“Consultant cites network benefits”

Fell behind in my blogging duties today….helped put up some of those handsome 4×8 For Fiber signs you are seeing arournd town.

But this morning’s Advocate posting on Lafayette Coming Together Breakfast deserves some attention. Read it beside the Advertiser’s version and you might wonder if it Toccalino, the keynote speaker, actually spoke at two different events.

This telling of the story thematized LEDA’s endorsement (not mentioned at the Advertiser) and reported points from public housing director Walter Guillory’s speech (given as a board member of LEDA.) Not reported, but in the same vein, were endorsements from the realty firm Van Eaton and Romero.

The story also covered Toccalino’s comparison of the Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa experiences, including a tidbit I missed that the Cedar Falls municipality has a 75% take rate.

“Breakfast brings fiber fans together”

The Advertiser’s story on the fiber breakfast trades an overview of the event’s meaning for a focus on the he said, she said response to the keynote speaker’s address. That’s not entirely bad, but it is limiting.

The breakfast focused on two themes: economic development and “Lafayette Coming Together”-the breadth of support for the fiber project. That second theme was voiced in the invitation as:

Lafayette has come together – Republican and Democrat, business community and civic groups, black and white, wealthy and not – in support of developing a new telecommunications infrastructure that will set Lafayette apart and drive development in the new century. It is our generation’s opportunity to stand up for Lafayette, for our future, and for our children.

The Development Theme:

The Advertiser story focused, not entirely unfairly, on the first theme, though even there it seems to have missed the core of the keynote speaker’s message. One of the major difficulties in explaining the value of putting forward a leading edge technological infrastructure lies in the very fact that it is leading edge. People understandably ask for assurance that this new project will work. The response, equally fairly, is that a big chunk of the value of being on the leading edge is being first. There won’t be examples of how this particular variation of a valuable technology succeeds until you (or we, in this case) succeed. The best way to meet this objection is to pick a closely analogous case and show how that community benefited by taking the same path.

That’s what John Toccacino, the speaker at the breakfast, tried to do. He showed a case of a city with a long enough history with investing in itself with a technologically advanced infrastructure to show the real benefits of municipal telecommunications. Cedar Falls is 10 years down the line in its experience with an advanced telecommunications utility. Now, that far out, the advantages are unmistakably clear. Of two initially equal cities sitting side by side, all the growth has been experienced by the city that chose to invest in itself. It is vibrant. Its sister city, Waterloo, is stagnating. A stand-still tax base means higher taxes to fund essential city services and higher taxes discourage new investment. The writing on the wall is clear: now, belatedly, Waterloo, Iowa has decided that it must invest in a fiber to the home project if it hopes to catch up.

Lafayette wants to be Cedar Falls, not Waterloo, and those in attendance clearly “got it.” People hung around in groups talking for a long time and the speaker barely got to his plane on time.

The “Lafayette Coming Together” theme:

The second theme of the breakfast, that Lafayette has “come together,” didn’t make this version of the story. But it was apparent at the meeting. A banquet room full of people could look around and see that the Republican table was next to the Democratic table, that there was a table for the northside organization “Concerned Citizen for Common Sense,” that the head of the NAACP was at the meeting, that businesses like Van Eaton and Romero had a table, and civic organizations like Rebuild Lafayette North did so as well. A large number of tickets were sold to individuals at the door and those that attended walked out with fistfuls of buttons and bumpers stickers and a yard sign or two. I was most gratified to watch the clusters of people talking after the meeting. Both inside and outside the hall, people that you don’t usually find talking to each other were engaged in intense conversation long after the silverware had been piled into carts.

Lafayette has come together over this issue and the support is both broad and deep.

And that is maybe the more important and more hopeful part of the story.

Bipartisanship—It’s not only for Lafayette!

Occasionally there’s that cause which is so obviously to the benefit of the people that both the Democrats and the Republicans back it. In Lafayette the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project is such a cause, and both local parties have come out in favor of it. A broad-based coalition of civic groups and businesses have added their voices to the chorus of individual endorsers as well. Naysayers are few and the most prominent are employees of BellSouth and Cox.

The claim has been made that the FTTH initiative puts Lafayette in the forefront of American cities in terms of technology. It’s beginning to look like we might be out ahead of country in making this issue the focus of a broad-based bipartisan coalition as well.

Today sees the introduction of the Lautenberg-McCain Bill which would “amend the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preserve and protect the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services.” Lautenberg is a Democrat and McCain a Republican, yet they’ve joined together to make common cause with the people of this country. A large coalition of more than 40 organizations ranging from the American Association of Law Libraries to the Consumers Union has joined them. As residents of Lafayette might expect, the most prominent voice on the other side is associated with the private telecom companies. A bill introduces by Sessions, a Texas Republican, and 16 year veteran of SBC hopes to accomplish the opposite: using the power of the federal government, not to preserve the rights of localities but impose, by federal fiat, a ban on the construction of any new municipal broadband systems.

So Lafayette is out ahead again. That’s the gist of it.

Want a little more? Here’s the way the federal fiber partisans think about it.

From Lautenberg’s speech on the floor of the senate:

A century ago, there were efforts to prevent local governments from offering electricity. Opponents argued that local governments didn’t have the expertise to offer something as complex as electricity. They also argued that businesses would suffer if they faced competition from cities and towns. But local community leaders recognized that their economic survival depended on electrifying their communities. They knew that it would take both private investment and public investment to bring electricity to all Americans. We face a similar situation today.

The following quote is particularly poignant considering BellSouth’s recent revelation that its plan is to leave 20%, not 10%, of Lafayette out of the provision of advanced services:

There are also underserved urban areas, where private providers may exist, but many in the community simply cannot afford the high prices. Dianah Neff, Philadelphia’s chief information officer, knows this all too well. “The digital divide is local,” Neff has said, commenting that while 90 percent Philadelphia’s affluent neighborhoods have broadband, just 25 percent in low-income areas have broadband.

You may rest assured that if BellSouth has its way in Lafayette those that would be left out would be even more dramatically to be found among the low-income areas of our city.

From McCain’s speech on the floor of the senate:

This bill is needed if we are to meet President Bush’s call for “universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007.” When President Bush announced this nationwide goal in 2004, the country was ranked 10 th in the world for high speed Internet penetration. Today, the country is ranked 16 th. This is unacceptable for a country that should lead the world in technical innovation, economic development, and international competitiveness.

And he adds, in a little bit of that satisfying laigniappe:

Several newspapers have endorsed the concept of allowing municipalities to choose whether to offer high speed Internet services. USA Today rightfully questioned in an editorial, “Why shouldn’t citizens be able to use their own resources to help themselves?”

Sound familiar? It should. It was Lafayette that USAToday article was referring to.

All in all, the US would be wise to follow Lafayette’s lead.

“BellSouth offers city deal; Durel doubts it’s enough”

Kevin Blanchard of the Advocate does his usual incisive job of reporting in this story. He lays it out, as my mother might have said, “in apple pie order.”

BellSouth proposed last month that if Lafayette paid or gave tax incentives to BellSouth, the company would “accelerate” its communications network build-out plans…

Durel said Tuesday the plan proposed to Lafayette does not meet the minimum requirements he’s looking for in a potential partnership.

“Does it accomplish anything that we want to accomplish — not at all,” Durel said…

“This was the same thing they came to us with in November,” Durel said. “Unfortunately, this seems to be the best they have to offer.”

It will only try an

Durel did not agree the BellSouth proposal achieves the results desired.

Durel said he also does not like the approach of BellSouth slowly making its advanced services available over a four-year period and only then “close to 100 percent,” of households.

(If we pay BellSouth off.)

The LUS plan is to make its service available to anyone who wants it, he said.

Lafayette wants a fiber-optic system built to every home and business in the city, reduced prices for telecommunications services and availability to everyone who wants to sign up — something that would attract new business and make Lafayette stand out around the country, Durel said.

“Anything short of that is not worth talking about,” Durel said.

Indeed, we’ve waged the fight and the prize is at hand. No compromise is the path of wisdom now.

Oliver’s letter also proposes for BellSouth to provide wireless coverage across Lafayette — either through three to six “Wi-Max” stations or hundreds of smaller wireless transceivers on street lights around the city…

Durel has said before that Lafayette is working on a way to use its fiber-optic network to also provide wireless.

And Oliver remarks:

BellSouth’s proposal would “enable the citizens of Lafayette to reap virtually all the benefits of the proposed LUS plan without having to incur the major investments and substantial risks inherent in that plan”…

No, it would not allow all of Lafayette’s citizens to benefit unless we paid off BellSouth (A fact which incidently should silence those that pretend that BellSouth intends to service all of Lafayette and that LUS doesn’t.) It doesn’t assure us of robust competition, instead it subsidizes one of the competitors. (Hey, where’s Cox?)

No, most crucially BellSouth’s plan doesn’t put control of Lafayette’s future in the hands of Lafyette’s people. This BS plan puts control more solidly in the hands of the Atlanta corporation whose actions in Lafayette have exhibited a fine disdain for the people of Lafayette. (Recall the Academic Conference, and both the push polls?)

Lafayette needs to control her own destiny. Investing in ourselves has always rebounded to our advantage. And this flimsy proposal offers nothing that should lead us to believe that others are willing to do that investing on our behalf.

We’ll have to do it ourselves.

The final line in the Advocate article serves well here:

Durel said there are no dates set for BellSouth and Lafayette officials to meet.

The date to keep is July 16th. Vote For Fiber. Vote Yes!

BellSouth Seeks City-Parish Subsidy

Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Advertiser carries a story on what is called “an offer” by BellSouth to City-Parish President Joey Durel in an attempt to derail plans for LUS to run fiber to every home and business in the city.

This isn’t an offer; it’s a plea for Lafayette to prop up BellSouth in its competition with Cox across South Louisiana!

Apparently still unable to convince his Atlanta bosses that Lafayette is a dynamic and important market for the company (due to Cox winning a good bit of phone market share here?), BellSouth Louisiana President Bill Oliver is asking City-Parish Government to subsidize the company’s business here!

The subsidy (which I’ve heard could be as high as $2.5 million per year!) would be used to bring a what would currently be considered a “good enough” network to as much as 80 percent of the city. The other 20 percent of the city (Hmmm! wonder where that might be?) would be stuck with whatever they’ve got now.

Would there be legal issues arising from a direct government subsidy that supports corporate red-lining?

One of the fundamental problems with this offer — beyond the subsidy/corporate welfare piece — is that the proposed network would be obsolete just about the time it was completed.

The underlying assumption in the plan is that 24 megabit per second download speeds will be adequate in 2009-2010. That might be true if nothing changed between now and then, but there is the little matter of HD-TV convergence in the offing that will render the proposed network obsolete as soon as it happens.

That convergence is being pushed along by demand for wireless spectrum. A good bit of spectrum is now tied up by television broadcasters who have their long-held analog spectrum (the stations you can pick up with a regular television antennae) and the free digital spectrum Congress gave them about a decade ago to open the way for the development of HD-TV. There is mounting pressure in Congress to make the broadcasters give back the analog spectrum, which was part of the deal that got them the free digital spectrum.

The relevance is this: HD-TV signals take up more bandwidth than analog channels (that’s why cable providers are working with broadcasters to put off that give-back date). The network described in the BellSouth offer/plea will not be adequate to deliver HD-TV to all subscribers on that network. The result will be either bandwidth rationing or price ratcheting.

So, the ‘in Lafayette’ impact of the subsidy would be to saddle tax payers with a new entitlement program that would produce a network with limited utility, while providing businesses and consumers no protection on rates. Right! BellSouth wants tax payers to fund a networbuild-outut (which would have the effect of endorsing it’s anti-competitive practices) but be allowed to charge whatever it wants for the services that network enables them to deliver.

It also appears that BellSouth wants Consolidated Government and taxpayers to help them pay for new fiber capacity between New Orleans and Lafayette. Again, Oliver wants Lafayette to do for him what he can’t convince his bosses in Atlanta to do. New fiber capacity between here and New Orleans would help BellSouth in all markets in between.

BellSouth offers no ideas as to how Consolidated Government is supposed to pay for this subsidy, particularly since the intent of this dog and pony show is to defeat the LUS Fiber Referendum on July 16. Maybe cut night bus service? Police and fire pay? Government layoffs?

This is an essential point. This is not a serious offer because it offers no specifics. It’s sole purpose was to enable Oliver, his minions and The Sock Puppets to be able to claim that “an offer has been made.”

The technology included in this plan pales in comparison to that contained in the LUS Fiber plan. But, it is on the financials that it falls apart.

Under this plan, millions more in Lafayette dollars would be removed from circulation here and shipped off to other BellSouth operations through the subsidies alone. Control of rates is mentioned nowhere.

This is a sweetheart deal for BellSouth. After trying to kill the LUS plan in the Legislature last year before it got to the feasibility stage; after funding push polls seeking distort public understanding of the fiber issue not once, but twice; after suing to force an election; after fighting the project at the bond commission; after liberal use of deliberately misleading terms like “functional equivalent” and “fiber to the curb”; after calling the global recognition of fiber as superior infrastructure “a fetish,” Oliver came calling on Durel calling this plea an offer!

It delivers nothing in the way of innovation to Lafayette. It would consign 20 percent of the citizens of this community to a technology backwater and instead of closing the digital divide would make it the official policy of City-Parish Government.

This is not an offer; it is not a plan; it is a ploy of a desperate company losing market share, and confronted with the reality that it is on the verge of losing its place in what is emerging as the most demanding market in the state.

Bill Oliver’s problem is not in Lafayette, it’s in Atlanta. BellSouth HQ in Atlanta does not recognize or in any way honor the aspirations of this community.

We want to do better! We don’t want to be one of 100 cities of 100,000 people that are muddling along in a pack while other, larger cities pull away from us based on technological advantage. We want to create the kind of community here where success is not determined by where you live, or how much money your daddy had, but how big your dreams are and how well you take advantage of the great tools here that will enable you to realize them.

The LUS Fiber Project has already succeeded in surpressing cost increases from Cox. It has vaulted Lafayette into the consciousness of Fortune 500 companies. It has companies looking at Lafayette as a site to pilot new technology. Will some reporter ask Joey Durel to talk about his meetings with Sun Microsystems? These were face-to-face meetings between Durel and Scott McNealy and other leaders of Sun. It is a direct result of the LUS Fiber Project being on the table.

It’s working and it hasn’t event been built yet! The BellSouth ploy starkly outlines the choice for Lafayette on July 16. We can invest in our community, ourselves and our future and Vote Yes! Or, we can be content to be like a bunch of other indistinct, mid-size cities that are cash cows for companies that make their more important investments elsewhere.

It’s a stark choice, but a clear one! I’m Voting Yes For Fiber on July 16. Don’t let Bill Oliver fool you.

“Durel: BellSouth fiber offer falls way short”

Here’s what I think the headline really ought to be: “BellSouth “Proposes” to Take Us for Fools, Durel Declines to be Fooled”

As the details of BellSouths “proposal” are revealed in this Advertiser story it looks like BellSouth isn’t really offering to do anything that it hasn’t publicly announced are in its plans for its entire footprint. This sounds an awful lot like the offer that kicked up such a fuss in November.

Here is the deal: At a moment when their cable competition is driving them to the wall across their footprint BellSouth is gearing up for an ADSL rollout that it has been plannig, but failing to implement for years. This year they got license from the FCC to rollout their Fiber to the Curb without having to share the lines with competing phone services (this is why EATEL no longer has an active presence in Lafayette). They still haven’t started rolling it out. Soon we hear soon. Meanwhile they are already trialing some sort of WiMax precursor in Atlanta and in Florida.

Oh yeah, and if we want all our people served we’ve got to pay them off. And even then they are only willing to provide it to most. No solid promises. If anyone has any doubt that this fiber to the curb, ADSL stuff is about readlining out the least profitable parts of our city (and every city) let this proposal make one thing clear: even under the greatest possible competitive stress BS won’t serve more than 80% of the people without government handouts.

Lafayette would get nothing from this deal that they aren’t already planning to do just to compete with Cox. To say nothing of LUS’s fiber of which they are justly terrified. Here is what they aren’t saying: Should the referendum pass they’ll have to roll out these services in two years just to avoid falling so far behind their competition as to make them a laughing stock. Vote for the LUS plan and watch BellSouth actually move us up on their list for a change. Not to do us a favor or to give their customers what they want. No–for reasons BellSouth find sensible: to preserve their competitive position. After this proposal it’s clear that this is all that will lead them to offer us advanced services at a competitive price.

But go read it yourself. Some of the juiciest quotes:

BellSouth’s plans are to expand its fiber optics broadband network in Lafayette, reaching about 80 percent of households with high-speed Internet, video and broadband services at speeds up to 24 Mbps within four years…

BellSouth’s plans are to expand its fiber optics broadband network in Lafayette, reaching about 80 percent of households with high-speed Internet, video and broadband services at speeds up to 24 Mbps within four years, Oliver wrote.

The company proposed public involvement in the form of financial support from the city such as cash, tax credits, incentives “or other possible forms of payments or concessions…”

“What they can offer is about one percent of what fiber-to-the-home can offer,” Durel said. “It falls 99 percent short. It doesn’t prepare Lafayette for the future.”

BellSouth representatives said they may be able to offer 24 Mbps in four years, Durel said. LUS signed a deal with the Lafayette Parish School Board to provide 100 Mbps today, he said.

And at the end Joey nails it:

Durel said his door remains open to proposals that will set Lafayette apart from the rest of the country using fiber optics.

This plan does nothing to distinguish Lafayette. It’s the ultimate faux partnership…one side gives what they were going to do anyway and the other side gets….what? BS. It’s not a good trade.

“Executive to cite fiber-optic benefits for Iowa city”

The Advocate carried a story yesterday about the Lafayette Coming Together Unity breakfast. The story focused on the economic potential claimed for a fiber optic network.

John Toccalino, director of integrated networks for Black & Veatch Telecommunications Division, will talk about the economic development experienced in Cedar Falls, Iowa, after that city built its own fiber-optics network, according to a news release from Lafayette Coming Together.

Cedar Falls has been used as an example by LUS officials in the past. The small town built a fiber-optics network in 1996, while the larger, neighboring town of Waterloo did not.

In the years since, Cedar Falls’ industrial park has grown several times over — including a large Target distribution center.

The event is also a chance for supporters to show their support and to demonstrate the breadth of support for our fiber to the home project among all of our community.

Tickets are still available…please consider attending.

Tickets can be purchased at LaQuinta Inn and Suites in the Oil Center, Durel’s Pet Shop at 3814 Ambassador Caffery and The Independent Weekly at 551 Jefferson St.

Tickets are also available online at http://www.lafayettecomingtogether.org and can be picked up at River Oaks the morning of the breakfast.

“Fiber to benefit medical field”

The Advertiser has published the second in a series of short educational articles that offer some background information on the fiber to the home project which is going to be voted on on July 16th.

This one focuses on the medical profession and how better and faster communications speed diagnosis and make consultation with out of town experts more practical.

This might sound a little exotic but a father in one of the town hall meetings (the Dupuis Center if memory serves) stood up and talked about how long he had to wait for his daughter’s scan to read by a specialist in Australia and sent back to Lafayette. They sat in the emergency room waiting room for over 3 hours for the upload to complete.

Advertiser Launches Series of Educational Items

The Advertiser has launched a series of short educational “items” as part of its continuing coverage of the Fiber to the Home referendum. Up today are some background terms:

  • Fiber optics: bundled hair-thin glass filaments through which light can travel, transmitting large amounts of information at the speed of light over longer distances and with less interference than metal cable.
  • Fiber to the curb: fiber optic lines that reach within 500 feet of a home or business’ curb. One fiber would be split to serve numerous customers.
  • Fiber to the home: fiber optic lines that extend all the way to each home or business that subscribes. Each customer is served by a fiber line, eliminating competition and bottlenecks sometimes faced with fiber to the curb.

  • Not a bad way to start.

    Come Show your Support at the Pro-Fiber Breakfast

    Come one, Come all!

    Lafayette Coming Together, Mayor-President Joey Durel, and LUS Director Terry Huval have issued an invitation to the community to join them in a unity breakfast in support of the fiber to the home initiative. The breakfast emphasizes the astonishing degree to which Lafayette has come together over this initiative and the possibilities for economic development that will help move all our people forward.

    From the invitation:

    Lafayette has come together – Republican and Democrat, business community and civic groups, black and white, wealthy and not – in support of developing a new telecommunications infrastructure that will set Lafayette apart and drive development in the new century. It is our generation’s opportunity to stand up for Lafayette, for our future, and for our children.

    The speaker will be John Toccalino, who has first-hand experience with the results of one city’s decision to invest in itself by building a fiber-optic network. Sister cities, separated by a river, went down separate paths when one decided to build a fiber-optic network. Come hear the dramatic results. From the announcement:

    …hear keynote speaker John Toccalino deliver A Tale of Two Cities from a first-hand perspective entitled “Making the Connection Between Telecommunication Infrastructure and Economic Development.” Mr. Toccalino’s entrepreneurial spirit, extensive project management experience and interest in technology make him an excellent resource for detailing the economic and community benefits of a municipally owned fiber optic system.

    How you can participate:

    Tickets are $20 each or $160 for a table of eight.

    By check: LaQuinta Inn and Suites (1015 W. Pinhook in the Oil Center), Durel’s Pet Shop (3814 Ambassador Caffery Parkway), or The Independent Weekly (551 Jefferson Street). Please make checks payable to Lafayette Coming Together PAC.

    By credit card: Phone at 337-258-1908.