and gas activity in the northern Gulf of Mexico? What would Lafayette be like today if leaders here had allowed I-10 to pass through Opelousas instead of this city?

History shows that Lafayette is a city of optimists. When choices have presented themselves, citizens and leaders have stepped up to respond to them in a way that advanced the well-being of the community and set the stage for future growth. When Lafayette has invested in itself, it has prospered.

Today, in a rapidly changing, technology-driven global economy, the LUS fiber to the premises plan offers Lafayette the opportunity to make the kind of paradigm shifting investment that will change the way people on the outside world perceive this community. This generation will called upon to declare our own take on the prospects of this community.

A vote in favor of the LUS project is a vote of confidence in our own ability to build and grow a community that will be bold and imaginative enough to create the opportunities here that will make Lafayette a destination for talent — starting with our own children and grandchildren.

A vote against the LUS project is a vote to relegate Lafayette to a pool of largely indistinguishable mid-sized cities whose fortunes will rise and fall according to the whims of others.

So, we can succumb to the fear, uncertainty and doubt being desperately cast about by the opponents; or we can dare chart a positive course of our own making that, yes, has some limited risks, but has upside potential that dwarfs those risks.

I’m for Lafayette. I’m for building this city into a global cultural and economic leader. I’m for a Lafayette that provides the tools for every citizen — young or old, black or white, rich or poor, northside or southside — to develop their talents so that they contribute to the shaping of the future of this city.

I’m for fiber because I believe it is the essential economic infrastructure of the talent-driven, technology-borne global economy.

I’m for LUS because it alone has offered a plan to deliver access to this decisive infrastructure to ALL of Lafayette.

Tom Friedman says that meeting the challenges in front of us will require big ideas. The opponents of the LUS fiber to the premises plan have no ideas. They only have fear, uncertainty and doubt. All they have is “No.”

What kind of community can you build on “No”?

Wi-Fly Network

The hipster-toy website endgadget has got the scoop on the latest Israeli competition for ADSL: Wi Fly: the pigeon network. The story”Pigeon Wireless Internet actually faster than ADSL” actually kinda, sorta makes sense.

Don’t miss the flock of geeky bandwidth jokes in the comments. Didn’t know there could be bandwidth jokes? Me neither. Just goes to show you how much I know. My personal favorite:

This is another take on a really old computer science maxim/joke. It used to be said that nothing beat the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes speeding along a freeway, but the latency was a bitch.

I’m tempted to make a serious point about latency issues in the wireless mesh networks that figure in some folks fantasies but hey, what fun would that be?

That wasn’t outré enough? How about this update: “Snails are faster than ADSL.” Take that Bill Oliver!

“Debate follows the money”

Claire Taylor of the Advertiser reports on yesterday morning’s debate between Mike Stagg and Tim Supple at the Rebuild Lafayette North meeting in the old city hall. Mike is a member of Lafayette Coming Together (and co-host of this blog) and Tim Supple is with Fiber 411. I attended to cheer on the side of light and (in my humble opinion) right.

Snippets from the story—

Tim Supple on the plan:

“I am 100 percent for fiber. My problem is this business plan,” Supple said. “This business plan will lose money; it will not make money. … What I have discovered in my research is the city is not telling the truth.”

Mike Stagg on the plan:

“It’s already working,” he said.

Because of the threat of competition from LUS, Cox Communications has not increased cable TV rates since LUS first proposed the fiber buildout in April 2004, Stagg said. The previous year, they raised rates four times, he said. SGI from Silicon Valley moved to Lafayette because of its fiber, and two other Silicon Valley companies are considering a move, he said.

Supple on closed systems:

Supple argued that the LUS business plan calls for a closed system in which LUS will not allow competing private companies to offer telephone and cable TV on its fiber. LUS should provide the fiber and lease it to private companies to provide services such as TV and telephone, he said.

Kaliste Saloom (in the audience):

Kaliste Saloom III, who supports the fiber project, asked if BellSouth and Cox would allow competitors to use their fiber optics lines if they laid the fiber.

“No,” Supple said. “That’s probably right.”

Though it didn’t make it into the article Tim Supple credited Mike Stagg with raising the issue of open systems for him in a paper he wrote on this site. Mike’s response was that he considered the LUS system basically open since LUS was not going to close off ports–competition could come in over IP on the open ports and people would be free, for instance, to get their phone service from someone like Vonage using VOIP.

From the article, on open systems:

LUS plans to exclusively offer cable and telephone service on its fiber. If someone else wants to lease space to sell home security or health monitoring, they can do so, said LUS Director Terry Huval. LUS will continue to offer wholesale Internet service through private providers to larger business customers, he said.

“It has to be structured in a way that it pays for itself,” Stagg argued. “LUS can’t cross-subsidize their service like BellSouth and Cox can.”

(If you read the article you might think that Terry Huval attended; he didn’t. My guess is that Claire called him for reactions.)


That’s a pretty good summary of the major points that were raised, but from the point of view of this attendee it misses much of the flavor of the event.

In broadest overview, it seemed to me that the room went from feeling pretty much neutral on the subject to feeling very much pro-fiber by the end. A debate is a particular kind of social gathering and folks who attend generally come with the idea that they want to hear both sides. So no doubt folks were leaning one way or another but it certainly didn’t show at first. As the debate and questioning went on, however, the tone swung decisively toward fiber. Early questions from the floor seemed fairly neutral and were addressed to both participants. As it wore on, the questions became more pointed and more often addressed to Tim. It’s hard to say just when and how the feeling changed but one event certainly marked the pro-fiber shift. As I recall, Saloom was questioning Tim, rather closely, about the conditions under which he might vote for the fiber referendum. It was a lawyerly sort of questioning designed to discover what, if anything, might induce him to vote for fiber. At one point Tim responded abruptly to a question about LUS’s system being open with a remark to the effect that what had just been suggested was more of those LCG “untruths.” The room responded to the remark with a low disapproving murmur..”euwh.” There was a touch of humor about that murmur and I expect that some meant it to lighten the mood; but it marked a public solidification of the group — against that sort of accusation. It wasn’t the first time that Tim had implied that you couldn’t trust the local government to do as they said they would. Tim remarked shortly thereafter that he didn’t come there to be beaten up on and that remark pretty much served notice that it was over for his cause.

He got questions from the back of the room, including one about competition that made it plain that the questioner regarded LUS’ competition with Cox and BellSouth as good competition and was having trouble understanding why Tim did not. But one final remark came from Dale Bourgeois, councilman from District 2 in the northern part of the parish. He said he didn’t want to ask a question but to make a statement and that was that he didn’t appreciate a remark Tim had made earlier that the north side would never see the fiber. Bourgeois had clearly been stewing on it for awhile and sat with arms crossed; speaking directly to Tim, Bourgeois said that it was his job and that this would happen. When no response was forthcoming after a pointed pause, he repeated his remarks and ceded the floor.

Shortly thereafter the group thanked the participants and moved on to a lively discussion of the frontage roads and development in north Lafayette more generally. Most folks stayed, but Tim and a few others left as the discussion shifted.

Post Scriptum: This was actually a very eventful meeting from the point of view of this community. Not only was there the debate discussed above; the meeting devoted equal time to consideration of the frontage road issue and other road works in the northern half of the parish. That, arguably, is an equally important issue. Interestingly, the Advertiser does not report on that discussion at all. Equally interestingly, the Advocate, in its coverage of the meeting, focuses entirely on the frontage road and associated development question. Neither story carries mention of Keith Thibodaux’s report on high tech enterprises like LITE in Lafayette and the development potential of that for the community as a whole. I doubt the coverage much reflects the relative view of the importance of the issues for the papers or the reporters involved. Rather, constraints on how many stories can run, reporters looking for background material, and what makes it to the editors’ desks first play a larger role. But that, too, is interesting to understand about the way the news works…

Silly Season comes early; Bell South’s Oliver at it again

There comes a point when things just get silly.

Readers will recall that I got more than a little peeved at the spectacle of Bill Oliver, head of BellSouth in Louisiana, responding to a challenge in the Times of Acadiana on a Wednesday that wouldn’t be made public until several days later…in the Advertiser. Now we go from outrageous to just silly. Oliver is allowed to run the same letter again, this time more sensibly placed after the publication date of the letter to which it responds.

Nobody, nobody, no matter how big a corporation he works for, should be toadied to in such an obvious manner. Nobody, nobody, no matter how big a corporation he works for should get advance notice of a critical letter and be allowed to respond to it both before and after
it is published — and without even having to go to the extra labor of writing a second letter. There’s such a thing as bending over backward to be fair. And then there’s just plain letting yourself be taken advantage of. Lafayette is in the process of ceasing to let BellSouth take advantage of her. The Gannett papers should learn a little discernment and do the same.

In my previous response to this same letter I said that I’d pass on going on “a tare about the nonsense that Oliver tries to pass off on the readers of the Times that any flavor of DSL will equal fiber’s capacities.” I’m not going to pass today.

It’s nonsense. Total and complete. DSL is never, ever going to reach the capacities of pure fiber optic networks. Oliver says:

I have never said that BellSouth is planning to build a fiber-to-the-home network in Lafayette. I have shared detail about BellSouth’s fiber-to-the-curb plan, which is functionally equivalent according to an October 2004 decision by the Federal Communications Commission.

There he goes again. First he says that he’s not going to run fiber to the home. And then with a little flim-flam move, he repeats the claim that would make a reasonable reader think that he’s going to do the same thing. After all, that’s what “functional equivalent” is supposed to mean. Notice that Oliver doesn’t say HE believes that Fiber to the Curb (FTTC) is the functional equivalent of Fiber to the Home (FTTH). That would be lying– and no one really believes that. Instead he puts those words in the mouth of the FCC, which is not around to defend itself.

In fact, the FCC does NOT say anything about functional equivalence in the document to which Oliver so confidently refers. I refer you to the FCC order degregulating FTTC that was adopted October 14th, 2004.

BellSouth argued there that FTTC and FTTH were “indistinguishable” in their ability to deliver services, along with several other reasons in a petition to the FCC to allow them to shut the competition out of any FTTC loops they might build in the same way that FTTH loops were already excepted. The FCC, while allowing BellSouth to lock out competition as they requested, noticeably did NOT list “indistingusihability” as a reason for allowing BellSouth to close its system to competition. In fact, even the most cursory reader couldn’t avoid the conclusion that in both the order and in the commissioners’ individual comments, the difference continued to be something the commissioners felt they had to contend with. (They did explicitly accept other parts of BellSouth’s argument, such as the contention that locking out competitors would make it more likely that BellSouth and other incumbent phone companies would build FTTC systems.)

The reason that the commissioners didn’t fall for that one is that it isn’t true. That the marketing (and politically savvy) operatives of BellSouth want us to believe it is so doesn’t make it so. Saying it to the FCC doesn’t mean they fell for it and saying it to us doesn’t mean we believe it either.

Aside from putting BellSouth’s words in the FCC’s mouth there are two other pretty egregious errors concealed in Oliver’s very carefully crafted letter: 1) that the only difference between FTTC and FTTH is the location of the box that feeds service to your house and 2) that BellSouth has 1500 employees in Lafayette.

This deserves a post of its own but the difference between FTTC and FTTH is not about a box “at the curb” or on your house–its about how many you have to share that box’s capacity width. In FTTH you get it all–all of the fiber’s capacity comes to you. In fiber to the Curb, you share that capacity with everyone within 500 feet. Think about the block where you live. With smaller lots that could easily be 100 people. You get a LOT less if you have to share the capacity with 100 homes–or even 32! Ths is BellSouth’s “big lie” and what they are concealing when Oliver and his agents desperately try to shift the focuse to the idea that they can provide the same services that you would get from LUS.

If LUS ran its sewerage service the same way that BellSouth wants to run your telecom services LUS would put a two-hole outhouse in the middle of your block and claim they were providing the same “services” as a real sewerage company. When they wanted to do a big upgrade they’d add two holes…and expect you to be politely grateful. Luckily LUS provides our sewarage and we get real service.

The other “untruth” that really gets under my skin in Oliver’s story is the claim that he’s been making wherever he goes that BellSouth has 1500 employees in Lafayette. This is isn’t true. Cingular, a company in which BellSouth owns a minority stake in has 1300 employees in the call center north of town and about 150 in its storefront shops around town. That leaves, maybe 150 employeees in Lafayette that actually get a paycheck from BellSouth. There used to be more…but that was back when the phone company would actually help with your inside wiring and had local operators who knew where St. Antoine strreet was. That’s a long time gone.

Oliver ought to quit trying to use the employees of another company to scare Lafayette residents and to bolster his weight in town. I know Cingular employees resent it too. From their point of view they’re in a different business than BellSouth and one that is gaining rather than losing subscribers. They don’t look up to BS.

Oliver’s letter is a classic example of subtle deceptions. It’s to Lafayette’s credit, and not his, that a letter addressed to us has to be subtlely deceptive to have a hope of succes. But the careful crafting points to one sure thing: BellSouth doesn’t have a real case. If they did they’d trot it out. But they don’t so they have to try and peddle this stuff.

“TBS Creates First Broadband Net for Video Games”

Mark your calendars: we may be seeing the first stirrings of a phenomenon that will help wipe out television channels. It’s been pretty clear for awhile that somewhere downstream, television channels as we now understand them are slated to die. They are creatures, ultimately, of limited bandwidth.

Reuters newswire has released a story previewing a new “channel” concept from the Turner Broadcasting System. Only it really isn’t a channel at all. It’s a broadband mixed media conception/confection that makes available a set of “classic” video games mixed in with “TV shows” that relate to the games and the gaming audience.

This move is strongly reminiscent of Turner’s “Turner Classic Movies” that turned an asset worth next to nothing—vaults of decaying films in the backlot storage rooms of the major production houses—into streams of gold so pure that these days, some movies are produced that never make it into general release and have all their life, and profits, filling channel space on late night TV. Turner’s early creation of that market allowed him to lock up vast amounts of valuable material for next to nothing. It looks like he’s doing the same thing again: locking in contracts on classic games that are currently worth nothing to their owners in hopes of creating new life for them on “the network.” The press release says that he’s got more than 1000 games from 17 publishers locked away to be doled out in a steady stream of “fresh” old games to subscribers. Turner stores them on his servers and you come along and play them off the network —no copy, I presume, is ever on your hard drive.

It looks like a pure broadband play. That is, there is no sign that the video content, the “TV shows,” will come in over standard cable TV channels—no sign except for the raw fact that the sorry state of broadband in the US (reported yesterday to have further fallen to 16th worldwide,) won’t support full-screen, full-rate video. Will folks who are paying $10-$20 per month for the privilege really be satisfied with those grainy postage stamp-sized things that you get off CNN? Which brings us to a little more wondering: it makes good sense to use old games for the same reason it makes sense to use old movies and the stories and press releases say that. But what they don’t say is that it is also a necessity. I’m not going to have any problem playing Centipede (my favorite old arcade game) over the net. But one of the full-throated 3-D action games that led heavy gamers to hand craft machines with special processors and video cards? Nah. The really hot stuff won’t work.

You know where this is going, don’t you? For projects like this to mature (and make gobs of money), these guys are gonna need really big broadband pipes. Current telecom providers, caught up in expensive mergers (BS), or in buying themselves private (Cox), aren’t investing in available technologies at a rate that could support a big-pipes level of service anytime soon. Make no mistake, Turner is trolling at the bottom end of this market. He’d love to move up to the flashy side, the HBO level of current games and fancy, in-house produced content layered in with related, full-screen video. And the HBO level of revenues as well.

But he can’t. The limit isn’t technology. It’s in the bandwidth the incumbent providers offer.

The argument that there are no “services” that any one could want that you can’t now have is the argument from lack of imagination. I could think of a dozen this afternoon…but my distributed computation fantasies, video telephony, and full throttle wireless location-based services aren’t very convincing to folks who are disinclined to believe that such things can really be real–or valuable. They can, of course, and will be… but what should be convincing, even to folks who want to believe they are already being offered the best that is possible, is the realization that Turner’s proposed gaming service is designed the way it is around the constraints of America’s current broadband system. Entrepreneurs are running up against the wall right now.

Turner should come to Lafayette sometime after July 16th and trial his dream system here. With any luck at all we’ll have a full population of people of every income and ethnicity to test it out on–all running at a bandwidth the rest of the country will only be able to envy.

Medical fiber (not oatmeal)

Both the Advocate and the Advertiser carried stories reviewing last night’s AOC Fiber for the Future show which focused on the enhancements that fiber would bring to the local practice of medicine. I watched it too. Not dramatic TV, but interesting nonetheless.

Medicine makes an interesting case study–you can see, after listening to the presenters from Southwest Medical Center, just how a fiber optic network might benefit medicine and by extension how such a network might benefit most professions. And the way it would benefit medicine is mostly by piling up a lot of small advantages to make going to and being a doctor a different and better experience.

I think there’s a tendency among advocates of fiber to think of its benefits in terms of “the big win:” some sort of large chunk of new or expanded industry. Something like the SGI talks heard rumored on the floor of TechSouth or a rapid take-off of a video gaming/animation hub in Lafayette. That’s all good –but the truth is that you can only increase your odds of such a big win occurring. And while we are doing a good job of shortening the odds, it’s a gamble. A gamble worth taking, even for a fellow like me who never learned to play bourré worth a damn. Famously we play the odds here in South Louisiana, not only in cards and horses, but also, you may recall, in oil and gas, to our individual and communal advantage. We dignify that daring these days by dressing it up as entrepreneurship. But we know that’s not something you can count on; only something worth taking a shot on.

So while we prepare to make that big win possible it’s also true that fiber brings quieter benefits, benefits that while less dramatic in some ways, are certainly more certain. The difference it can make in the practice of the professions is relatively subtle — though it seems dramatic to participants, as the panelists on last night’s AOC show struggled to communicate. My honest guess is that the vast majority of the value of a fiber-optic network will be not in the few big ticket wins but in the myriad little advantages that make life better for us all.

The case study of medicine, as mentioned, is instructive. I abstracted three points from my reading of the stories and my own viewing: Greater Capacity, Attractiveness, and Security.

By far the majority of advantage of fiber for medicine seems to flow from its greater capacity, as you might expect. Things which used to be practically impossible are made possible but difficult by today’s infrastructure. Fiber would make things like hi-resolution diagnostic scans and 3-D imaging much more practical. It would be easy, trivially easy, to shuffle the data around with fiber. Without fiber, it’s back, literally, to pony express: a courier has to pick up the scans and run them across town. Some scans, like three-dimensional scans driven by specialized software, might simply not run on local computers and the physician might have to go down to the hospital to view it interactively–to turn the image to see that little spot behind your heart. With fiber he or she could simply slave a local monitor to the hospital’s system and quickly review those crucial records during a checkup. Without fiber the doctor simply wouldn’t bother… This small thing would be repeated throughout the practice of medicince.

But fiber would also make our community more attractive to practitioners. We all know that doctors and medical professionals of all sorts are simply in short supply. They can pretty much choose where they want to live. And for most, it’s a matter of balancing the demands of family life and the demands of professional life. You want to live in a place your family likes and will be happy, safe, and comfortable. And, as a professional, you want to live in a place that has all the best tools and makes using those tools easy. Lafayette could easily become a place in which little compromise would need to be made. Festival International and fiber-based high tech imaging in your inexpensive store-front office? Who needs Houston? The payoff for you? More good, happy, doctors of the sort who value their practices and their families. Can I ever quantify that? No. It won’t be like a new underwear plant moving to town. But my guess is that it will be much more valuable in the long run.

The third big issue was security. The panelists were insistent that new patient rights and privacy laws made secure communications paramount–to the extent that if they cannot feel assured a transmission is secure, the standard is to not transmit at all. And in the medical field that decision can have life-threatening consequences. For the participants it was clear that fiber was the technology of choice for data security. There are simple, physical reasons for this as well as reasons related to the huge size of the data pipe and the maturity of the technology. But suffice it to say, they are right: If your medical records are going to fly around town you want it done on fiber.

So fiber is good for medicine. The thing is, it’s good for all the professions for much the same reasons. Security will be less of an issue for most, but the other rationales apply in full force. Everything from architecture to land management to geology is becoming more and more dominated by huge data sets and large, dynamic imaging tools. A great architect wants access to great tools and the means by which to communicate the results in a meaningful way. And they want a good place to raise a family and events like Festival International to enjoy with them.

It’s not the big win that will be the best thing for Lafayette should it come. It will be all the little wins with small-firm professionals and entrepreneurs that will add up to our big win….

“BellSouth, make FTTH plan public” + Shenanigens

A letter to the editor in today’s Advertiser refers to an incident on AOC a couple of weeks ago where Oliver claimed to have presented a plan to the city five months ago to take care of our infrastructure needs. It’s something you hear BellSouth and its agents regularly claiming: that BellSouth has some sort of unspecified plan to provide you with everything you need.

Now what is especially significant is that, as far as I can tell, the letter “BellSouth, make FTTH plan public” published today, Sunday, in the Advertiser is the letter Bill Oliver responded to Wednesday last, in the Times. The Times piece makes reference to Oliver being “missunderstood” in reference to his remarks on Greene’s show to the effect that he had offered a FTTH plan to the Mayor. But that charge wasn’t made publicly till Sunday. Interesting, No?

It very strongly suggests that someone at the Times made the letter available to Oliver before it was published. And not only that. They then allowed Oliver to answer the charge without even bothering to publish the letter. How cozy.

If you look at the masthead of the Times you’ll see that they are operating without an editor. That’s one explanation of this letter mess. –And an explanation of a few other things as well. One has to expect that Eric Benjamin would not have been allowed to so thourghly convince this town he was a mean-sprited, out-of-touch import (on both fiber and Catholicism) if there was somebody at the helm. (See Ron Gomez’s vitrolic letter in that same issue for a response to one of Benjamin’s missives.) Newspapers have editors for a reason: they stand guard over the day to day operation of the newspaper and its reputation. The Times sorely needs someone to fill that function.

Now you might think that I’m being overly partisan here. You might think that the sequence of events could be explained in some other way or that a reporter might have let it slip in the course of questioning BellSouth. You might be right. But you’d still have to explain how the reporter got hold of the letter and then you’d have to account for the Times printing a response to an unpublished letter. It looks bad. And a good editor would have made sure that never happened.

I could go on a tear about the nonsense that Oliver tries to pass off on the readers of the Times that any flavor of DSL will equal fiber’s capacities. Or I could ask about the wisdom of Oliver bringing up a meeing in November whose duplicity so angered the Mayor that he is now demanding a writen proposal before sitting down with the incumbents. (BellSouth asked, loudly and publicly, for a meeting about a public-private partnership the day before the critical council vote. They actually showed up with a technology presentation that suggested that maybe a 24 meg version of DSL would be trialed here. In some parts of town. They asked for confidentiality about their technology and then turned around and implied before the council that they’d shown technology to the Mayor that he hadn’t told the council about. After asking for confidentiality. I’d be angry too.)

I could go on about those issues. But instead I’ll just go back to this: The Times needs a real editor. Badly.

“Goal of bill is to delay LUS telecom plan” + action items

A breath of fresh air…in a world where people in positions of the least authority tend to mince words and speak with an exaggerated sense of caution it is comforting to see that the Advertiser, at least, is able to call a spade a spade (and avoid clumsy circumlocutions like “non-articulating traditional trenching tool”).

The subject of my pleasure is the Advertiser’s lead Sunday editorial: Goal of bill is to delay LUS telecom plan.” Now isn’t that a plain way to speak? Cut right through the convoluted provisions which are, in fact, only intended to provide a smokescreen and a little material for incumbent fear-based advertising and get to the point: what the bill is meant to do. Report on the fire. Not the smoke. Commendably plain.

More plain speaking:

Broome, acting at the behest of telecommunications providers, is seeking to further delay progress on the issue. She claims the bill is not aimed at Lafayette, but her claim rings hollow in light of the fact that Lafayette is the only community in Louisiana considering government entry into the telecom field…

How’s that for clarity: if it only applies to one city then it must be aimed at that city. I am beginning to feel a little sympathy for New Orleans in view of the state’s traditional inclination to manage local affairs there.

What it comes down to is the fact that the private sector doesn’t want to provide fiber to the home, and will use every means possible to keep government from doing so. Broome declines to say whether a particular cable company influenced her decision to push her bills. It’s one of those cases in which silence speaks volumes.

Wow. “Every means possible.” No quarter. Well there is the tiniest bit of mealy mouth there. We are avoiding saying “Cox.” But who doesn’t know that?

Broome’s bill may be only the first to promote the special interests of private sector telecom providers. In some states, private providers have convinced legislatures to totally ban government entry into the telecom field.

With so many of Louisiana legislators willing to jump through hoops for well-heeled special interest groups, it is not unlikely that such an effort will be made in the next session. Our delegation must be on guard.

My, my, no presumption of innocence on behalf of our lege? A direct recognition that such legislation is on behalf of special interests? How non politically correct.

Lafayette can make its own decisions on this matter, and will on July 16.

Now there is plain speech indeed.

The Broome bill is a transparent concession to special interests, clearly designed to delay a decision on the LUS plan. It constitutes legislative meddling in Lafayette’s affairs. We hope a majority of legislators recognize all this, and vote to kill the bill.

The term I’ve used is “publicly execute.” The Broome bill needs to be put down with such extreme prejudice that it makes it clear to all legislators that using the state to mess with local government’s rights to serve local citizens is political poison.

If you’d like to contribute to the firestorm I suggest you use either Fibre 911’s legislative resources or the resources provided in today’s Advertiser to communicate with Broome and your legislators. Lafayette Coming Together is planning a day at the capitol on the issue if it doesn’t go away first. Wanna come along for the ride? Write.

The people can speak plainly too.

Ninjaneering GameCamp! to open (with fiber, of course)

A press release came in over the transom last week that could well be of interest to readers of this list. If you are or have a 13-17 year old who would benefit more from learning how to make video games than playing them all summer, you should consider the new GameCamp! program at UL.

Ninjaneering is the Austin gaming firm that agreed to help design a new curricula for the hot area earlier this year based substantially on the vision shown by Lafayette’s proposed fiber optic project. Advocate coverage then noted that:

“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.

The philosophy of and the administration of the university also was an attraction, Zuzolo said.

“They are very forward looking about what they want to do, and they have a broader appreciation of game technology and the skill sets students will learn,” Zuzolo said.

That’ll be a common attitude, I’m sure. People with growing future-oriented businesses are interested in working with communities that share that orientation and understand that communications networks are essential infrastructure for their businesses. Public ownership is a plus for such businesses as it is proof-positive that the communities they come to aren’t merely mouthing platitudes but are willing to invest in themselves in the same way entrepreneurs invest in their own companies.

Here’s a quote from the Advertiser’s story at that time:

“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.”

Persistent rumors on the floor of TechSouth had SGI talking with Mayor Durel about just such issues…we just need to stand firm.

Oh yeah….Here is the press release….

Do you know a child who’s crazy about computer video games? Wish something constructive could come from all that game playing?

This summer, the University of Louisiana @ Lafayette plays host to GameCamp!, a college-preparatory summer intensive program for students aged 13 to17 who are interested in computer games, and careers in the multi-billion dollar computer game industry!

GameCamp! will be held from July 31st to August 7th, 2005. Parents can choose between having their children attend GameCamp! on a commuter basis (days only) or residential basis (overnight accomodations in UL dorms).

GameCamp! is affiliated with Ninjaneering, LLC, an Austin-based computer game company that serves a host of top-flight clients including Electronic Arts, NCSoft, the University of Texas and the US Army. In January, Ninjaneering entered into a relationship with UL to assist with development of curriculum for the new degree program in Game Design to be offered by the University.

More information about GameCamp! is available in the attached flyer, and at Parents interested in learning more about GameCamp! can also contact the camp Director Spencer Zuzolo at 512.796.4363.