“Japan, Soon to Be Fiber Broadband Nation”

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Japan: The country, one of the most wired in the world, (the US is barely in the top 20 any more) is solidly in the midst of a shift to fiber to the home (FTTH) as the preferred method for bringing broadband into the home.

Figues reprinted in Om Malik’s site show that as the market expands the major share change is from ADSL to Fiber To The Home (FTTH). Like most of Asia (and for that matter, the world) the predominant broadband delivery tool has been some form of DSL pivoted by the telecoms. (Our peculiar regulatory history has a lot to do with cable being a contender here.) Until recently DSL had upwards of 3/4s of the market but that has fallen dramatically to 2/3rds in the last year.

Malik says:

Japanese trends could prove to be very telling: while ADSL can be a good interim solution, fiber might be the better long term bet. (Hat Tip, Dirk van der Woude)

What’s interesting about this is that as the market matures it is using xDSL as a stepping stone to develop the market for and to fund the shift to FTTH. But that stepping stone won’t be available in the US. Advanced DSL (ADSL, VDSL) has barely started in the US and has nothing approaching the penetrartion rates (and hence the income potential) of Asian systems. The fiber to the node plans advocated by ATT and BellSouth are intended to be the same sort of stepping stone process we see in Japan–building out fiber closer to the home, then eventually replacing copper all the way to the home with fiber.

But they’ve had this plan for literally decades and it simply is not working. DSL sales are not producing the incentive to build out a real national network. Every Telco has been driven to offer simple DSL as the cheaper alternative to the Cableco offerings. Simple DSL doesn’t have the capacity to build up the market and at fire-sale prices with relatively low penetration it can’t supply the income to fund the shift to fully modern systems.

Verizon, seeing the handwriting on the wall, has abandoned the futile hope represented by using DSL as a stepping stone and is trying to leap into the future by bypassing the fiber to the node/DSL plans that ATT & BellSouth are forced to stick with due to their relative poverty. It remains to be seen whether even market-leader Verizon can succeed and the market has been reacting harshly recently to the continued drain that the fiber build represents.

Why does bootstrapping work in other countries but not here? A good question. An important one. One I’ll reflect on in a later post. But a hint: We’ve so fragmented our market that no one company exists that can afford a to build a ubiquitous, national, broadband network. That’s not the fault of regulation, but the fault a band of politicians that thought they could legislate away the facts of economics. Our falling status in broadband is the clearest sign that they were wrong. And wrong to try. More later.

US poised to drop out of top 20, Slovenia surges

You may recall much moaning and gnashing of teeth when the US–where the internet was invented–fell to 16th in broadband penetration. Latest reports peg the US at 19th and still dropping. With Slovenia’s growth outpacing ours you’ll get to see us dropped to 20 by an Eastern European country that didn’t exist a dozen years ago.

Those incumbent guys–they keep up with the Jone’s, don’t they?

(Source: telecompaper Via WebSiteOptimization)

New Orleans Bids for Semi-Sovereignty on Telecom

Steve Sabludowsky has gone public with legislation that the City of New Orleans will try to get considered in the upcoming Special Session of the Louisiana Legislature that would open the way for any municipality or parish to provide wireless telecom services for its citizens.

You can request a copy of the law from Steve by going here.

The measure comes in the wake of the nationally-publicized spat between New Orleans and BellSouth over the city’s provision of free access to its public safety wireless network to the general public in the Crescent City. In a typical huff, BellSouth Louisiana top dog Bill Oliver withdrew an offer from the company to donate one of its Katrina-ruined buildings in New Orleans to the city for use as a police headquarters. Some deal! BellSouth would have gotten probably gotten a significant tax break for the donation and the city would have been stuck with the bill for refurbishing the building.

I’ve known about this idea for a couple of weeks and actually tried to talk Steve (and through him, New Orleans) out of this approach when he called me about earlier this month. Having read his explanation, read the bill and talked to him again last night, I’m convinced that this is a well-intentioned but misguided bill that has little chance of ever becoming law.

Let me explain.

The impulse behind this bill is absolutely correct. Local governments need to reclaim the right to community sovereignty that were taken away by the so-called Municipal Fair Competition Act of 2004. That act began its life as an attempt by BellSouth to bar municipalities from any telecom infrastructure or service delivery. It emerged shortly after LUS announced that it was considering building a fiber to the premises project in its service area (mostly the city of Lafayette) in Lafayette Parish.

Thanks to intervention from Governor Blanco, negotiations ensued between the incumbents (phone, cable companies and their trade groups) and the public network folks (LUS, the Louisiana Municipal Association, the Police Jury Association of Louisiana) and the representatives of the various parties.

As in most compromises, both sides came away with parts of what they wanted and some things they did not want.

Lafayette and LUS did not do quite as well in the negotiations as they originally thought. That has been borne out by the string of legal actions BellSouth has launched against the project since the law was passed. As a result of that, Lafayette and LUS have said they want to repeal the Fair Competition Act. The core issue here is that BellSouth never intended for the law to be a true compromise and worked to insert provisions in the law that provided them a platform from which to launch legal attacks against the LUS project and others that might come down the pike.

With this attempt to carve out a wireless exception to the Municipal Fair Competition Act, New Orleans is poised to repeat the mistake that Lafayette has since learned it made in dealing with BellSouth in the legislative process. The company will work under the guise of compromise, but will all the while be working to insert provisions that will undermine whatever compromise the appear to be a party to.

It’s called acting in bad faith.

It is the company’s documented track record with Lafayette. It will be they modus operandi in any dealings with this proposed “exception”. That is, the knife used to attempt to carve out the apparent exception will then be used against local governments that try to use the law to deploy the kinds of services described in it.

There are significant hurdles to be cleared before the bill can be considered in the Special Session, not the least of which is getting it either included in the call for the session or declared germane to the call the the legislative leadership.

Significant challenges will arise in the legislative process itself. The Louisiana Legislature is like a field office for BellSouth when it’s in session. The company has a small army of registered lobbyists there (about as large as the group of lobbyists representing the entire gambling industry!). Those lobbyists have long-standing personal relationships with legislators who know “the phone company” but not much about technology; as a result, they can get provisions inserted or removed from the bill (or hijack the entire bill) at just about any spot in the legislative process.

Another political question is whether the Orleans Parish delegation will back the Nagin administration on this effort. New Orleans politics is historically fractuous and new pressures and fissures have emerged in the wake of Katrina and in advance of upcoming municipal elections.

Finally, to support the kind of robust wireless network the bill envisions in a densely populated urban area is going to require a very robust terrestrial infrastructure (like fiber) otherwise, the speeds will drop to near-dial-up levels. The law, as I read it, would leave the Municipal Fair Competition Act in effect over such infrastructure, raising the question of where the local governments would get the infrastructure to support the wireless network.

Rather than leave local governments exposed to a guaranteed prolonged and expensive fight in the courts over the meaning of “is” in such legislation, the correct remedy is to removing the power of phone and cable companies to set any terms on how local governments can respond to the bandwidth needs of their communities.

The Municipal Fair Competition Act gave those companies power over local communities that they did not have prior to passage of that act. The problem is the power they have, not over the infrastructure or modality over which that power extends. New Orleans wants wireless. Lafayette wants fiber. Other communities might like to be able to do one or the other or both. Why should they have to in any way jump through hoops designed by the incumbent network owners in order to do that?

Carving a “wireless exception” is a half-measure that would leave the core problem in place: at least one bad actor incumbent having control over the infrastructure destiny of communities. Instead, let’s go for the full restoration of community rights and work together to repeal the Municipal Fair Competition Act.

The Boudin Link

Occasionally, and especially during the Mardi Gras Season, I post something that’s a bit of fun about our unique corner of the world. Put this post in that category. If you’re a local fan you’ll find it invaluable; if you’re a sympathetic visitor it should give you a little taste of our local culture’s entanglement with food. (Another taste? See King Cake)

The Boudin Link is a great web site that I ran across for the first time recently. It’ll never win an award for eye candy (I should talk) but it’s got great reviews of local boudin haunts for lovers the unusual sausage and very healthy guestbook where you can argue with the site-owners’ judgments and suggest places for them to review.

Some Background:
Boudin (aka boudin blanc) is a great cajun-creole rice and meat sausage that is unique to Louisiana. (Francophiles may be reminded of French boudin blanc sausage. Clear that association away. No relationship except for the casing.) You can drive down any road in the parishes locally labeled “Acadiana” and likely find some local meat market/boucherie, fast food place, convenience store, or local grocery selling long pieces of the soft links. The most common, and authentic, way to eat the dish is to grab a couple of links, wrapped in butcher paper for lunch, get a beverage, sit in your vehicle in parking lot, and chow down before heading back out to work. Good. Hearty. Cheap. Typically the links have been sitting in or just above a hot water bath so you’ve got to be careful that juices stay in the butcher paper you’ve carefully arranged around your link. If over the noon hour there aren’t two guys in trucks trying to get their fingers clean there’s something a little better in a 10 mile radius. People have their favorites, and argue about meat quality, how much liver should be included, the firmness of the rice, proportions of rice to meat, and the all-important questions of spicing and vegetative add-ins. Such issues divide families and can make necessary trips to two meat markets before family gatherings.

Preferences about these matters is intensely local, the people who buy at the neighborhood store have things to say about about “their” product and the local butcher is wise to add spice and percentages of green onion tops as local opinion dictates.

There are, of course, more upscale versions, and newer byproducts like fried boudin balls and boudin in puff pastry that take our local culinary obsessions to places disdained by the old school. (Not, given how lately rice came to our culinary traditions, is that school so old…but what appeared on momma’s table or daddy’s dashboard defines tradition after all.) There’s even a boudin fast food chain. Smoking the links is popular but considered, well, a little effete since it produces a product whose juice stays in the casing and doesn’t run down past your cuffs to the elbows if you’re an inexpert eater. The taste makes up for the fastidiousness in many people’s minds. (Bear in mind that saying a food is messy is not a pejorative in the world of Louisiana’s culinary traditions. We favor eating crawfish by a method which involves snapping open the shells of creatures hot from boiling water. It’s a process which insures widely dispersed droplets of highly seasoned water and wet elbows for all but the most dexterous and fastidious eaters.)

Like most ethnic dishes boudin originated as a cheap way to produce a tasty, filing dish and was later elevated to its status as a signature dish of the community. Its cousain, blood boudin (aka boudin rouge in contrast to boudin blanc) used to be available on Main St. in Broussard. I don’t know where you could get it now. Nobody knows where the dish originated or how it developed the now-traditional water holding bath and butcher paper presentation.

The Boudin Link Site
What fans will like are the reviews and comments. Even if you can’t get in your car and go visit just the read is worth it. The reviews are as homespun as the food itself.

Check out the pink T-Boy’s Slaughter House page. Don’t miss the divine rays spilling over the unremarkable facade of the building. Rated A+. From the comments section:

Comments: If you find yourself in Mamou you should find T-Boys. Even if you don’t have a reason to go to Mamou you should find one. Perhaps the simple fact that Mamou is the center of Cajun music is a good enough reason (check out Fred’s lounge). Perhaps you want to see the most spectacular Mardi Gras run in the world. Perhaps you just want to go for a nice drive into the Cajun prairie land. Whatever the reason, T-Boys is worth the trip. Make sure to check out the GIANT boudin balls (2 for $1).

How ’bout Fremin’s Food and Furniture? The name’s not enough!? (Rated A) Well…from the ambiance section:

Ambiance: An amazing place in an amazing town. This is, quite possibly, the only place around where you can buy a link and a lamp at the same location: Fremin’s effortlessly combines food and furnishings. You can also buy fireworks (in season) and giant color banners from a state-of-the-art banner-making printer. Yep. Fremin’s has it all, including some great boudin and other outstanding prepared foods.

Our neighborhood shop, about three blocks away, is Bruce’s You Need A Butcher. (Yet another great name.) In addition to good boudin and hand cut meat you can get huge sacks of rice if you want and some old-fashioned candies. The guy’s give the links a B; I’d make it an A and I don’t think its only neighborhood patriotism. They beat out all the competitors in a blind family taste-off a couple of years ago. A good link for folks whose preferences place more emphasis on the pork and seasoning than rice or liver. A good link to home-smoke because of the predominance of pork. The boudin link’s description:

Presentation: Wrapped in a piece of butcher paper: juices leaking from the sides.
Casing: A decent, firm, and breakable casing.
Rice/Meat Ratio: More meat than rice.
Texture: Moist and juicy with ground and meaty pieces of pork. The filling is loose inside the casing.
Spices: Medium/Hot.

Here’s “a little something extra” I picked up while putting together this post. Too good to pass up:

Wanna see the sausage being made? Actually, unlike politics, this doesn’t look as bad as you’d think. At least not at Poche’s (my favorite country meat mart and restaurant). Don’t miss the robot arm that lifts up the stainless boudin cart overhead and dumps it in the big funnel: Making Boudin. (Doesn’t work? Try another format.)

How about haiku-form poetry, in French, about Boudin (and Pepsi)? Really, I’m not fooling you, no: The Boudin Trail. (Anybody know where I can get the video mentioned here?)

Comments? Who’s is best? Why? (I’m feeling a little like living dangerously today. But I know the risk I take; if you think local passion about BellSouth is running high you’ve got no idea how strongly people feel about their food.)

“LUS optimistic on bonds cost”

Kevin Blanchard over at the Advocate writes a follow-up on Huval’s fiber project remarks at Tuesday’s council. (Remarks reviewed here yesterday.) As we’ve come to expect, Kevin adds useful detail to the story. The story highlights the central issue raised by Williams: whether the recent court ruling, and the city’s decision not to appeal effect the business plan. The simple answer: No.

The reporter apparently went back to Huval for detail as to why this is so; asking about the interest rates that Huval briefly alluded to in the council meeting. Here’s the boiled down result:

In 2004, LUS issued a feasibility study that included a general overview of the communications business plan.

In the feasibility study, LUS factored in an interest rate of 5.5 percent.

Huval said LUS is likely looking at interest rates nearer 4.5 percent now — higher than previously thought, but still cheaper than the “conservative” rate assumed in the original business plan.

That’s the good news…the fear had been that a ruling which (nonsensically, I still believe) forced LUS to go through a legalistic jumping in and out of default every time it applies provisions of the (un)Fair Competition Act would hurt the price of the bonds. Apparently that’s not as big an issue as it might have been:

The court’s ruling will require LUS to rewrite a portion of its bond ordinance that allowed revenue from the overall utilities system to be used to make debt payments on behalf of the new communications system without the new communications business going into default.

Without that mechanism, Huval said, the project carries a greater risk to the bond holders and could have driven up the interest rate the market would charge the start-up company.

But in talks with brokers about the new court-mandated approach, “that has not been a problem,” Huval said.

Reading between the lines, it appears to me is that the city and LUS have been out there trying negotiate a rewrite that navigates between the the judge’s ruling and the language most comfortable to the bonding community–and that after running some new wording past the bonding guys our team is confident that new language can be inserted that will minimize the damage BellSouth hoped to inflict.

The wheel continues to turn. I’m now eager to see those bonds sold.


I’ll be blunt here: I hope BellSouth will leave us alone this time. They need to. They are risking their future in this community. As it stands now they’ll have to come to a franchising agreement with this community to sell video in Lafayette. The feds may not step in and save them from local franchising. And they are developing a constituency here that will stand adamantly opposed to their making the same move at the state level. BellSouth’s actions are fostering an organized community across storm-ravaged South Louisiana that not only wants to repeal BellSouth’s law but will also adamantly oppose the state legislature moving to state-wide franchising of video and further cutting local communities out of the control of their own future. This is one of those “Make my day” situations: There’s a part of me (the state-wide citizen) that hopes that BellSouth will hand me what I need to expand that growing coalition by continuing to oppose the expressed will of the people. After all, last week’s arrogance is useful. But being able to point to current malevolence is a better tool, I have discovered… Go ahead. Make my day.

Fiber Tidbits

A few fiber Tidbits have come across my ‘puter’s desktop and off my TiVo since yesterday. The TiVo supplies documentation on last night’s interminable council meeting and I pulled a few remarks from The Indpendent’s pre-state-of-the-City-Parish-address interview that related to the ongoing fiber fight.

The Council Meeting:
Williams had responsibility for an agenda item asking for information on the ongoing legal wrangling over Lafayette’s fiber project. The item came up near the end of a 5 hour meeting. Williams seemed to want many of the responses in writing. Not much new…some fiber is being laid as part of an increasingly successful wholesale operation. Terry Huval said that fiber was rolling in support of that almost every day which would be a definite pick up in the pace. Of obvious concern is the question of whether the legal setback would force a raise in prices offered the public. Terry says it won’t; that even with the delays interest rates, while rising, have yet to meet the amount projected in the business plan. A silver lining in the delay is that prices for fiber optic equipment has been falling as the market matures.

Terry’s remark that “new things have come out that will help us” was a tantalizing hint of good things to come. In context that was apparently referring to technical advances that could be used to increase the value of Lafayette’s offering. There’s been several technologies come to the forefront recently that Lafayette might be interested in, Quality of Service, Internet Protocol TV, and virtual network technologies have all firmed up in various ways. –I’m hoping for an announcement of 100 megs of insystem bandwidth when making connections between Lafayette citizens. –Consumers would still buy price tiers of 5, 10, 20, whatever megs but that speed would apply to the open internet, not local connections. (The digital divide document approved by the council endorsed this possibility if it were technically feasible.) This technique, pioneered to my knowledge by large university installations and Provo, Utah, would let everyone who bought any internet service from LUS, no matter how cheap, communicate with another at blazing speeds. The development and digital divide implications of such a move would be huge. It would be a introduce a real, structural change that would drive development of big broadband testbed applications for business to business use and for the normal consumers (as opposed to targeted at the wealthiest). Our public utility ensuring that every member of the public who uses public services could communicate on an equal footing has practical and symbolic value that would be hard to overstate in this uncomfortable moment of Lafayette’s history.

The Independent Story:
The independent interview of Durel covers all the bases and I recommend clicking through for general civic reasons as well as fiber ones. But the material that might interest a reader of this blog are near the bottom where the interviewer (in bold) queries the mayor-president about fiber issues. Here’s that section:

On the issue of fiber, it seems you’ve found a way to rewrite the local ordinance to address the appellate court’s decision?

We’re going to tweak it. We’re not going to rewrite the whole thing. We’re going to address just the areas that the appellate court addressed.

Does it affect the rate you’ll charge customers?

The things that are most likely to change the rates are the constant legal battles we have with BellSouth and the potential of interest rates going up. I think the equipment and stuff like that are going down in price and not going up. The bond ordinance itself is not going to affect that.

At any point in this costly legal battle did you question the wisdom of LCG’s legal team, since it had a hand in the very state law the 3rd Circuit court ultimately ruled our ordinance would be violating?

No. We did it for all the right reasons. Hindsight’s 20/20. We got [BellSouth] to compromise because there was a law they introduced that completely banned municipalities from doing this. We were probably a little naive in thinking these people were sincere.

You’ve mentioned teaming with New Orleans, which installed a wireless network after the storm, to repeal the state law; are you still considering that?

I had breakfast with the legislators last week, and I told them this was one of the things that we need to introduce. Without that state law we’d already be giving people in Lafayette service.

What strikes me most are the remarks about naivete regarding compromises to the Local Government (un)Fair Competition act and the emerging movement to repeal it. As readers will know I’d love to see it repealed and these word from our elected leader are very welcome.

Cassard channeling John Mitchell?

Way back in the very early days of the Cox and BellSouth united opposition to the LUS fiber project (remember those bad old days?), local Cox honcho Gary Cassard appeared before the Lafayette Consolidated Government Council and delivered what I recall to be a threat.

The threat was that if Lafayette and LUS had the temerity to build out their own fiber network it might jeopardize significant new investments in Lafayette. Cassard specifically mentioned the fact that the LUS fiber project might imperil Cox’s plans to build a new operations center in the Hub City.

Judging by the story in today’s Daily Advertiser, that really wasn’t Cassard talking. Turns out that the new Cox facility on Eraste Landry Road is coming after all — yes, despite the fact that voters have declared that they want a publicly financed fiber network connecting every home and office in the city.

Could it be that Cassard was not actually delivering a threat, but merely channeling felonious former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell? It was Mitchell, President Nixon’s attorney general, who soothed campaign supporters worried about liberal-sounding rhetoric coming out of the new administration with the famous phrase: “Watch what we do, not what we say.

Today’s story is proof of Mitchell’s maxim about what matters. Today Cox is building, not bluffing. Now, if they could only convince their erstwhile partners in the huff-n-bluff (BellSouth) to live life accordingly.

“Cox plans $10M expansion”

Cox has decided to consolidate its Acadiana services into a new 10 million dollar building on Eraste Landry according to a story in this morning’s Advertiser.

That’s a good sign for Lafayette and gives concrete assurance that Cox intends to stay and compete. As a consolidation it does not, unfortunately, mean new jobs (and may mean the loss of a few–a usual “benefit” of a consolidation move) but putting capital into a new building is a positive sign of Cox’s commitment.

Sharp readers will note that the Advertiser’s reporter Claire Taylor had to go to Sharon Kleinpeter for quotes on the news–Sharon works out of Baton Rouge and we heard from her very occasionally during the referendum. But until the first of the year we had our own PR contact here in Lafayette.

That change is the consequence of Cox absorbing Lafayette into it’s Baton Rouge unit. Cox shed a large chunk of its subscriber base, mostly in rural areas, to pay for taking itself private and to upgrade some of the remaining systems. The largest unit put on the block was the former Middle America Division which included Lafayette. Cox decided to keep Lafayette (much to my sorrow) and attached it to the Baton Rouge unit which had been in another division. The story is unclear on how much of the former local administrative staff remains.

The change makes the combined Baton Rouge-Lafayette market a large one: 300,000 subscribers in total stretching from the Florida parishes across the basin to the six parish re Acadiana region for which Lafayette is a hub. An article in the Advocate last Tuesday said that made it Cox’s seventh-largest market. Being a smaller part of a larger unit as opposed to the biggest part of a smaller unit is probably a wash for Lafayette. But it introduces special new difficulties for Cox vis-a-vis responding to Lafayette’s fiber initiative. It was embarrassing to raise Baton Rouge’s rates while leaving Lafayette’s unchanged. That will only get much worse as the competitive atmosphere in Lafayette intensifies and Cox is forced to contemplate both actually lowering rates to meet LUS’ prices and upgrading its service to meet the challenge of higher broadband speeds. Sharon Kleinpeter might well find it awkward to announce rate hikes in Baton Rouge while announcing rate reductions in Lafayette. Presumably they’ll arrange to have those press conferences and “media availability opportunities” on different days.

“BellSouth, Cox include local, concerned people”

Heather Deshotel says in a letter to the Advertiser that Bellsouth and Cox include local, concerned people. She’s surely right. Unfortunately she’s built her letter around a subtly different thesis: that BellSouth and Cox, by virtue of a few of their employees, should be regarded as local and concerned. That thesis is not true. Lafayette has had a graduate level introduction to just how disdainful the corporations BellSouth and Cox have been toward the citizens of Lafayette and how poor their citizenship is.

Most of her points I’ve already dealt with and I won’t belabor them here except to say that it’s a wild mischaracterization to say that LUS “broke the law” for believing in an interpretation of the law that its author, the other participants in negotiations (including apparently Cox who did NOT join BellSouth’s lawsuit), and the PSC (who supported LUS’ position in court) also believed correct.

One point I haven’t covered recently, and should have, is the good news out of Bristol, Virginia. You’ll recall that both the city and the fiber opposition made reference to Bristol. As the history has rolled out, the city’s view has proven to be more accurate. (For a particularly dishonest use of the Bristol experience, see Lafayette Pro Fiber’s post on the last-minute mailers that featured a doctored pull quote from the Bristol paper.) The opponents are no longer saying that Bristol has failed commercially; Bristol’s retail success is now firmly established. Instead they are trying to attack Lafayette by saying Bristol hasn’t brought commercial investment to its struggling corner of Appalachia. That might seem like a safe assertion about a new business–and the sort of nonsense we can expect to be said about Lafayette in the first two years of its operation. As unfair as this kind of demand is, in the case of Bristol it is also untrue. (Heather, and the folks she talks to, should have done the research.)

Bristol’s fiber optic network has been credited (in a local story) by Southwest Virginia’s US Representative with helping to attract 700 new jobs to a rural, coalfield county:

Bristol Virginia Utilities, which already has wired parts of Russell County, will complete the work along about 160 miles of roads, Boucher said… [U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-9th.]

Fiber-optic service in Russell County was important in helping attract about 700 new jobs there this year, Boucher said.

“Extending and linking the Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco fiber-optic backbones promises to provide even greater opportunities for new economic development and job creation throughout the coal-producing counties of our region,” he said.

Nobody claims that Bristol Virginia Utilities was solely responsible for that gain. It wasn’t. And nobody will claim the same for LUS when similar results start to roll in. The local equivalent of LEDA and several regional technology groups supporting technology parks clearly had a hand in it. Still, the district’s federal representative chose to single out BVU for praise. BVU’s capacity, and willingness to step up to support local initiatives where the region’s commercial providers apparently were not, ought to be noted by even folks from Scott. LUS will be, like BVU, a pro-active, local supporter of initiatives that boost Lafayette and Acadiana. We can’t expect BellSouth or Cox to play that role–their interests lie solely in finding the maximum return for every dollar spent. LUS’ interests, by contrast, lie in doing what’s best for its community. That, at the root, is the difference between a local public utility and private, corporate providers like Cox and BellSouth.

And no amount of misdirection is going to change that basic equation.

Lawrence Lessig tears ’em a new one

Every so often you run into a piece that’s so dense with good sense that you are hard-put to pull out appropriate teaser quotes. That’s the way it is with Lawrence Lessig’s recent tear on net neutrality. He vents his frustration with the sort of nonsense that tries to justify handing the internet over to the corporations that own the last mile wires by pretending that the internet succeeded because of its “unregulated” environment. ‘Tain’t so as Lessig points out:

…when the Internet first reached beyond research facilities to the masses, it did so on regulated lines — telephone lines. Had the telephone companies been free of the “heavy hand” of government regulation, it’s quite clear what they would have done — they would have killed it, just as they did when Paul Baran first proposed the idea in 1964. It was precisely because they were not free to kill it, because the “heavy hand[ed]” regulation required them to act neutrally, that the Internet was able to happen, and then flourish.

So Waltzman’s wrong about the Internet’s past. But he’s certainly right about what a mandated net neutrality requirement would be. It would certainly be a “complete step backward for the Internet” — back to the time when we were world leaders in Internet penetration, and competition kept prices low and services high.

Good stuff, and follow that link in the quoted text for a long, calm dissection of how the internet was born in government research and forethought and first thrived under mandatory “open access” rules. Also don’t miss the classic little logical structure he builds at the end of his article. It’s always a pleasure to see the door shut so firmly on nonsense.

Lessig takes, in my judgment, one small misstep: he makes the too-simple claim that it is broadband’s nature as infrastructure that makes it an inappropriate place to rely on “markets.” The market issue is more profoundly economic than that. Happily a writer on techdirt rises to the occasion:

That’s rather simplified, but is mostly right. The issue isn’t that it’s infrastructure — but that the infrastructure is a natural monopoly, where the effort to build more than one of the same style of infrastructure does more harm than good, and the value is only in having the same infrastructure reach far and wide (network effects).

That’s just right…Markets are almost always the right solution for economic problems. But natural monopolies are the classic example of a situation where relying simply on markets is a recipe for disaster. It’s not that “infrastructure” is a problem for competitive solutions, it is rather that we call some enterprises infrastructure and expect government construction or subsidy/regulation precisely because private providers can’t economically provide a service which the community finds valuable because of its network effects. –The roads are a good example.