Tech South

There’s a barely digested story about the upcoming Tech South conference in the Advertiser. It’s pretty much a roster of the tech celebrities that will be in attendance and a schedule. The roll call of tech companies is heavy on graphics and video graphics types with SGI, Industrial Light and Magic (Star Wars and beyond) represented. Hmmn. Between a new video gaming curriculum and (potential) fiber network to every home reducing entry costs Lafayette would be a great place for animation, gaming, and video startups. Maybe some of the big guys are thinking ahead. Sun Microsystems (remember micro computers?) with its strong business slant will also be presenting.

But all that is just the headliners; visit the site for a listing of the seminar tracks and individual seminars. Some seminar track titles as a teaser: Broadband & Digital Divide, Digital Tools & Creative Arts Track, Mobility Track.

The Fiber To The Home Council will be meeting concurrently with Tech South and will provide some of the firepower in seminars focusing on fiber and the use of real broadband.

If you’re a tech head of any variety its well worth checking out…and if you don’t want to attend the rubber chicken lectures you can wander around and attend all the seminars for free as long as you preregister. Can’t beat that price.

National Municipal Broadband Conference call report

I just got off a conference call hosted the Media Access Project, The Free Press, and Consumers Union. The Florida Municipal Electric Association also made a presentation. They released three very significant white papers which debunk the lies and disinformation spread by the incumbent telecom companies.

The mere existence of the conference call and the coalition that participated is part of mounting evidence that a strong pro-municipal organization with national reach is emerging and is working through well-respected national organizations. A strong network of grass-roots activists that shares strategies and “war stories” has emerged in parallel to this more institutional effort and are making the stands local groups take more effective.

The presentations were, at times, fiery. All the participants reflected a general distress with the way the incumbents have handled the conflict over municipal broadband and reflects a growing consensus among national advocates not known for radicalism (the Consumers Union?!) and conservative media like BusinessWeek and USAToday that the telecom providers, the BellSouths and Cox’s of our country have simply failed to do the job they exist to do and are now lying to the public. Harsh words, I know, but when you find them echoed by USAToday and the Consumer’s Union, it’s hard to dismiss as mere rhetoric.

There’s something stirring in this country and it cuts across traditional political lines. At the national scale (evidenced by this call and recent coverage) and at the local level, where Lafayette Republicans lie down with the Democrats and the local Chamber of Commerce endorses the bond election, the lines are shifting on telecom issues. Where ideology collides with reality, reality wins and a realignment on telecom issues at least seems in process.

But the immediate news was the white papers. They look absolutely stellar and gather in one place a lot of the information you otherwise have to dig for. I’ll sit down and scrutinize them and, over the next few days, report on what they contain and the implications for our fight here. But there is no reason for you to wait.

Here’s access to the papers:

Telco Lies and the Truth About Municipal Broadband Networks (pdf)
Focuses on case studies of the cities that have instituted municipal networks and does a point by point rebuttal of the lies the Teleco’s have repeated. Includes Tacoma, Marrieta and all the nonsense we saw bandied about at the “academic broadband conference” here in Lafayette early in the fight.

Connecting People: The Truth About Municipal Broadband (pdf)
Focuses on rebutting the more general arguments against municipal networks, the ones repeated time and again across the country. A flying overview: municipal networks increase competition, lower prices, and increase the range of services available. They foster telecom sector investment that the current incumbents are successfully squeezing out of the market (think Eatel). The supposed municipal “subsidies” come nowhere near matching the huge federal, state, and, municipal advantages enjoyed by the incumbents (think Cingular’s tax forgiveness). And more…

Broadband and Economic Development: A Municipal Case Study from Florida (pdf)
This one is an economic analysis of economic growth in a Florida county, Lake County, following the introduction of a municipal fiber network. It contrasts with the lack of development in counties that are matched on other economic and demographic factors. Good stuff but forbiddingly technical in places.

New artwork posted: T-shirts

Our ArtWorks! section has an new batch of pro-fiber artwork. This time it’s T-shirt art. It is accompanied by a simple explanation of how to make your own T-shirts using the materials. These are a little funny and a little thought-provoking. Take a look and feel free to use them to support the cause.

Some background: Layne St. Julien designed and made a set of pro-fiber T-shirts for our family to wear at events like DownTown Alive! Three generations in similar pro-fiber shirts was quite a sight and we got lots of smiles. The political sorts call this “visibility work.” I call it “flying the flag.” It’s part of volunteer work we’re doing for “Lafayette Coming Together,” a group of citizens organized to do grass-roots neighbor-to-neighbor, friend-to-friend politicking for the LUS fiber project. (Interested in doing your part? We always need members! Write

Putting this together was a pretty spontaneous and fun thing on our part. If you’ve got some pro-fiber artwork, music, or silly dogerel poetry—whatever — just drop us a line and we’ll add it to the list.

$100 laptops for children: MIT and Blanco

The AP wire carried an interesting story this week that told the tale of an MIT group that is working toward putting together a $100 laptop aimed for mass distribution to children in the developing world. A great idea–and not impossible, given breakthroughs in display technology and, more crucially, in the economics of distribution. The team behind it has a lot of pull; both Negroponte as the leader of MIT’s legendary media lab—a lab organized around deep-pockets funding by tech giants—and Seymour Papert—as the grey eminence of educational computing, the man behind Logo and other major projects—both have deep connections. And of course, they have direct access to all those MIT students where clever is mandatory and brilliance common. It might turn out to be a pipe dream but these guys are the sort who can decide on a project and already have had meetings with officials in Brazil and China before the initiative is announced.

A great idea, yes, but as was remarked on Mike’s DigitalLouisiana List (recommended) in response to his posting the story: Why can’t we do this too?

The question resonates when we pick up this morning’s Advocate. In Blanco still plans to give schools laptops,” John LaPlante, goes back to Governor Blanco and asks what happened to her pledge to provide every seventh grader with a laptop. The short answer: money. (She felt she had to choose between pre-K programs and the laptop program and, in my humble opinion, choose wisely.) The cost would be prohibitive…and most of the direct cost is in the hardware. Developing the technology model and the economic model to distribute critical technology could make similar devices available for our students.

In fact, Blanco is considering a recommendation from the “Louisiana Laptop Task Force” to begin a pilot program. Being a good Lafayette chauvinist, I nominate Lafayette’s schools. Once we get municipal fiber, providing the wireless access to these computers that make the whole thing work will be a snap. Kids will universally have easy, inexpensive access to bandwidth at their homes. Part of a technology pilot program, often, is to let the new technology show off its capacities and to develop a model for the future. That is pretty much what this program would be about and the perfect place to develop a program aimed at the future would be in a place where the future has already come.

After a fiber rollout, Lafayette, and no place else in Louisiana, will be living at least 7-10 years ahead of everyone else…and will be the perfect place to test the utility of all sorts of technologies.

This might well be the first of many such opportunities.

“Center to break ground on new facility, 3-D technology”

The Advocate carries a story to supplement yesterday’s Advertiser story on the same topic: the new “LITE” center for immersive technology. Yesterday I tried to be a little humorous about all the acronymns we’ve got to wade through these days. Today I’ll only say that they must have been in a real hurry if “LITE” with all its, ah, ambiguous implications was the best they came up with.

It should really be a boon for Lafaytte, regardless of the name. It should prove, should further proof be needed, that Lafayette is already a tech center.

ATIC becomes LITE: the acronymn story

ATIC is becoming LITE says the Advertiser. The name of the high tech, CAVE-based technology center which will focus on 3-D visualization and translating that technology into economically valuable applications and reperesentations has changed—less than a week before ground-breaking next Tuesday.

The newly named LITE center will be connected to the world through the ultrafast (running out of superlatives these days) LambdaRail, a research-into-practice initiative for further boosting the speed of our fiber-optic backone via a link from LONI, the Louisina Optical Network Intiative, the state’s own fast-fiber, mostly academic, grid.

ATIC stood for “Acadiana Technology Immersion Center” and the new name, LITE, will stand for “Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise.” According to the Advertiser article, LEDA CEO (dontcha love aronmyns) Gregg Gothreaux says the change comes about “primarily because this is part of a statewide regional venture.” Passing on the question of what a “statewide regional” might refer to, what’s apparent it that the center is to be associated with the whole state and not just Acadiana. That’s probably a good thing. But it’s hard not to ask yourself what would motivate changing a widely-advertised name at the last minute.

I’d guess politics. There have been recent rumblings that Kathleen Blanco’s administration has been too “Acadian.” In fact, this week’s Times of Acadiana has a story by a Baton Rouge writer complaining —or at least relating complaints about—Blanco’s administration having too many Acadiana names and “favoring” Acadiana. Fiber gets a mention as something that Blanco has done that might “favor” our region. So the name change may relate to that whispering campaign. I’d sure hate to see “Acadian” become politically incorrect.

“LUS begins touting fiber plan”

In a sidebar the Advertiser reports on the first LUS’ presentation before a community group promoting the fiber to the home plan. Boustany, an engineer with LUS, gave a presentation before a group of “engineers, technicians and architects” at the petroleum club centered on the technical aspects of the plan and giving details about current plans for the rolling install. I’d sure like to hear that presentation. It’s exactly the sort of details that folks need to know to answer questions individuals have when they start to wonder about their actual installation.

Keep your eyes open for announcements of similar presentations. The show is on the road.

Coverage of the Council’s approval of report

Both the Advocate in “C-P council approves LUS report” and the Advertiser in Council takes step toward fiber vote,” cover last night’s unanimous vote to approve R. W. Beck’s feasibility and engineering study. Approval of such a study is one of the required steps on the way to a projected July 16th vote on the fiber issue.

For the first time Bobby Badeaux, representing the mostly rural northwest edge of the parish, joined the for vote, making approval unanimous. According to the Advocate: “Badeaux said that now that the issue will be taken to a vote, he feels the best thing for him to do is let his constituents decide.” While Badeaux’s vote is welcome, that rationale is odd. Odd because, in fact, Badeaux’s constituents will not decide. The referendum vote will be a city vote and Badeaux’s district is not in the city. It’s a little hard not to believe that Badeaux doesn’t know this. In the past his vote has seemed a mixture of “what’s in it for me” (his constituents, not being in the city, wouldn’t have been slated to immediately benefit) and resentment. Much of that resentment seemed to center around the rejection of his (profoundly mistaken) idea that mailing postcards to every citizen and requesting they return their opinions would result in a more accurate reflection of public demand for LUS’ proposed services than the scientific poll LUS actually ran. So why change now? With big bandwidth slated to run to every school in the parish over LUS fiber (including the middle school of which coach is principal), maybe its benefits don’t seem so much for other people any more. Or perhaps he’s begun to hear the arguments that the plan would help develop an economy that would keep his middle school students in Lafayette when they graduate from school. Or maybe it’s just as simple as Lafayette is coming together over this plan to take the future into our own hands.

Both stories cover Kaliste Saloom III’s presentation in support of LUS for the PAC Lafayette Yes! From the Advocate:

He said a “robust” fiber-optic infrastructure and Lafayette’s culture could help develop a cluster of technology-based industry, with higher paying jobs that keep people from leaving the city or state for better opportunities.

“Do we say ‘yes’ to our future, or do we simply sit back and wait for large, out-of-state companies to tell us what to do and when to do it?” Saloom said.

The Advocate also carries some photos, one of a Lafayette Coming Together meeting (which is reproduced online) and a photo of father and son wearing profiber T-shirts that I thought was great (you’ll have to find the paper). News – C-P council approves LUS report 04/06/05: “. “

Fiber For The Future at AOC

I caught the Fiber For The Future show on AOC last night and have to say I was impressed. The show’s format is a combination of “host and guests” and call in show. The show is on every Monday from 5:30 to 6:15.

Now if you’re like me you’re likely to think the whole idea pretty cheesy. But Dee Stanley actually makes a pretty good talk show host. He even manages to ask some of the of the hard questions. Now you know, and I know, that doing that is good tactics. Answer those questions when you’ve got control of the context. But its hard to do and even harder to bring off. It actually works well for them. The conversational format helps make it informative whether whether or not you’ve followed it all closely.

Dee hosted, with Terry Huval and consultant Doug Dawson, whose firm wrote the original feasibility study, playing guests. A couple of things worth mentioning here came up. One was that Dawson mentioned an FCC study that showed a 15 to 17 percent percent drop in rates in cities that had competitive cable services. Considering that only about 2% of American’s have access to competitive cable that’s a pretty good sign that most of us are paying monopoly rates for our cable.

But the most interesting revelation of the night was news adding detail to just how determined LUS is to make it easy to buy services from them. A recent letter to the editor tried to imply that apartment dwellers and condo owners were not going to be served. That was crazy, of course, why would LUS ever abandon so lucrative a market? But what the detailed denial on the show made it clear that, in the absence of other, better, alternatives, LUS is prepared to transfer your internet signal from fiber as it comes into the building to your electrical circuits —in an apartment, or in your home. All you’d have to do is plug an inexpensive device to any electrical outlet in the house and the plug your computer into that box and, voila, you have access to the internet. As far as LUS is concerned if you’ve got power, they can get signal to you. This revelation surprised me…but it was very interesting and means that even someone who has never any form of internet or cable before will be able to get connected without running any additional wiring into their home.

State of the fiber-optic conversation

Kevin Blanchard pens one of his occasional “opinion” pieces today and focuses on the state of the conversation. Kevin’s pieces in the opinion space are less opinion and more views from a few steps back. They are always interesting and, I think, insightful. (I wish more reporters—who I know have a lot more background than they can share in a single story—would try to find a forum like this for pulling the larger story together. )

In this review Blanchard takes a look at the state of the conversation–between people at lunch, online, and in the major media–and suggests how the conversation might be shaping up for the referendum campaign. He hits the nail on the head with the following remarks:

Unlike elections in which people are asked to vote on candidates, this July election will be mostly about ideas — the potential benefits of a fiber-optic telecommunications system for economic development, the proper role of government and the strengths and weaknesses of the LUS plan to deliver service and repay the $125 million it must borrow.

He’s right: the campaign will be about ideas, about a vision for Lafayette’s future… and if the opposition has its way about fears.

It’s a good read; go take a look at the whole thing. News – Fiber-optic plan generates lots of conversation 04/05/05