EATEL Leaving Lafayette

Not news dept.

It may not be news, not really, but EATel is officially out of Lafayette. So says a brief on the KLFY newsite. It’s a sad thing. East Ascension Telephone was a great, small, local competitor as long as the Feds were trying to encourage phone competition. In recent months the FCC has restored to BellSouth and the other regional phone companies the “right” to charge pretty much whatever they want to use the phone company network. The old rules were written at a time when the Feds 1) thought competition a good thing, 2) recognized the historical fact that BellSouth’s landline telephone service was built on governmentally guaranteed profits, 3) understood that such services remain an effective monopoly throughout almost all of BellSouth’s footprint, and 4) actually considered itself a group with responsibilites to the consuming public.

All that has changed.

And one consequence is that an entire category of price competition has been eliminated. If you don’t think losing competition will have the effect freeing BellSouth to raise residential and especially small business rates (where EATel was especially effective) you’re either excessively partisan or just not thinking.

LUS cannot get here too soon.

EATEL Leaving Lafayette

PSC denies BellSouth, Cox requests to reconsider rules on LUS fiber

The Advertiser carries a short (very short) breaking news bit on the PSC’s denying BellSouth and Cox’s request for a reconsideration of rules that apply to LUS today.

It was pretty clear in the last round that the PSC thought it had achieved as workable a compromise as was possible given the limits of its authority. (Two old posts are available if you want to review. 1) My first person account, and 2) an overview of the print media stories.) So the question a reasonable person would ask is why BellSouth and Cox would go back and court the ire of a body that has clearly made its decision and which BellSouth at least has every reason not to irritate.

LUS’ Terry Huval, as usual is on top of it:

The request for a rehearing was a necessary step for the companies to file lawsuits over the PSC rules, said LUS Director Terry Huval.

As has been remarked before: If you can’t win at the polls you can always sue ’em…These guys don’t have an ounce of pride.

WiFi Hotspots in Lafayette

The Daily Advertiser has a relatively new, online-only feature called “Acadiana Future” that focuses on local implications of new technology. The idea, according to the introductory piece, is to prepare us all for change:

Suppose that Lafayette is about to undergo a change. Suppose the change will be bigger than the arrival of the oil and gas industry in the 1950s. Bigger than the completion of Interstate 10 in the 1970s. Bigger than the oil crunch in the 1980s, the 16 percent population growth of the 1990s or the $260 million home construction boom in 2003-2004. Bigger even than the influx of Katrina evacuees.

…the last time technology made so much information available to so many people, the result was the Renaissance. A few million books, printed on clumsy presses and distributed via pack animals and sailing ships, changed a world in which literacy had been a novelty.

Imagine the power that access to a few trillion Web pages, on demand, will give the man in a South Lafayette office. Or the woman who works at a North Lafayette industrial park. Or the kid with a laptop on his kitchen table in Azalea Park.

The immediate impetus for the series is the fiber-optic communications utility the community voted in on July 16th. But the stories, frankly, so far have seemed more like rehashes of wire stories (like the ones about online romance or file sharing) than explorations about what will be different about Lafayette. —And, make no mistake, Lafayette’s implementation of big broadband will give us so much more capacity than most places the wire services write for that stories written with “little” broadband in mind will be only a relatively small part of the story. I’d love to see stories about big broadband, downloadable video, “long tail” sports downloads, big simulations, cheap online “web apps,” business opportunities for video phone providers, residential network installers and the like. There are some really interesting things coming that could involve every department of the newspaper and I hope that someday this series will mature into an exploration of Lafayette’s new possibilities—and get into the “real” paper as well. (What’s that about?)

But the immediate reason to write about the series is the most recent story, Wi-Fi pops up in the darnedest places,” which sketches out the odd and not so odd locations at which you can jump onto a WiFi connection. Most folks who have WiFi available know about CCs and Mello Joy. (And if you don’t you should cruise down to Mello Joy, have a piece of Lea’s pie, and sample surfing the internet from one of the tables on the street.) But there were plenty of places in the story that had open nodes that I didn’t know about and I consider myself knowledgeable (or did). So ride over to Krystal to read email. Or go to Guamas at lunch and keep tab on Hurricane Wilma or the latest commentary on the Saints. The Green Willow Cafe has WiFi too. Now the story did miss some places that I’ve used or know about: the Sonics on Pinhook and Willow have WiFi, as does the airport, for instance. And there’s no mention of the places you can find with a little bit of “wardriving“–there are lots of open business and residential nodes if you poke around a bit.

It’s a fun piece, and potentially valuable too. Have a look.

Cox asks PSC to reconsider fiber rules

In further attempts to avoid head to head comptetition Cox has decided to try and get a “playover” from the PSC as a short story that ran Sunday in the Advertiser makes clear…the issue comes before the PSC tomorrow. From the story:

The Public Service Commission on Wednesday will reconsider rules and cost allocation guidelines approved in September that will determine to some extent the rates Lafayette Utilities System will charge its customers for Internet, cable TV and telephone services it will provide via fiber optics.

In a motion for reconsideration filed Thursday, Cox Communications asked the commission to reconsider two issues decided Sept. 14. The first involves rules governing the pledge of resources from other LUS divisions to repay bonds for the telecommunications division. The second involves in lieu of tax payments.

Just for the record:

I confess a continuing irritation that stories about the current incumbent delaying tactics is the continuing implication that the first BellSouth/Cox lawsuit lead directly to the July fiber referendum. That’s simply not the case in any simple way and smoothing over the reality with easy-to-write sentences to that effect misleads the public about the real history. The city chose to go to referendum precisely to avoid playing into the delaying tactics that the incumbents continue to use. The city did not follow the path laid out by the suit and used a different method to call a vote than the one that would have been followed had the court ruling been challenged and upheld. The city’s position has always been that they went to referendum not because they had been found against in court but because appeal would have added months and possibly years of delay to the process. Their claim was that the delay was the primary purpose of the incumbent’s legal tactics; a point which seem to be confirmed by each succeeding legal and regulatory challenge. There’s gotta be a way to write these stories that doesn’t write the incumbents self-serving definition of the sequence into each recounting of the tale.

ThornyRose Stands up for Fiber

Here’s a blast from the past that I missed passing on right after the election. Every so often I tinker around with the search engines seeing what unusual things I can pull up about Lafayette and fiber optics. This time I came across a vibrant post in Broadband Reports in response to the Lafayette’s victory in the fiber optic referendum. It’s fun enough to be worth sharing even at this distance in time.


My husband, who is one of the 1,300 employees with the Cingular Call Center in question, came home with so much propagandized mess spewing from his mouth last Thursday that I, quite unabashedly, giggled in his face and asked him how brainwashing felt…

FTTH has passed, and I’ve never been more jubilant. LUS has done a fantastic job with electricity and water, and I really can’t wait to be first in line for fiber. I just can’t contain my glee in telling BellSouth and Cox to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine in two years…

As for my husband losing his job…There are other jobs out there. And personally, if his job hinges on the whims of a crackpot like Oliver and his henchmen, then I’m glad my hubby will be somewhere else…

But I will say this…Last week, Cox raised rates in every city in Louisiana EXCEPT Lafayette. Coincidence? I think not. But it will be interesting to see if Cox and BellSouth will settle for a smaller piece of the pie, or if they cut their own throats and settle for NO pie…

Viva le Lafayette et Joey Durel!

Now doesn’t that just sound like your favorite aunt? The one that your really admired? It’s folks with that sort of attitude that make places into real communities.

“Time for a real Internet highway”

The metaphor of the internet as the Interstate of our day, and as a utility as necessary as any other is making headway. In tech-savvy locations like CNet you are beginning to see knowledgeable reporters give up the conventions of “he said, she said” reporting and begin simply speaking in sensible terms about what the nation’s real choices are. It’s damn gratifying and long overdue–the central function of media is not sell ads and avoid offending potential advertisers; it’s central purpose is to inform the public.

And, for a change, you see the intelligence of reporters showing through in pieces like: Time for a real Internet highway

“The Internet is a utility, without which our daily lives cannot be productive or interesting. Governments, companies and institutions now need it to function. So do you and I.

Once upon a time in America, toll roads through the forests and canals were dug using private money. Both were owned by private companies. That didn’t work. Public highways did. “

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell; there really are areas of endeavor where private investment doesn’t work…I’d only fault this article for not making explicit what underlies that inability: that roads, canals, the water system and the electical utilities are natural monopolies with all the disadvantages in terms of exploitive pricing and wretched service that attend to any monopoly. Turning those areas of the economy over to highly regulated private enterprise was a compromise born in days when the public sector simply couldn’t afford to do the job. Those days are over. All that is missing to correct the situation now is the political will to offend coroporate campaign contributers.

What’s particularly gratifying about the CNet discussion for this social studies person is the clear understanding of history and economics:

A similar process put electricity into the less populated and poorer areas of America. Where I grew up, in the Missouri Ozarks, our electricity came from a federally supported co-op. No private company could turn a profit stringing copper wire up and down those thinly populated hills.

We already have our highway system and our electricity. Time has come for our broadband. It’s a utility. We now need broadband to live, work, recreate and even make a profit. Whether in Palo Alto, Calif., or Cavalier, N.D., we need our broadband. Many local areas of America are attacking the need for broadband ubiquity, but perhaps it’s time for a national program.

Fiber, cable or wireless–many areas of America are not going to run a profit for any broadband service provider. It’s time for the National System of Interstate and Homeland Defense Broadband. Private companies will make billions building the system, as with the interstate highways. Once it’s done, we’ll all profit.

A breath of fresh air.

Seeing the Future in the present…

Andrew Cohill, (LPF interview) currently of Design Nine and famed for his role in the Blacksburg Electronic Village experiment, has a comment worth sharing on seeing the future of television in Apple’s latest offerings…and fiber. He’s right, of course, broadband will kill TV, at least insofar as we mean being able to watch our shows only in regularly in half-hour slots, only in increments of a half hour and sliced up by advertising that determines the rythmn of the story. Downloadable Video (DV) will surely replace Television (TV). And it is much more likely that the video device of the future will more nearly resemble today’s networked computer than today’s cable TV.

This piece is from an email listserv, I don’t usually reprint “articles” in full; but this is the only way to share this particular publication.

But if you’re impatient here’s the “yeah, you right” punchline:

What’s missing? No cable TV or satellite TV connection is required.

What’s needed? A good broadband connection.

What’s needed when everyone watches TV this way? Fiber to the home, because current DSL and cable systems can’t handle the load.

Cohill’s full post:

Another nail was hammered in the coffin of analog TV yesterday with Apple’s one-two hammer slam. The company rolled out a new version of the full size iPod that stores and plays video. They also rolled out a new version of iTunes (works on Windows and Macs) that allows you to store video on your Mac just the way you store music.

The online iTunes music store also has video for sale, and the selection includes music videos (predictable) and full length television shows. A deal with ABC Studios has several selections, including the hugely popular Lost. You will be able to download and watch these ABC shows the day after they air on broadcast TV.

But wait! There’s more!

Apple also rolled out a new version of the popular all in one iMac computer. Sleeker and thinner than the old model, the new version has a video camera built into the case (for videoconferencing), and a remote control so that you can sit on the other side of the room and control your TV–oops, I mean iTunes–which will play video full screen on the iMac.

So we now know who won the “Is the TV a computer or is the computer a TV?” war. It was the computer. Apple has offered a seamless, end to end video experience–one click downloads of your favorite TV show while you sit on the couch, and one more click to play them full screen on your computer.

What’s missing? No cable TV or satellite TV connection is required.

What’s needed? A good broadband connection.

What’s needed when everyone watches TV this way? Fiber to the home, because current DSL and cable systems can’t handle the load.

Communities that don’t have a technology master plan to get a fiber roadway installed that is free and open to all content providers will be left behind. Are you trying to attract entrepreneurs and high tech companies to your community? Do think they want to live in a town where they can’t watch TV via broadband?

The short answer is, “No, no, and double no.”

There is an interesting postscript to this “TV or the computer” issue. Microsoft bet a billion or more dollars that the TV would win this battle. It was a lot of money to find out no one wanted to surf the Web on a television. Their WebTV product is long forgotten.

Insightful stuff. Especially interesting for those priviledged few who will have fiber to the home. Like Lafayette.

Background: An AP story that covers the product announcement that inspired Cohill.

Cajunbot’s weblog reports their big success

The big success? The food naturally. Etouffee.

Oh yeah, and Team Cajunbot did ok in the race too. Or so it says in their blog. (Dont’ you love living in a place where even gearheads and geeks have their priorities in order?) They didn’t get close to winning the 2 million grand prize but did get further than any team got last year.

Last year no team got further than about 7 miles into the “race” which pits autonomous, unguided robot-vehicles against a tortuous Mojave desert course. The contest is meant to push real-world application of cutting edge research–acting in the real world has turned out to be a pretty difficult problem. Computers don’t deal well with surprises and the real world if full of them. (Winning the race isn’t the point, in my judgment.) But this year a number of teams finished, mostly, it appears, by a combination of general hardware improvement, better software, and most notably the winners took their machines out into the Mojave desert for testing before the race. Experience, even if it is the experience of the programmers and engineers rather than the machines themselves, is important. Most interesting to me was that one of the top machines, from Standford, incorporated a learning algorithmn–the machine, theoretically anyway, was learning for itself. That is worth really watching. Learning, machine or human, is the really hard problem of both Artificial Intelligence and Human Education…it is to prod real-world applications of such outre understandings that the Grand Challange exists.

Anyway, just getting to the starting gate was a huge feather in UL’s cap. Bringing a rigged out swamp buggy to the Mojave takes a lot of nerve. Good for Team Cajunbot.

Whining, Snivelng Losers Redux: Lawsuits

We’re now solidly into whining hypocrisy with our local phone monopoly.

Stories in both the Advertiser and the Advocate report on two clearly linked lawsuits whose purpose is to first delay and if possible make more expensive LUS’s fiber optic utility operation. Both suits aim to delay the sale of bonds and to impose new conditions on that sale that would make them more expensive.

Let’s be very clear about this: BellSouth’s purpose is to defeat the express will of the people of Lafayette or at least make it much more expensive by making the bonds that fund it much more expensive. The two very similar lawsuits center on BellSouth’s peculiar belief that public entities shouldn’t have the same rights to support new ventures that private entities have.

BellSouth has decided that, having lost in public opinion, lost at the polls, and lost at the PSC on the regulatory meaning of state law that what it ought to do is not settle down and compete but sue the city over its bond ordinance.

This is obscene. What makes it obscene rather than simply self-serving is the gut-wrenching hypocrisy involved with BellSouth, inheritor of a long line of “subsidies” from the public trough–not the least of which was an elaborate set of tax givebacks on and an electrical power subsidy from LUS (both of which YOU pay for every year) for our local Cingular call center–is now whining that LUS using its own money to “subsidize” the operations of the telecom utility.

A very limited “cross-subsidization” is provided for by the enabling legislation and acknowledged by new state regulation. The law allows LUS to “pledge” its resources. You and I think that sounds pretty clear. That limited ability doesn’t hold a candle to the “cross subsidization” that occurred and continues to occur when BellSouth uses its state-guaranteed profits on your phone line, not to lower your rates or to upgrade your line, but to buy itself into Cingular wireless and to buy out companies that compete with Cingular. This is but one way that the so-called “fair competition” law passed two summers ago is really about “unfair” competition that punishes public entities for representing its local customer/citizens instead of private, distant, shareholders.

BellSouth should be ashamed or, if shame is something it cannot feel, then at least embarrassed. Some people want to pretend that BellSouth is a representative of “private enterprise.” It is no such thing. It is the inheritor of monopoly priviledge who uses its entrenched power on both the state and federal levels to block the entry of new competition if possible or to cripple it if it can.

The will of the people has been clearly expressed. BellSouth should compete if it can. Trying to further rig the playing field to its advantage simply reveals that it fears it cannot compete.

“Mr. Google Goes to Washington”

For what it’s worth…

All too often on these pages we’ve had cause to criticize corporate behavior as greedy, shortsighted and arrogantly dismissive of local concerns. That’s because in Lafayette recently its all too often been an accurate way to characterize the behavior of our incumbent providers of telecommunications.

But there are some white hat corporations out there and Google appears to be one. A Red Herring article, Mr. Google Goes to Washington, summarizes Google’s intention and the causes Google’s newly hired lobbyist intends to fight for. A blog entry on google’s blog outlines their causes in some pretty refreshing language.

“Our mission in Washington boils down to this: Defend the Internet as a free and open platform for information, communication, and innovation,”

Gee, I could go for that.

The initial battlegrounds? Net Neutrality, Copyrights and fair use, and Intermediary liability. These are all “very good things” and having a lobbyist from a major and well-regarded tech compay fighting for them is great. In a nutshell net neutrality is the principle that the network ought not to favor one use or provider over another. Copy right and fair use, at least as Google appears to understand it means that Google’s search engine shouldn’t be asked to enforce copyright craziness. Intermediary liability is the principle that holds that if you wanna look for stuff on the web the search engine shouldn’t be held liable.

Basic, sensible, principles. Nice to see a global megacorp endorse them. Too bad we can’t expect anything similar from BellSouth and Cox.