WiFi, the Quintuple Play, and Lafayette: The Biggest Story Barely Told

As we approach year’s end I tend to get a little reflective. All the news media are starting to churn out year-in-review pieces that highlight the biggest stories of the year.

Being fairly contrarian, I tend to want to do an anti-big story. What story that should have been a big story but never got played that way? For my money the biggest not-a-story story of the year was the continued insistence by everyone from the Mayor, to the CIO, to the director of LUS that they really, really intend to build a wireless network in Lafayette.

As I look back over the months of blog posts I see that at least as far back as mid-October last year you see hints that people understood how inexpensive a wifi network would be as an addition to fiber. By January Joey Durel was telling the Independent in no uncertain terms that wireless was on his wish list for the next 12-18 months. The idea continues to surface every couple of months as officials drop little hints. Not long ago Durel complained that we’d have had a wireless network a year ago if it hadn’t been for the obstructionism of BellSouth and Cox.

But even with all the national heat over wireless networks and municipal wireless networks, we’ve not gotten very excited about it here. Part of that has to be our fiber-based blasé. Fiber is what generates excitement here. We’re right about that: fiber is more important and more interesting. But, hey, we’re from down here–we can get excited about CRAWFISH, for Pete’s sake. You’d think we could get excited about fiber and wireless.

Granted, fiber is what a community needs to control its own future. Local control of the last mile and having a viable competitor to the national monopolies is the first order of business for any community that wants to guide its own destiny. Granted, fiber’s bandwidth puts to shame the bandwidth of wireless and, granted, its rock-solid connection to your home will always be more reliable than wireless can hope to be.

But wireless does have its virtues…

It especially has its virtues inside a fiber-based information economy.

Now, the conventional wisdom is that wireless’ biggest virtue is that it is “mobile,” meaning that you can connect from anywhere and that you’re never out of touch. True, but more reflective thinkers recognize (and Jon Fitzgerald has been pounding this for years) that it is also location-based. In order to negotiate a signal, wireless systems have to know roughly where you are . . . and that knowledge can be used to make available local information. With a properly configured system, every wifi client could be its own little GPS locater, with the attendant potential for helping you find the nearest po-boy effortlessly . . . and of having sushi ads pushed at you (every silver cloud has its dark lining).

I’ve written a couple of times about the potential a wireless addition to fiber would open in making possible a “quintuple” play–adding wireless data and cell phone capacities to the current plans for fiber-based cable, phone, and big broadband. Back then it seemed a way to leapfrog the competition. Less than a year later, with BellSouth rumbling about cable “sometime soon” and Cox having developed a partnership with Sprint/Nextel, it is clear that adding wireless to the fiber play will be the competitive way to stay ahead of the pack.

Most folks don’t talk about the voice capacities of wifi networks because it is hard, very hard, to provide the nodes of a wireless mesh network with enough bandwidth to reliably serve voice to any sizeable number of users. Additionally, every “jump” between wireless nodes as packets are shuttled back to the backbone adds hesitations, “latency” to the mix and voice begins to stutter and pause very noticeably.

All of that brings us back to the idea that wireless is especially fantastic inside a fiber-based information economy. Most ways of provisioning a wireless network with bandwidth involve setting up some sort of radio/microwave hookup back to a big broadband backbone and then using that to parcel out bandwidth to wireless “access points” which then further subdivide the available bandwidth by meshing together and dividing the bandwidth again. The packets of information coming to you have to be routed through several step-downs in available bandwidth. For most communities it is a good way to go but, more pointedly, it is the ONLY way for the community to provide bandwidth for itself. Unfortunately the constraints on providers, municipal and private, mean that you just plain don’t have the bandwidth for much beyond email and light browsing.

Lafayette isn’t in that situation. There is no need to go back to some big backbone through wireless jumps. There will be a huge chunk of fiber-based backbone running right down your street.

That is where all the really exciting stuff comes in.

A fiber-based wireless network could conceivably have NO jumps back to the backbone. It could be hung right off the backbone itself. It would not have to share bandwidth but could run at the full rated speed of the wireless equipment. (Something you seldom see. No wifi network in Lafayette outside, possibly, of directly fiber funded ones at ULL or LITE sees anything like the 54 megs of bandwidth that is speced out on the side of the box. Cox and BellSouth can’t give you that much bandwidth, so your can’t, for most practical purposes us the equipment at nearly that speed. We had one for a little while at our setup in the dome following Katrina/Rita. It was sweet. I liked it.)

With big, low-latency, bandwidth coming wirelessly off a fiber network vast new ranges of possibility arise. The first and most obvious is voice…voice over Internet Protocol, (VOIP) is practical, even easy. Just download Skype and go to it. Internet protocols don’t care what the packets are. If you get ’em fast enough you can easily use ’em for voice–without special network equipment. That’s where wifi/wimax enabled cell phones become a possibility. Just add the VOIP chipset and the chipset/radio needed for the radio bandwidth and your new “tri-band” or “quad band” cell phone is good to go…and as long as you stay in the city you can bypass those expensive cellular guys but still be able to hook in to them when you leave town. Seamlessly.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Funding the Wireless VOIP (WVOIP) dream are two necessities: big bandwidth and those Internet Protocols. The bandwidth makes new things possible and IP makes it simple to implement. Use your phone to wirelessly suck info from your home computer if you need it. Download the music parked on your online backup to your IPod via a nifty IPod add–do it from Mello Joy downtown–or the park. Reprogram your DVR from your laptop during the lunch break. Don’t just send your friends camera snaps…stream the video of your son’s turns at bat back to the mom who had to stay at work. If all that wireless is hung directly from the LUS network huge new possibilities like these emerge. Our wireless network could be qualitatively different from any in the country–much, much more advanced.

There are plenty of benefits for the city of Lafayette of having this all hung off LUS fiber and run by LUS. A wireless play there would both increase the take rate–more people would buy their package o services from LUS–and it would meant that the average subscriber would pay a little more as well. That means a system that more easily and quickly pays off its bond debt. That’s certainly in the interests of every citizen. But beyond that…that “little” more that the citizen would pay really would be or at least could “little.” What LUS will have to burn is bandwidth. It will cost them little to provide the bandwidth in-system. (Doubt that? Think again. How does Cingular afford those free in-system plans?) Such a system could provide wireless to wireless voice or data links between subscribers for just a small increment of the total bill. The cost of adding a wireless element to the fiber network would be, I believe, no more than 5% of the total investment. What percentage of your combined phone, internet, cable, and cell is your cell bill? More than 5%? I thought so. As a business decision it should be dead-easy for LUS. And the citizens it serves.

Speaking of those citizens: They’ll be some that worry about the political hassles that might result from the city taking such a visionary step. They shouldn’t. That battle, friends, has been fought and won. On July 16th. The people have asked for a strong, municipally-owned telecom network and winning over the citizens was the hard and essential battle. Giving them a good deal on yet another service or two is not going to distress them in the least. The opposition to our building our own system is already doing everything it can to stop us…and is failing. I doubt that there is anything they could try that they haven’t already tried. LUS is CLEC. It is already licensed to provide phone service. The coast is clear. There’s nothing to stop LUS from taking the wireless step but the approval of the city. The people gave their approval this summer.

You can see why I might think this the biggest story barely told. Lafayette would not only be the largest city in the country with a state-of-the-art fiber optic-based telecom system serving out big bandwidth that most could only envy. It would be in a position to serve the whole community with 1) big broadband wireless that is 2) completely integrated into and makes full use of the fiber optic grid the city owns. The combo of ubiquitous fiber and universal, big broadband wireless would be unique. And truly difficult for anyone, city or corporation, to match. Lafayette would be able to legitimately lay claim to being the most technologically advanced city in the country–and, as far as I can tell, the world.

That would be worth doing. Don’t you think?

Maybe it will be next year’s USA Today cover story.

Your Big Bandwidth Future


Why you do SO need a 20 meg line into your home.

One of the more annoying aspects of the seemingly endless fight against the incumbent telecom providers has been the tiresome repetition of some version of “you don’t need this.” I’ve even heard it repeated by consultants who really should know better. (This version goes something like “What can anyone do with 20 megs?”)

The short and easy response is that such noise is best ignored. Anyone who’s been a telecom user for a while recalls that time when v90 dialup modems supplied more bandwidth than you needed for any html page on the web. (MP3? real motion? Flash? None of that existed; this was the age in which the blink tag was the foundation of fancy graphics) “What do you want with more than 56K?” was actually asked…especially if you (gasp) had to pay a special fee. People asked the same thing about why anyone would want a second telephone. Or a wireless handset. Or a mobile phone.

That sort of noise is best understood as the “Argument from Lack of Imagination.” It’s a bad habit we should have gotten over sometime around 1870 when the pace of technological innovation picked up. (“Cars, who needs cars, smelly, expensive and unable to reproduce!”)

While history teaches us that such cavails are reliably unreliable we’ve hit a spot where the nature of the change in front of our generation is beginning to emerge from the fog…it’s possible to at least point at the use for 20 megs.

The biggest picture answer is: EVERYTHING.

Right now you’re hooked up to different, specialty “service” networks each hand-crafted for the particular narrow service it sells you. Phone, Cable, Cellular. All that is in the process of vanishing. It is being replaced by a cheap commodity: digitized information carriage. Specialty transport systems are inefficient and expensive by their nature. –If you needed different roads to transport clothing and food and neither could be used for anything but clothing or food your clothing costs would have to pay for the “clothing network.” Only the fact that we have an uspecialized commodified transportation network which spreads the cost over many products and uses allows transportation of clothing to be a fraction of its cost rather than the dominant element. The expense of constructing such single-purpose supply systems in telecommunications is part of what makes each such system a natural monopoly–an economic fact which raises the costs still more.

Where single-purpose networks dominate it is hard to introduce new services since each new “product” would have build a new network to provide it. (This is the real reason we don’t have universal video phones and video conferencing: since the old specialty phone system won’t handle that service the phone companies would have had to build entirely new, even more expensive, specialty systems which would cannibalize their paid-off system.)

Currently the Internet service we get is tacked onto–in truly crippled ways–the old phone and cable systems. They weren’t designed to offer internet service and they provide it poorly, in ways that radically limit capacity (which translates for the user into limited and unreliable speed). Even so, the internet service we have now is an instructive example of how destructive unspecialized networks can be. Designed to be unspecialized, designed for the unimpeded flow of information, built around a densely interconnected network with no central locus of control the internet conceptually resembles the interconnected mesh of our road system. Even running on networks that cripple its power it makes the flow of information a commodity not a specialty product. No bit costs more than any other bit. If you’ve got the bandwidth you can talk and video conference for no additional cost.

This is what the owners of specialty networks truly fear: a real internet network; one that commoditizes the flow of information and, inevitably out competes their lucrative, narrow monopolies.

A network on which EVERYTHING will run.

That’s what the future holds. And Lafayette will be getting it early. The modern network, optimized for commodity information, for bits, is already in place in the backbone of all of today’s networks. It’s based on fiber, communication protocols that mostly don’t care what the bits describe, and it is characterized by capacity to burn. The final refuge of the limited capacity, specialized network is in the run to your home. Replace that with big bandwidth fiber to match the backbone and the floodgates will open. Even with the limited bandwidth now available you can see both voice and video trying to squeeze itself into the crippled internet portion of the networks that enter your home. (VOIP in all flavors and every video you ever watched on the net are evidence of this.)

That “20 megs” will be carrying EVERYTHING, not just a slightly souped-up internet. Cable TV will die (die die), all voice will move to the internet and the owners of last mile fiber will surely leverage their excess bandwidth to provide a (quadruple play) WiFi/WiMax system that will vastly reduce the need for specialty cellular systems. You’ll download your shows and drop cable–and if you think you watch to much TV when you don’t like about half of what you actually watch consider how much you might watch if everything ever made was available, instantly, for a modest price. (We’ll need to develop some self-discipline!) Talk as long as you like to anyone you like anywhere in the world. Talk, hell, videophone them. Better yet, video conference on the fly. (Trying to get all your siblings to tell you what the nieces and nephews want for Christmas (and what their parents think they should and shouldn’t have)? Knit it together with a video conference, or just use it to settle on a date for the granpop’s birthday.)

A couple of video conference streams plus an HDTV stream of Barney to distract the kids at your house while you play Santa could chew up considerably more than 20 megs. Its dead easy to think of scenarios where a 20 megs limit could be hit pretty easily. It doesn’t take all that much imagination.

There is more, of course: the specialized nature of current networks means they don’t interact very well and, as already noted, erect barriers to entry for new services. Modern networks won’t have that problem it will be easy start new services and easy to link them. Open a window in your video conference for a froogle search, someone else could be simultaneously calling their “Toys Are Us” for local availability. Coming up with all the new services and interconnects will take imagination. But I am sure that some enterprising entrepreneurs will prove up to it.

The point is that we’ll find it easy to chew up bandwidth. Most obviously through generous use of video but also by loading multiple, interacting streams of information. And since it will all be coming in through that one, modern, commodity pipe we’ll be getting it cheap and fast. That old 56k modem seemed nifty at the time and so will 20 megs. For about the same length of time.

The fine print:
Sure, sure there is a caveat here, there always is…the commodity pipe that I describe is a text-book description of a natural monopoly. Expensive infrastructure (the “pipes”) and cheap, commodity “product” (the digital “bits”) make for a classic utility situation. Just as with the provision of water, providing a universal, expensive infrastructure to all to sell a cheap product means that there will be only one provider…a second provider who split the number of subscribers with the first provider would just force everyone to prices which would necessary to pay for two sets of inrfrastructure when one would do easily an yield no better service (water is water, bits, bits). In the end only the cheaper provider would remain. In the end there will be only one. A monopoly. This is not a welcome outcome. But monopoly is the only realistic possibility for a converged big pipe network. Given the stone-cold fact of the matter I’m glad Lafayette’s last mile will be controlled locally and publicly. A utility or a coop is by far the best solution.

Really small print: I think a lot of good-hearted people are having a hard time facing the cold truth of an system evolving pretty inexorably toward monoply. For folks without a local public utility or coop this is going to end up badly (IMHO). Locals can insulate themselves, at least partially from what is coming by doing what Lafayette is doing–building their own utility to free the last mile from private monopolization. The real limits and the real monopoly is in the last mile…alternative backbones are already readily available. But for our nation as a whole the answer will have to be federal and aimed honestly at regulatory control or public ownership of what is clearly going to emerge as the 21st century’s central monopoly utility. We did a mixed job with electricity in the 20th. We are doing a lousy job with communications networking right now. We won’t do better until we buck up and find the courage to admit the situation we are in…and the need for a willingness to face hard truths applies, especially, to those who believe they are fighting for consumers and communities.

‘Net Take Over Attempt Now Under Way

If one felt compelled to search for evidence that the phone and cable companies STILL don’t get the Internet, that person would have to look no further than the ongoing attempts by the Regional Bell Operating Companies and cable companies to Lenin-ize the Internet.

One of Vladimir Lenin’s more noted quotes was that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses.”

The phone and cable companies are trying to legislatively claim ownership to the Internet by seeking permission to allow them to sell prioritized access to websites. The deals would be between online entities and the networks, but it would fundamentally alter the Internet.

Jonathan Krim of the Washington Post explains how
in a column in that paper today. Here are three paragraphs that nicely sum up the power of the Internet as it has manifested itself thus far:

Compared with, say, the banking, utility or telephone systems, the Internet is indeed barely regulated. But what gave the Internet its disruptive power and exhilarating appeal was that it was barely owned .

Suddenly, the mom-and-pop store in Des Moines could advertise and sell to the world, without paying the freight of someone else’s marketing apparatus. Intellectual and artistic works could be shared rapidly, at little or no cost. Games could be created and distributed without ever having to manufacture a physical item.

We may think of it as the information superhighway, but really the Net has been a gigantic bypass, circumventing barriers to entry and whole swaths of middlemen (think travel agents or, I’m sad to say, newspaper owners) who are now trying to figure out how to survive.

Krim provides the great service of linking the looming threats to the Internet to the fatally flawed policies developed and implemented by Michael Powell’s FCC (‘competition’ between duopolies of closed networks owned by either phone or cable companies) and the general resistance of industries that feel threatened by the Internet’s disruptive power:

But large stakeholders don’t sit idle in the face of this kind of uncertainty and upheaval. For them (and many others), private ownership brings efficiency and entrepreneurship.

So, much of the lobbying and jockeying over the past several years have been efforts to restore order by assigning property-like rights to cyberspace wherever possible.

Thus, we’ve had the end of requirements that network owners lease their pipes to competitors that who want to provide Internet access. We’ve seen the lengthening of copyright terms, an explosion of patents, and moves by companies to block governments from adopting open-source software standards or from offering their own wireless Internet systems.

But even Krim is taken aback by the power grab of the network owners as perhaps most starkly articulated by William Smith, BellSouth’s chief technology officer.

In Smith’s view, network owners should be able to, for a fee, give one Web vendor’s traffic priority over the traffic of a competitor.

In this world, if the travel site Orbitz pays the freight, it will work faster and better on your computer than Travelocity. And of course any service provided by the network carrier itself will go to the head of the line.

Raising barriers to entry is 180° opposite of what the Internet has been about. It is the Internet’s ability to lower the barrier to market industry in so many fields that has made it the powerful economic engine that it has become. If it were not so, would the phone and cable companies be making such a brazen grab to capture it?

But, the thing to remember is this: phone and cable companies have not been responsible for a single innovation in the entire history of the Internet.

•• Packet switching, the basic idea of the Internet, was rejected by AT&T as threatening is business model.

•• The phone companies argued for inclusion of the concept of Reciprocal Compensation in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 because they were certain that, since they had all the customers, the competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) would have to pay them the bulk of the dollars to complete calls. The Internet happened, CLECs hosted Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and much more call traffic went from the customers of the RBOCs to those ISPs served by CLECs. The RBOCs tried to stiff the CLECs on the bills and were able to withhold enough of the money until many CLECs were forced into bankruptcy. By that time, the RBOCs didn’t mind making the payments, the CLECs had been driven from the field.

•• Phone and cable companies have been pushing for close to a decade to restrict access to their networks, for legislative and regulatory permission to drive independent Internet Service Providers (like Earthlink, Net Zero and others) from their networks, particularly their high-speed networks. They have succeeded.

Now, the push is on to be able to shape their customers web experiences based on fees paid by companies to the providers.

What has made the web powerful has been the ability of the end user to find their own way to the the sites and resources that have responded to their needs and wants. What the phone and cable companies are trying to do to the Internet itself is the same thing that Cox and BellSouth have tried to do in Lafayette: substitute their judgment for yours. Their respective judgments are shaped only by their financial interests and those interests are too narrow to include OUR interests.

Contact your senators and congressmen today and tell them to oppose the incumbent carriers attempts to take over the Internet. Demand that Network Neutrality be required of every carrier that wants to sell Internet service in this country.

eWeek Columnist Links BellSouth’s “jumping ugly” New Orleans and Lafayette Behaviors

eWeek columnist Chris Gonsalves calls more attention to the core questions about BellSouth’s recent ‘take back’ snit in New Orleans and their on-going lawsuits against Lafayette.

Gonsalves nails the issue thusly:

But at the heart of the story, which, admittedly, is getting more traction in the blogosphere than it is in the mainstream press, lies a fundamental debate pitting business ethics and social responsibility against fair trade and capitalism.

He, like other writers, links the BellSouth snit to the ongoing legal war on Lafayette that BellSouth has launched in the wake of the LUS fiber win this past summer:

The loss of goodwill aside, jumping ugly with municipalities is not an unfamiliar tactic to telcos, including BellSouth itself. The carrier has been papering Lafayette, La., with lawsuits for the better part of a year trying to stop that city from rolling out its own broadband service.

The city has won most of its legal battles thus far, but the suits have kept the public utility commission in court rather than in the streets installing fiber. So, despite the backing of 70 percent of the voters and a $125 million bond issue for the project, BellSouth maintains its upper hand in Lafayette.

Gonsalves points out that BellSouth is not alone in this kind of behavior, that it has plenty of company in the telephone and cable industries.

Which raises the question: What is the role of shareholders and boards in response to the behavior of company management that runs counter to, say, stated company values or raises other questions involving corporate ethics?

Would one be incorrect to interpret the silence of BellSouth’s directors or large shareholders regarding this behavior as approval of that behavior? Or, are they even aware of the wars these companies are waging against what communities have determined to be their own best interests?

Bell Companies Playing Emperor Slammed in Denver

Couldn’t have said it any better. And I won’t even try. These are the highlights of the text…get the full story at “Broadband access for all communities”

My highlights:

Qwest is telling us that it wants special new rules to allow it to provide competitive cable television service. But what the company is not telling us is that it doesn’t want to serve most of our neighborhoods – not unless, of course, you live in the most elite areas.

That’s right. Qwest and its sister Bell telephone monopolies – SBC, Verizon and BellSouth – are seeking exemptions from time-honored civil rights laws that require companies providing cable services to serve all neighborhoods in their service area. The telephone companies – whose networks were built with more than a century of government subsidies and handouts – now want our local lawmakers to bless a business plan that will largely exclude African-American, Hispanic and working-class communities from the latest 21st century advanced broadband services…

The truth is that here in Denver and elsewhere, there are no restrictions to the telephone companies competing on equal footing against satellite and cable television carriers.

Congress granted them authority to compete for television service in 1996, but they’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for congressional authority to discriminate in their rollout of service…

What really motivates the Bells is an idea that they can pick and choose which communities get competition in broadband services and which don’t. And that is not competition. It’s a monopolist playing emperor.

He’s right and there’s no need to mince words.

Pity the Poor Cable Company? The Fruits of Competition

I ran across this LATimes article recently which dwells the idea that the phone companies are about to engage in real competiton with the cablecos and takes the position that this will be good for telecos. [For a story which doesn’t view the coming competition so favorably for the telco’s see “Pity the poor telephone comapny.“]

But what caught my attention was a bit buried down in the story:

Verizon rolled out its initial video service over an all-fiber network in Keller, Texas, in September, charging $43.90 a month for 180 TV channels and $34.95 for a high-speed Internet connection.

Anticipating the move, cable operator Charter Communications Inc. slashed prices there to offer 240 channels plus the connection for $50. Previously, Charter charged $69 just for the TV package.

That’s a lot of money for consumers to save and a very good thing for consumers.

It also gives us a sense of what can happen when fiber optic based transport (in this case from Verizon) goes head to head with the cable companies. In a word: competition. The mere anticipation of competition lowered prices in Keller. We can expect the same here.

Of course, even the telecos aren’t willing to leave it at that; the story follows the above cited encouraging paragraphs with this one:

The two phone giants also have contributed a total of $150,000 to fund an advocacy group called Consumers for Cable Choice to beat the drum for more competition.

This is one of those “astroturf” organizations which, funded by the corporations, wants us to believe is pro-consumer but any advocacy of consumer values is purely coincidental. The real story behind Consumers for Cable Choice is that it is fighting against local franchising agreements. This will give the telco’s a huge competitive advantage against the cablecos who have built their business around satisfying local requirements. The local requirement which telecos like BellSouth really want eliminated is the requirement to serve the whole community. We can look for such a push in the Louisiana legislature come March to take away the traditional local rights to control their own rights of way. But, at least in my judgment, the state shouldn’t further interfere with local perogatives in favor of the big telecommunications giants. It certainly hasn’t worked out well for Lafayette or New Orleans. The Municipal (un)Fair Competition Act has only served to stymie competition and keep local governments from helping themselves.

Bill Oliver’s Little Pattern, New Orleans Should Take Note

A theme ’round here recently seems to be the connection between New Orleans and Lafayette. Well here’s another: Both Lafayette and New Orleans have been the target of BellSouth Louisiana president’s peculiar anger. The pattern is to 1) threaten, then 2) whine that the threat was a) private and b) misinterpreted.

The pattern plays out in a story about BellSouth pulling 220 employees out of New Orleans that’s been pretty widely repeated but is richest in the Times-Picayune original version. That story is difficult enough. The employees pretty clearly think that its part of a long-term pattern taking jobs out of New Orleans and putting them into areas where the pay rate is less than it is in New Orleans. A sort of rural outsourcing. They think that abandoning an essentially undamaged building in New Orleans because the nearby community has yet to return is a pretext for stiffing the city and local workers.

Since this was the building that BellSouth was supposed to have been threatening (#1 above) to take back from the New Orleans Police in retaliation for the city building a municipal wifi network the two stories are linked the T-P article.

Oliver has now moved on to whining (#2 above) that he never really threatened to take back the building. Negotiations are ongoing… And anyway those negotiations are purely between Bill Oliver and Mayor Nagin–they’re private (pt a). Whatever he said or might have said to the director of homeland security for New Orleans doesn’t count and he isn’t going to get into a discussion over the “text” of that discussion. He was misinterpreted. (pt b)

Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar? We here in Lafayette are in a position to see the pattern. Recall that Oliver kicked up a big ruckus when he suggested to the editorial board of the Advocate that jobs at the Cingular call center might be in danger of being transferred to “Timbukto” if Lafayette chose to go ahead with its plans for municipal broadband. (#1, Threat)
A follow up story in the Advertiser revealed he’d said essentially the same thing to them. We heard that he’d been saying the same thing in lots of “private” conversations with local businessmen. Upset about the report, Oliver made a major public complaint (#2, whine) that he hadn’t really said that and that if he had it wasn’t what he meant (pt b, misinterpreted) and anyway it wasn’t intended as anything more than background information (pt a, private).

I fully understand that Bill Oliver thinks he’s got a right to threaten people in private so that he doesn’t have to bear any public cost. But, hey, there are a few real reporters and the occasional plain-speaking public official out there that have this disconcerting tendency to treat a threat like a threat and call a spade a spade. Surely attempts to apply a little ugly pressure privately happens all the time and executives like Bill Oliver get used playing the bully with local elected officials without it ever tarnishing their public image.

For Bill Oliver, those days are over in Louisiana. We’re onto him.

offtopic: There’s a There There…


Ok, so it’s not about fiber or Lafayette. So sue me.

Every so often I’m reminded why it is that Lafayette (and by extension fiber for Lafayette) are worth fighting for. There’s something about the people and the place. And I can be reminded of what it is even when reading a story about New Orleans.

Chris Rose tells us why he loves New Orleans. It isn’t so different as you might think from why we love Lafayette… and the similarities are not limited to the smell of burning cane or Sonny Landrieth.

It opens:

When I moved to New Orleans 21 years ago, I was — to coin a contemporary phrase — all in. I loved it from the minute I smelled that burning sugar cane spilling from the Celotex factory across the river, a sweet stink I have always found oddly sexy…

At some JazzFest…you, know, like Festival International… 🙂

So we were up at the big stage — Acura, or whatever it was called then — and the crowd was too thick and we were trying to get through it and away from it when Sonny Landreth came on.

Have you ever heard this guy? He’s making the whole thing up: the riffs, the chords, the notes. I’m no musical scholar, but I think he invented some things. I don’t know if there is a specific genre to tag on his music, but it is primeval rock ‘n’ roll of the first element, a lowdown, fuzz-busting romp in the swamp. And we stopped to dig it.

And I looked down, and there, in the stroller, this beautiful child who had basically remained still and expressionless for the duration of her life — as newborns are wont to do — well, she started to move. To wiggle. And I swear to God, she smiled. For the first time.

I was awash. A Eureka moment: What a GREAT place to raise kids. All this funk, the eccentricity, this otherness. Kind of like college, I thought: so much to learn outside of the classroom.

It was a great afternoon. In a very small way, I was changed. As time went on, Kelly and I talked less and less about moving away and we had two more kids and we haven’t discussed it in years and that’s that.

And that’s, that. And that ain’t Sonny, or Jambalaya, or Clifton…. Nor the Jazz Fest, or Festival International, or the Boudin Festival….Nor New Orleans or Lafayette or Breaux Bridge…

There’s a there there. And that’s what the kids need.

And that’s why we all stay…

From N.O.: BellSouth angry, but really, who cares?

I’ve said that New Orleans is outraged.

Here’s a link to a voice of that outrage who expresses it thusly:

And in the end, what do we care if Billy’s pissed? Bellsouth moved its corporate headquarters to Atlanta years ago; if they can’t compete in this market with Cox and everybody else, let ’em go the way of PanAm…

BellSouth is burning its bridges in South Louisiana. They’re engaging in the kind of behavior that offers them no line of retreat and is never forgotten. Does anyone in Atlanta care?