2nd Cable Cut in Two Weeks

Both the Advocate (LUS slashes another cable, blames BellSouth mistake) and the Advertiser (LUS slices another BellSouth cable) carry stories on the second cut of BellSouth Cable in a week. We go for years without cuts like this. It is very weird to have two cuts like this so close together and only involving LUS cutting BellSouth cable (and not Cox’s and not someone cutting LUS’) I have this funny thing that’s due to my background: I get very antsy around statistical odditities. They need to be explained. All the interesting stuff in research starts with something that doesn’t fit and after a while you learn to latch onto things that are “wrong.” I do tell myself that this is a small sample and that at the granular level chance is uneven. Still….

The claim in both cases is that the ground was mismarked.

My instinct is to asked what has changed recently. Everything from the motives of the parties to new crews marking to new folks digging would be worth looking into.

The Advocate article notes the history of incumbents in other places suing over line cuts. I’d look into that too.

Buy Your TiVo through LUS? Possibilities…

Readers with a very long memory might recall my family’s fondness for our TiVo digital video recorder. So no one will be surprised if I say that the story in CNET: “Deal extends TiVo’s digital reach” is good news. [TiVo and DVRs in general not on your radar screen? You might want to check out the wiki article on this before going on. Don’t grok TiVo? Here’s my take on why you would love it.]

The CNet article reports on a deal TiVo has struck with the video-buying cooperative from which LUS will be purchasing its cable content.

TiVo said Monday it has agreed on a deal to provide digital video recorder equipment and service to customers of the more than 1,100 member companies of the National Cable Television Cooperative. The NCTC, based in Lenexa, Kan., buys hardware and programming for its member operators.

So TiVo equipment will be available to LUS, who in turn can make it available to you at no doubt discounted prices. This is good news in more than one way, however: there are at least 3 layers of nifty potential for the citizens of Lafayette in such a deal.

First, foremost, and without a doubt, TiVo is the best Digital Video Recorder (DVR) on the market. It’s the Apple of DVR’s: it got the best interface and hardware integration around. And that interface, like Apple’s, is built on an open source operating system (in TiVo’s case linux) that leaves the system open to creative hacking and creative mucking about. Unlike Apple TiVo has taken a relaxed attitude toward such hacking, making for some pretty nifty extensions. Also unlike Apple, TiVo boxes are generally some of the cheapest in its category, in part no doubt because its business model includes a monthly subscription fee for its best-in-class database of shows and their local stations and beginning and ending time.

So TiVo makes the best, least expensive DVR around. And as a bonus it’s not packaged with all the anti-consumer stuff that the boxes from the big cable companies include; for instance you can transfer shows to other of your boxes and don’t have to have digital cable to get the box. It would make a great basis for a set-top box for any cable company that really cared about its customers; the sort of company I expect LUS’ telecom division to be. But that’s only the most obvious level at which it is good news to hear that LUS will have easy access to these DVR’s.

There is also the question of the future potential of the network and how TiVo’s current technologies could feed into making some of those dreams happen first in Lafayette. One of the things a TiVo box can do, out of the box, is upload and download shows. The way folks think about DVRs is pretty much the way they would think about a video recorder if it was easy as pie to program, came with a fantastic on-screen version of TV Guide that allowed you to choose to record one or a series of shows in a few clicks. Form most folks it is a video recording device that really works. That’s cool. But its a limiting way of thinking. Newer TiVos allow the user to move their content around between their machines, even if they are located in different states. They are addressable. And that opens up a wealth of possibilities–if you are connected to a big pipe. A limit on the current generation of DVRs is that the number of shows you can save are limited by the size of the hard disk located in the box. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to upload a show to a network server if you were about to run out of room locally? With enough bandwidth there should be nothing much preventing you from doing so but the existence of a big storage unit online with the ability to register you and send you back you video when you found the time to watch it. But..if you could do that why bother to upload at all? Surely someone else in the city has already asked for that episode of Desperate Housewives? All you really should have to do is register the channels you’ve paid for and you could download anything that has ever shown on your channels (OK, maybe that would be too much to hope for, but for at least the last two weeks). More? You really, really want to to watch that show on Bravo that everyone is talking about but don’t want to pay for Bravo. If you’re willing to pay a premium maybe Bravo would see the economic sense in providing it so that you’d have something to talk about at work. That’s not enough? OK next…Why not just turn everything into pay per view showing? You get rid of all your channels and download only what you want to view. All that sound Futuristic? Unlikely? Years from realization, if ever? You apparently haven’t heard about the Netflix/TiVo deal. Not if, when. Not where…. but with luck and a little vision, Lafayette.

Many folks think that where big broadband is going take us all is to the death of the programming model that the networks, broadcast TV, and cable have built their built their business around. Having TiVos as LUS’ settop box in the beginning could take us several leagues down that road before other areas have a chance to even start the journey.

But, as the man on TV says: Wait, there’s more! It isn’t only that TiVo is the best DVR around, especially for consumers. And it isn’t only that its got unbridled network capacity built in. No, what might turn out to be most exciting about getting TiVos offered with your cable service is what is hidden beneath the consumer electronics gloss: TiVos are computers. They are multimedia Linux computers. And you thought WalMart’s Linux boxes were cheap–you can get a TiVo box for 99 dollars currently. I’ve had this little fantasy before, back in September, a fantasy I sincerely hope is prescient:

Maybe LUS could make a deal with TiVo to install their linux-based settop boxes and thereby set up a smooth transition from the cable model to a content-provider based model which will eventually require a computer-based video machine. And there is no cheaper media computer than the TiVo.

Wanna really sweeten the deal for Lafayette? Notice that TiVo is based on Linux. ‘Spose you could install a nice X-11-like interface in a walled off partition and use the TV screen for a display? What Digital Divide? Just as fast as that every house that had inexpensive “cable” would have an “ok” computer with full internet connectivity. Slap on a little “open office” applications and a browser and off you go. At a price that would be unheard of.

CRT TV’s make lousy monitors. But they can work. And the new LCD TVs would be great. Commandeer the IR port or better yet hang a little bluetooth module off the serial port and enable a keyboard. Use a GNU or X-11 desktop interface. Now there are all sorts of practical problems and real issues. But my guess is that they could all be overcome. And the motivation is great: in one fell swoop every cable box becomes a city-standard computer and every cable household has access to the same suite of free but capable software.

What digital divide?

PSC Follow Up Stories

This morn we see stories on the PSC from both the Advocate, following up on yesterday’s account and from the Advertiser. There is a lot of overlap with yesterday’s Advocate story in the Advertiser account–and for that matter in the Advocate’s.

In trolling through the articles I did pick up a few tidbits that were new or put know facts in a slightly different light.

From the Advocate:

LUS has disagreed with many of the proposed rules — which were drafted by a PSC consultant — saying they go too far or are inconsistent with the intent of last year’s legislation, Act 736, the Local Government Fair Competition Act.

That’s interesting. We knew that a consultant had been hired. But I had assumed that he or she consulted on, not actually drafted, the proposed rules. Supposedly it is not uncommon to hire a specialist to work on specialized rules. But it brings up a issue common in such cases: just about the only way to gain expertise in telecom matters is to have been a telecom employee; and anyone who works in the area has to consult mainly with…telecoms. Sharing expertise with the PSC staff is one thing. Allowing the consultant to write the rules without sufficient oversight might well explain the draft feel of the proposed rules and their pretty obvious attempt to reinterpret each point in favor of the BellSouth position. I’d be curious to know more about this person….anyone have a name?

The Advocate story also goes through and recites the very tortured rationale BellSouth uses to justify its positions. Make an attempt to force yourself to read them–the disjointed and self-serving the logic is more helpful in establishing BellSouth’s desperation than almost anything else. Take a look at the confusions in these two successive paragraphs:

Not requiring LUS to make an in-lieu-of-tax payment each year would let LUS pocket the “imputed taxes” it will be forced to charge customers without passing those payments along to the city treasury, BellSouth writes.

In that case, LUS would be “impermissibly cross-subsidizing” its communications business “with imputed tax dollars that it keeps for itself, rather than turns over for the benefit of government.”

The first paragraph is about imputed taxes…and imputed taxes are only imputed; they are not real. They are the centerpiece of BellSouth’s attempt to force higher rates on LUS customers. They were never intended to be actual taxes but are only devices that sit on some accounting software that forces the basis for setting rates higher. It’s true that they keep LUS from charging as little as it might wish to and so force higher revenues on the company. But the revenue part was only the inevitable side-effect of using the state’s Public Service Commission to force up prices. All that is happening here is that BellSouth is attempting to have it both ways: to make sure LUS’ rates are high and that LUS realizes no real revenue from them. It’s a silly contradiction–and a natural by-product of BellSouth’s attempt to force higher rates on the public. The PSC should make them live with the consequences of their fear of competition.

But the really nutty argument is that there is some sort of “cross-subsidization” involved. These fake “imputed” taxes have nothing to do with the LUS system outside of the new Telecom division’s accounting software so their non-existent existence can’t draw any resources from sewerage, for instance. Since cross-subsidization can’t possibly be at stake any further silliness that takes the accounting device for a “tax” shouldn’t even come up–but apparently BellSouth thinks that if it piles up the silliness high enough someone might take them seriously. I strongly suspect the PSC is just not that gullible. They don’t have to take some consultant’s suggestion as the gospel and they all have to run for office in this state again. If nothing else, Lafayette’s victory, and even more crucially the pro-local, anti-monopoly basis on which it that election was won, should give the elected commissioners pause. The anti-corporate, pro-Louisiana sentiment that catapulted Huey Long into the governor’s chair from a position on the PSC is still potent in Louisiana and can be the basis for successful elections. BellSouth may be a past master at spreading around the cash an election needs to run on…but Lafayette proved that having money is not the same as having votes.

“LUS argues for limited rules” (& I argue for fairness)

The Advocate this morning published another of Kevin Blanchard’s meticulously researched, carefully interpreted pieces. I recommend you read it through and only then come back here for my take if you feel the impulse. The story gives or alludes to pretty much everything you’d want to know to understand the game that’s afoot at the Public Service Commission.

The first paragraph provides a succienct summary:

The Public Service Commission should limit its proposed rules for municipally run telecommunications businesses to only those regulations specifically allowed by state law, Lafayette Utilities System argued in a filing Monday.

More specifically:

Some of the restrictions included in the proposal and suggested by BellSouth and Cox amount to “additional burdens” beyond those contemplated by Act 736, LUS wrote in its filing Monday.

Those new restrictions included forbidding loans (made at market rates) from another side of the utiltiy system to prevent “cross-subsidization,” backing the bonds with the full credit of the system, the PSC mandating a tax by local govt. (by not allowing it to “forgive” in lieu of taxes for a new venture), and limiting the geographic reach to the region in which the business was first chartered.

If the rhetorical purpose of the law were taken seriously these would all be non-starters. They start from a place that is already more restrictive than any business would tolerate. They attempt to tilt the playing field against LUS so much that the “playing field” is rotated up to become a wall preventing entry.

That was NOT the idea.

Let’s take it slow; one issue of “fairness” at a time.

Are private businesses allowed to:

  • cross-subsidize their operations and make in-company market-rate loans? Yes. They can subsidize any startup they choose in any way they choose…even to the extent of taking profits made possible by their monopoly status to enter and dominate a new business category. Witness the cell phone industry where the Baby Bells bought their way into ownership of the industry.
  • back bonds with the full credit of their business? Yes. Of course. If they couldn’t put their business on the line no rational bank would ever give them credit. Its called collatoral, and using it is necessary. Try suggesting a law that a private business ought to give up its history of success and the resources it has ammassed through the years in order to be “more fair” to some startup without that history. NO legislature would consider it because it would be unfair and because it would quash innovation and change. It would do the same here.
  • take tax-forgivness by a local government? Are you kidding? Yes. Asking for and getting tax forgiveness that beggars the schools and the general fund is practically required. Surely you didn’t miss the massive subsidies demanded and given to Cingular when they came to Lafayette? To add insult to injury part of the package Cingular got was below-rate electricity deal from LUS and the free provision of expensive infrastructure to get that electricity to them. (LUS is subsidizing Cingular. Do you suppose BellSouth and Cox would look the other way if LUS would give the same deal to its new Telecom Division? In the name of fairness.)
  • do business outside the region in which it first achieved success? What’s wrong with you? Yes. Expansion is practically the definition of success. Grow or die. No private business would contemplate allowing the state to limit them in this way. What they’d say, with considerable justification, that all such a rule would accomplish would be to protect inefficient businesses from competition and drive up the price for the consumer. And that is exactly the case in this instance. Only BellSouth and Cox are the ineffective businesses who refuse to meet the needs of their customers and are about to lose in a head-to-head competition with a nimble, local, technically-advanced competitor. (Notice that the incumbents, again, are showing a real fear of competition. If they can’t kill it here they at least don’t want it to spread.)

No, this is not about fair competition, a point made insistently on these pages. It is about unfair competiton. The PSC should not let itself be made the agent of BellSouth and Cox in their attempt to force higher prices on the people of Lafayette and this state. The people have made their position crystal clear on the issue of competition. The PSC should not help quash competition, innovation, and the provision of advanced services. That is not their mandate.

“In One Stroke, Podcasting Hits Mainstream”

So what’s at the top of cool stuff list in both New York and Lafayette? Podcasting, that’s what. What’s that you say? A Pouge article in the New York Times is happy to inform:

A podcast, as anyone under 25 can tell you, is an audio recording posted online, much like a short radio show. (“Podcasting” is a pun on “broadcasting,” implying, of course, that you listen to it on your iPod or another music player.) The beauty of a podcast is that it’s free and you listen to it whenever you like. And there are more than 7,000 podcasts “on the air” right now, on every conceivable topic. Their quantity and variety already dwarf what you can find on regular radio.

What’s exciting about podcasting is that it promises to be the second major “new media” form spawned by the web (the first being webpages themselves) to be widely and popularly adopted as a production platform by regular folks. Meaning that everybody and his sister can make a podcast:

What makes podcasting a national dinnertime conversation these days, though, is that anyone can make one. You just need a microphone, a sound-recording program, and the tutorials that have already appeared at many points on the Web, including apple.com/podcasting.

Well, most folks also need a spot on the web to upload the file and a webpage with a link to allow their listeners to download it but I guess you could email your podcasts. Anyway: its dead simple to produce for the mildly technically inclined.

Podcasting has been tooling around in the background now for some time. First as the awkward marriage of audio files, blogging, and RSS feeds. Then as an adjunct to commercial radio shows and bleeding into a a lot of self-produced talking head shows without a broadcast home—and a fairly restricted listenership of early adopter types.

What brought it all to the attention of the New York Times was the inclusion of podcasting in the latest version (4.9) of its iTunes software; according to Pogue what Apple solved was the ease of use issue:

Until Apple got its mitts on podcasting, the finding, sampling and managing of podcast audio files was time-consuming and scattered. First you had to find a podcast worth listening to, using directories like www.podcast.net or www.podcastalley.com. Then you had to find, download and (in some cases) pay for a podcast-management program like iPodder (for Mac, Windows or Linux).

Apple made that easy, set up a directory and services for free and integrated it with iTunes, one of the net’s most widely distributed programs. Instant mass media. Podcast downloads rocketed out of sight.

You’ve been patient, the part about Lafayette is coming up now. It’s not the consumption but the production end that got the cool treatment in Lafayette. The good folks down at AOC (Acadiana Open Channel) held an experimental podcasting workshop last Tuesday that got at least 40 people into the big room at the front of AOC to find out how to do the thing. I and an unlikely bunch of people ranging from some of AOC’s talking heads to geeks, to artists, to academics, to an archivist, to plenty of just plain folks sat in the audience listened to the talk show influenced patter of the two producers. It was neat, fun and interesting. And it does seem very easy to do. AOC will offer a soundbooth for producers of podcast with an nice suite of equipment. And they’ve set up a website with an index of locally produced podcasts and even maintain a forum-style discusson and self-help group. (If you want a sample of locally produced podcasts you can find their podcast on podcasting (really) and podcasted Fiber for the Futurer and Whistleblower shows at the site.)

A big part of the reason this surfaced in Lafayette now –and at AOC–is that podcasting might just be the entering edge of the wedge for the widely anticipated new media production that lots of the technorati believe is just around the corner. Just as soon as we get big, cheap, univerally available broadband. That has been slow in coming. But it is now coming to this small city and the thought is that we better get good at this stuff fast. Podcasting is seen as a model of on-demand, net-resident, unfiltered, noncommercial, and wildly various user-produced media that may well displace the current broadcast-limited models. AOC, with its mission to make media available to the community is a natural fit and it gives AOC a chance to see how it might take its mission into a new net-based age. An age that will begin here before it begins anywhere else.

Kudos to AOC. Thinking ahead of the curve in this way is exactly what we all need to be doing.

Acadiana Talk: A Lafayette Portal

One of the promises of the web has been to make good information easily accessible–and in that it has generally been an amazing success. You can find amazingly obscure infromation amazingly easily these days. Someone has posted to the web all you ever wanted to know, and more, about the care and cultivation of clumping bamboo in subtropical regions.

The big exception to the wealth of info is in local information, the sort of information that you’d love to have access to in order to get by day to day. How do you get good maps around here? Where’s a good body shop? Where can you safely take your aunt out for a drink when she comes into town? (You are NOT taking her where you usually go.) Are there any really good used book stores? What about good restaurants – one that serves a real hot plate lunch like you remember your dad taking you to eat at? Aren’t there any real hardware stores left–with clerks who know what a screw-in breaker is instead of kids that just snicker when you ask?

Well, Dane has launched a local portal which would help you find all that and more as well as giving you a good place to join many a discussion about all things Lafayette. It’s a clean, sophisticated site with an very ambitious structure. He’s started to populate some of the stable information and to seed the discussions but a project like this needs participation. And Lafayette needs a project like this.

Go over, take a look, root around and see how broad the possibilities are. Consider adopting some section as your special interest and try and give it a little life. Or post to a discussion group. The trick with a community portal like this is that it has to build up a community to support it. (I’ve tried to take my own advice: see my response to the query asking about good restaurants: “Whats your favorite place to eat?” I like the Creole Lunch House.)

There’s a special offer up now. The crew at Acadiana Talk is offering to set up a web page on Acadiana Talk for folks who need one for their community-minded organization. Write Dane if you’re interested.

WBS: PC World

What’s Being Said (WBS) Dept.

PC World carries the story “ISPs Attempt to Stop Public Broadband: Cable and DSL providers battle cities that want to offer access to residents” that pretty much outlines the position of the network providers:

The municipal Internet trend is irking giants such as Bell South, Comcast, SBC, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon Communications.

They’re irked…that’s one way of putting it; someone’s got a gift for understatement. But Joey Durel has a different way of characterizing the issue according to the story:

Lafayette, Louisiana, mayor Joey Durel says that his city ‘begged’ its phone and cable companies for years to wire it with fiber-optic access–to no avail. The city now plans to build its own fiber network, but Bell South and Cox Communications have filed court motions to stop the plan.

‘The practices of corporate America are hurting communities like Lafayette,’ he says.

Lafayette demonstrates that towns like North Kansas City, Missouri can fight the telecoms and win. That town is currently being sued by Time-Warner Cable; that its case was quickly dismissed by the court seems to matter little to the corporation and Time-Warner is pursuing an appeal. Probably Time-Warner hopes they can sue North Kansas City into submission by using its effectively unlimited funds to keep the town mired in courtrooms while draining the city’s coffers. It’s cases like this, even more than our own situation in Lafayette that make passage of some sort of federal pro-muni protection like Lautenberg-McCain so necessary. Small towns may simply not have the resources to resist even the most clearly frivolous attacks.

On Understanding the Referendum–or Not

It’s hard not to get weary…at two weeks out from a referendum that opens a new door to building modern network infrastructure; a referendum that very few outside of (and not a few inside) Lafayette thought could never be won by the city the banner headline at the top of the Sunday newspaper is: “Vote: 12 of 85 precincts shun fiber.” Not “Enormous win for city and LUS” Not, “Every council district votes, decisively, for fiber initiative” nor “Lafayette puts itself at the head of the class” not even the unsexy but more informative: “Most unifying election in a decade” but instead a headline that trumpets the closest thing to a negative outcome that, after extensive rooting about, one could come up with.

Get real.

The strongest story that could be told about this election is almost the polar opposite of the one: that this was the least divisive election in a long time. That Lafayette, for all the attempts to divide us, did come together. Ideology, income, cultural allegiance, geography, race, and petty politics all played a smaller role (not no role, a smaller role) than we have grown used to. One irony is that this story is almost entirely written out of the data and analysis of Lafayette Coming Together (LCT) principal Don Bertrand and is drawn off his site at Fibre 911. The Advertiser, by and large, only adds interviews. The analysis is a retrospective that the pro-fiber campaign workers from LCT are putting together to try and understand where the least strong areas of support in the population are in order to further build up support in those areas. And the least strong aspect has to be clearly understood–this is an analysis that focuses on council districts (not precincts) it has to be noted that NO council district came in under 8 points profiber. And 8 points in American politics is an overwhelming win. To repeat: every council district voted overwhelmingly for fiber. Don’s analytical framework is not new, though his application of it to this situation is insightful: tepid support by African-American councilmen and too many community leaders depressed turnout and low turnout in that area followed the pattern anticipated for low turn out areas for all of the city: it led to a magnification of the “No” vote. There is a core of naysayers on any vote that involves change or (can be represented as being about) taxes. The trick is to make sure as many of the voters representing the overall sentiment of the city turn out as is possible. This focus on turnout as the crucial factor is hardly a secret as LCT, LCG, and LUS all made repeated statements about the importance of turnout and spent most of their efforts in the final weeks to ensuring participation. (The LCT run phone banking effort was aimed at this as was the final LCT flyer and the preponderance of LCTs final week’s radio campaign. The public statements of both Durel and Huval during this period also emphasized that turnout was the single most significant factor.)

First, a little perspective: the number of precincts voting “NO” is a small number–12 of 86 boxes, about 14% of the total. But that sounds like there are are at least some smallish chunks of the city that voted no. But even that is misleading. Of those that voted only about 7% voted in precincts that voted no. The boxes that voted no were either partial boxes (only a few voters eligible to vote in city elections-much of the precinct actually being outside the city) or had small turnout, or both. That’s actually pretty near universal support or as nearly so as our system ever produces. I challenge folks to find a less geographically segmented vote in our city’s recent history. Or where there is less spread between the results of the strongest pro and and strongest anti boxes.There was far, far less evidence of the real divisions in this community than in any other vote I could name. Reflect briefly on recent presidential and mayor-president elections. This was a unifying election by almost any standard. And its disappointing to see it portrayed otherwise in the daily. This is another case when a little historical perspective is in order.

Let’s look at the fuller, district-level analysis of which the precinct figures quoted in the Advertiser are a part. Here’s the analysis in a nutshell: low turnout is bad for the pro-fiber vote, so raising turnout is a key issue.

For all districts the belief was that a low turnout would tend to lower profiber vote; as already mentioned that was a widely shared assumption based on the history of past elections. This is particularly true in elections where there is financial issues or a significant element of fear-based campaigning. The default vote is for “no change.” So the question was the “No” vote attributable to low turnout.

One possible way of thinking about how to push up turnout, as well as win votes is to go to the district and neighborhood leadership and organizations. Certianly that was done all over the city and quite effectively by the administration. But the question of the utility of council members in the two predominately black districts of town played out differently from those representing the white districts. It is worth noting that NO councilman played a very visible role. Some did not even attend the town hall meeting in their districts. For some there was consistent but quiet support, from others essentially silence. My guess is that this was deliberate and tactical. The chief emotional opposition to LUS was the idea it was “government.” And, for those who found that argument salient, the council–especially in light of recent shenanigans–represented everything that was distasteful. LUS, as a solid, apolitical utility company did not benefit from association with the council.

Overall that was a tactic that seemed to have worked. The LUS proposal was mostly free of entanglement in council politics. But it failed in the black community. While the African-American community distrusts the council no less, and perhaps more, than the other segments it also relies on its elected leadership to interpret the opaque workings of city hall. They expect good advice; that’s part of the leader’s job. And the same silence that probably helped elsewhere was taken as ambivalence in the black community. As nearly as I can tell that ambivalence on the part of Benjamen and Williams was real. The realized the benefit but wanted more explicit commitments. It showed in their support and the ambivalence led to a noticeable lack of enthusiasm for the plan in the community that will probably benefit most. That lack of enthusiasm let to low turnout. And that low turnout emphasized the residual “anti” vote.

It’s not at all clear that low turnout/low “yes” areas have a different proportion of hopeful and fearful citizens than any other part of town. What is clear is that they are less excited by and less engaged by the possibility either way and that the proportions of no votes actually cast was higher at least in part for that reason. Most of the No vote boxes fall into this pattern.

The lesson? Leadership counts in the black community. And the lack of enthusiasm among the elected leadership depressed the vote in those areas. And low turnout skewed the vote toward the negative range.

Just for the record, there is a separate situation that probably reinforces the results of council-based “least strong” areas outlined above. An entirely different set of factors depressed turnout and percentages in the last 48-72 hours from that which the campaign was anticipating based on initial phone data. We currently attribute that drop, estimated at about 10 points, to the last minute disinformation campaign, especially the 2 pieces of direct mail, black radio appearances, and negative automated dialing. That story is, almost surely, more newsworthy. It’s implications have a national reach, it was murkily financed, and it’s got the high drama of attempting to evoke a sudden change with a last minute, below the radar, punch. Yet nothing of this last minute campaign has been mentioned in the local media. (An Advocate retrospective did mention direct mail) What is surely the most exciting (and arguably the most important) story of the referendum election has gone unreported. And instead of that or any real retrospective that would try to explain the campaign’s surprising outcome we get this: “12 out of 85 precincts shun fiber.” I’ll be very glad when, tomorrow, we get some real editorial guidance for the local daily newspaper.