Saturday Activity: Montage an Idea…

Ok, why not a fun search activity this Saturday morn? It’s pretty but its chilly….fool around a bit and see what sorts of mind-bending things the net makes possible.

Navigate to the Grant Robninson’s Montage-a-Google page. You’ll see that it takes Google search items and returns a montage of the images it finds on google that match your search parameters. You can search for anything you like (or don’t like).

Colors? Try “Blue-Green”

Emotions? Try “Placid”

For that special little girl’s room? Try “pink azalea” (Make it as big and as high resolution as you want using the “Advanced Options.”)

Art: Try “Guernica”

Ideas: “Fiber Optic”


“Roly Poly”


Your turn….

Goggle it: Cluelessness Incumbents

Here’s an interesting little activity for a Saturday morning: Google “Cox Lafayette La” and “BellSouth Lafayette La.” Go on now, click those links, get those pages up in separate tabs….now take a look. Really, this requires participation…you need to experience this yourself.

Why might any regular person run up that search? Well: maybe you want to find the local offices–to pay a bill or sign up for services. I sometimes run searches like this to find out if a company had a presence in town, how many locations it has and whether any are close to me. Mostly people make searches on business and location because they are considering doing business with the company.

What you’ll see is that, for Lafayette, that search returns 1) almost nothing that would help a potential customer find out how locate Cox or BellSouth in Lafayette and 2) a lot of things that would indicate that Lafayette is angry with these guys. Follow out a few of those links and what you’ll get is a picture of a company that hasn’t dealt fairly with Lafayette–and you’ll find that judgment passed in both national and local media.

That is NOT what you want a search on your name to produce.

The incumbents are clueless about a lot of things; that’s pretty obvious, but they don’t understand just how damaging this stuff is. There have been reams of paper (lots of bytes?) spent on dissecting Google search, its page rank system and how those two interact. The system is continually tweaked to produce what Google hopes will be the most useful returns for your search. Mostly it works. People like and rely on search engines–so much so that even the major computer operating systems are now offering search facilities that mimic internet search engines to help you find what’s lost on your own hard drive.

The point is that most internet-savvy people use search incessantly…and have been trained by the experience to believe the result is meaningful. What comes up IS related to what you searched for.

This is NOT a good thing for the incumbents who remain absolutely clueless about what they have created in Lafayette. Insulated by their monopoly positions in their central cable and telephone markets they’ve grown used to riding out dissatisfaction that a company in a truly competitive market could not survive.

Just so you’ll have a sense of what a search on a company and a location ought to show if the company hasn’t created unnatural amounts of local hostility I offer up “LUS Lafyette La” and “Cox Baton Rouge La.” One of the first things you find is the physical location and a contact link for each company. You can click right through and get your business done.

The incumbents seem to be clueless as to what their failed attempt to break Lafayette cost them locally (or nationally) but a trip to the search engine should be instructive. When a perfectly innocent location search returns nothing but reasons not to use your service you know you’ve poisoned the stream. It’ll take a long while for that stream to clear even if you stop dumping junk in it.

Lafayette remembers…and so does the net.

Congrats: Lafayette named “Smart Community”

Congratulations are in order: Lafayette has just been named a “Smart Community” by Last Mile Magazine and Digital City Expo. From the LCG/LUS press release:

“The leadership of Lafayette rightly believes that true broadband – and fiber-optic capabilities to every home – is an essential utility for the economic well-being of the community,” said James Salter, CEO of Atlantic Engineering and a member of the Last Mile Editorial Advisory Board. “Over the past few years, I have seen this leadership step forward repeatedly to build a community FTTH. For that grit, for that determination, Lafayette deserves the Digital City EXPO Smart Community Award.”

Editors cited both the majority vote of Lafayette citizens in June 2005 in favor of the plan and the decision of NuComm International to locate a customer contact center for its technical and service support, customer care, billing and data management company in Lafayette as major reasons for the award.

From Joey Durel:

“Our desires to bring 21st century technology to Lafayette citizens, to spark job growth and to create educational opportunities here at home has been the cornerstone of our fight for this fiber project,” said Joey Durel, Lafayette City-Parish President. “That our efforts have been recognized nationally by this prestigious group underscores the significance of our vision for our community and how it might help others change their world and their future.”

The city–and its leadership–certainly deserve the honor. Lafayette’s success has made it clear that such battles could be won. Salter, who has been involved in a number of southern fiber buildouts, has seen other cities whose populace and leadership were not so determined and whose projects never reached fruition as a consequence. Durel and Huval’s willingness to step up and wage the fight in no uncertain terms was absolutely critical to that victory. The crews over at LCG and LUS ought to step up and take a bow. It’s been earned.

Lafayette shares the award with Cleveland, famous for it OneCleveland (rebranded OneCommunity) digital inclusion/community development project.

The award will be made on April 3 at the Digital City Expo in Ruston, Virgina.

Update 3/15/07: Both the Advertiser and the Advocate carry short stories on the “smart community” award this morning.

FYI: Fiber Savings for Institutions and Small Businesses

From out of California comes a story that won’t interest everyone–but if you are associated with a medium-sized institution or business it might prove very interesting.

Here’s the gist: A nice fat fiber pipe can mean a huge set of savings, particularly savings in internet connect fees and phone service. This has been true for awhile, of course, but the trick has been to be able to buy that fat pipe at a price that didn’t kill your savings in the other areas. Since you had to pay for an expensive fiber install yourself the upfront costs could kill the deal.

Executive Summary: You had to be a big guy to get the good deal. (This is not news, no?)

The story linked to details the sorts of savings that were possible for a California Community College in San Francisco. They had to buy their own ring but got 20 times the internet bandwidth to their multi-campus unit for the same price and had a gig of internal bandwidth to burn for in-house applications. Most significant in terms of immediate savings was a switch from a standard centrix phone system in which they paid for every phone line and even paid for calls to numbers within their system. A sophisticated VOIP plan allowed them to drop almost all of their centrix contracts. And ended up with a much more feature-rich phone system to boot. (If you are paying for separate phone lines and being billed for calls to your in-house numbers you need off that plan….)

A great deal…for someone who can wrangle their own fiber ring.

The thing is, here in Lafayette you are about to get your own fiber ring. You’ll be able to gain access to crazy-fast bandwidth without buying your own fiber strands. Killing the startup costs will make the sorts of major, continuing advantages that once only accrued to the big guys available to everyone who needs big internet bandwidth; who has multiple locations; or who looks with horror upon their monthly phone bill.

Our big guys, including UL, LCG, Hospitals, Community Colleges, and the parish school system need to planning to take advantage of this now–if they haven’t already. (And I’d be interested in knowing if they have.)

But the really big advantage accrues to those who aren’t the big guys: folks with 30 phone lines and below who currently have no real choices. Sit down and game this out–talk to some of our local geeks. Very fancy VOIP software is available for astonishingly cheap prices (e.g. FREE) and while you’d be wise to contract with a local to maintain it and troubleshoot the savings could be huge on this one factor alone.

New Executive Summary: Don’t go signing any long term contracts right now….and start planning.

Digital Divide Returns—as it should

Just when you think it is safe to quite paying attention to council meetings for awhile….

Both LUS and various correspondents confirm that Chris Williams brought up the digital divide at last Tuesday night’s council meeting. That issue was a major part of the discussion back in 04-05. He’d like to return to the promises made then and get an update. Huval promised to get back to him with a response during the March 27th meeting.

For those among us whose memories of that period are dimming: Back in the early days the digital divide was a big issue in securing the council’s endorsement of the project. This was back before any referendum was planned. At the time it was assumed that the big political battle would be on the floor of the council. Over time it became pretty clear that the council was prepared to give its approval and the new goal was making approval unanimous if at all possible; the idea being for the community to present a united front in the face of anticipated incumbent oppositions. (This proved prescient.)

It was at that time that the digital divide issue became prominent. Everyone agreed that taking on that issue was something that could and should be done by LCG/LUS. Chris Williams wanted to see the green–he wanted a commitment that devoted real, hard cash to closing the digital divide in the financial plan. What exactly that money would be used for varied. But that always seemed secondary to securing the commitment by getting real dollars devoted to the principle. LUS and LCG resisted, in part for local political reasons, and in part for legal reasons. They didn’t want to excite knee-jerk ideological responses from the right that might endanger support from councilmen that were more comfortable with economic development rationales than arguments about community betterment. The incumbents’ new state law also imposed restrictions–at the time Lafayette wasn’t going to have to go to a referendum, but if it restarted the process by posting a new financial plan that included digital divide elements it seemed likely that legal challenges from the incumbents would force delays and might well force a referendum that nobody local wanted. (The fear that the incumbents would use legal tools to force delays proved prescient too.)

What emerged was a digital divide committee convened by LUS that would come up with a document that the council could then endorse–that, the thinking went, would bind LUS to a real commitment to the digital divide and allay Williams and Benjamen’s concerns that it was all window-dressing. And, of course, put off heated public disagreements to a later date.

The digital divide committee (full disclosure: I was a member) was composed of citizens who were all first concerned about the issue and were also variously suggested by councilmen, or were representatives of governmental agencies, nonprofits, and business interests. They meet and produced a report that was presented to the council on 5/17/o5. Members of the committee made short presentations, backed by a slideshow, and answered questions from the council.

That evening the council, by ordinance, endorsed “the principles and recommendations embodied in the committee’s study” and “called for LUS to incorporate elements of the report…into its Fiber for the Future project.”

I’ve recently reviewed the report again and gone out and looked at similar documents from other cities. I honestly think Lafayette’s stacks up well. For comparison purposes, check out San Francisco’s recent work which, overall, takes a strikingly similar position on major issues.

The take-home is pretty simple. This issue is coming back—and it is fair that it should. Supporters of fiber—and supporters of Lafayette—will be aware that the full council made a strong commitment to a series of worthy principles. Both that commitment and Williams and Benjamen’s final decision to let lie their request for a monetary obligation were decisions made in the interest of preserving community unity in the face of a well-funded and implacable outside opposition. It worked: every council district, and every part of the community voted strongly in favor of building a municipal fiber-optic network.

Now is the time to make good on the commitments that made our success possible.

Cox: here, elsewehere, and elsewhen

Cox communications was at last Thursday’s Fiber Forum where Karen Kleinpeter, Karmen Blanco and maybe 5 or 6 others were spotted busily taking notes and being very quiet. They caucused in the parking lot for a long time after the meeting, no doubt planning their next nefarious move–or at least trying to figure out how to offset the good publicity accruing to LUS without doing anything so gauche as actually taking their customers opinions seriously themselves.

Today we see featured in the local business section of the Advertiser an AP story about the cable companies plan to offer cell phone service–elsewhere and elsewhen. Nothing is actually being offered in our neck of the woods and it isn’t clear when this might happen locally. This is a fairly old story, actually: the cable companies joined together back in 2005 to partner up with Sprint/Nextel in hopes that they could put together a “bundle” that included cellular service. Since their phone company rivals had already bought their way into a dominant position in the cellular arena (Verizon and AT&T are the dominant names in both cellular and telephone networks) they decided to put together a package of their own.

The story summarizes the current state of the partnership–one which is actually moving pretty slowly as things go in the fast-paced telecom world. All the cable companies appear to still be “testing” the bundle. Since the plan is for the cable companies, for example Cox, to provide not only billing, branding, and marketing, but the much more daunting task of support they seem to be taking it slow. My guess is that they want to make really sure that there is some payoff from going the full route of providing a fully cable-branded cellular service–and that they aren’t certain yet.

So the local news here is actually pretty much nil. But it does highlight the importance of LUS’ eventual wireless play and how it will be structured. In recent announcements (including those at the well-attended-by-Cox Fiber Forum meeting) LUS has said that a wireless data play is coming–either concurrent with the fiber build or soon thereafter. As Huval made clear a cellular play would depend upon partnering up with a major player and he says that no such negotiations have begun. I’d suspect that in LUS’ case we’d see a simple partnership: no LUS-branded phones. Just a deal or deals to let one or more brands of dual mode wifi/cell phone latch onto the national network beyond our borders. (The carrier that agrees to that will have a big leg up in our market.) In the best of all possible worlds any carrier would allow local networks to cut that sort of deal and with municipal WiFi hitting many of the country’s major cities the advantage to be had from cutting such deals may well become overwhelming.

AT&T & Cox should reconsider state video franchising

Tis spring and the legislative season is opening in these United States. Our Louisiana silly season won’t begin ’til April but many state legislatures are already in session. An article in the Jackson, TN newspaper reminds us that phone companies are still up to their old tricks. Last year the telephone companies launched a nation-wide push in state legislatures to take control of local rights-of-way away from the cities and counties that own them and create state-level privileges for phone companies who wanted to get int the cable TV business.

Most important of these privileges was state permission to avoid the build-out requirements of towns and cities-local governments that have, for pretty obvious reasons, consistently insisted that if a business wanted to use local property to make a profit off its citizens then offering service to all the citizens was a non-negotiable starting point. “All of us or none” was the stalwart principle. In various places the phone companies have conceded to every other demand from monetary rewards to PEG channels. But they are not willing to give up the competitive advantage over the cable companies of skimming off the cream of the local market. They want to take the most profitable customers and move on with no assurance that their “competition” will ever reach most of the community.

Our legislature fell for it and only the governor’s veto pen kept the state from writing into law a bill that would have solidified the digital divide between poor and rich as well as between rural and urban for at least a generation. (In fairness to individual legislators, it should be said that there was a truly inspirational confrontation on the floor of the Senate. Friends of the people went down kicking.)

On the evidence of what is going on elsewhere this season in places like Tennesse, Wisconson, and it seems likely that Louisiana will again see an attempt by AT&T to ram through a state-wide video law that favors its interests. While AT&T (then BS) found tough sledding early in last season’s attempt to pass such a law after partnering up with Cox and the cablecos they managed to pass a law fairly easily. The new, cableco-approved version would have allowed cable companies to break their contracts with local communities in order to use the same advantages offered the phone companies. The cable companies apparently thought that, on the balance, the new advantages over communities was a decent trade-off for the benefits the bill gave the phone companies in their competition with cable. (Did that dark alliance clue in the legislative majority? No.)

So I expect the AT&T-BS/Cable coalition to be back at the trough this year. With the FCC rule that gave the phone companies most of what they failed to get from the last congress now in jepordy from a resurgent Congress there is no reason to think that the incumbents won’t continue to try and get what they want from the local yokels they’ve taken before.

But whoa up a moment: is that really wise?
Things change. That article from the Tennessee paper contains a suggestive paragraph:

One advantage of the state legislation, however, is that Jackson Energy Authority [JEA] would be able to expand its cable and Internet services outside of its present designated service area, Farmer said.

JEA is Jackson’s equivalent of LUS–the fiber-laying, incumbent-slaying upstart. Incumbents take heed: Lafayette’s own muni fiber optic network is now assured. EATel, the locally owned rural phone company, is building its own fiber network on line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and has made clear its ambitions for expansion from the beginning. St. Charles parish is contemplating building its own network and looks to Lafayette. Rumors about New Orleans Fiber In The Sewers (FITS) continues to make the incumbents slumber fitful. It’s beginning to look like a trend.

Any and all of these entities could take advantage of the same (still unfair) privileges that for which AT&T/BS has been angling.

That’s not what BellSouth intended. When that law was originally proposed NOBODY that could compete with BellSouth would have benefited. The late inclusion of the cable companies didn’t really change the competitive landscape much. They are already built out as much as they think profitable, new challenges from them were unlikely.

AT&T/BS might want to rethink its position in Louisiana. They’ll be enabling folks who might (gasp!) actually decide to compete with them–and compete at their own game with superior technologies. If the phone company succeeds legislatively what is to keep EATel from deciding to serve, with real fiber, the new mushroom ring around New Orleans–but only the wealthier new suburbs, the local cream, and doing to AT&T what it plans to do to the cable companies: cherry-pick the most profitable areas and leave the rest for the incumbent providers. What’s to keep St. Charles from doing its own network with support from Lafayette’s backend facilities–right down to using LUS’ billing and branding systems? What’s to keep LUS from aggressively moving into every non-incorporated new subdivision in the parish using its now-pervasive fiber backbone that feeds the schools? What’s to keep LUS from being invited into cities as full competitors in places that like what they see happening in Lafayette? With a state-wide franchise: Nothing, Nothing, Nothing, and Nothing.

No doubt LUS, as a municipal entity itself, will not be willing to move into a city without negotiating with the local authorities and sharing income. But that might be a big advantage in the long run. If AT&T really manages to come in, cherry pick the cream, and stiff the cities on income and services it will be a painful, ugly thing as cities take the hit in franchise income. (The cable franchise is usually 3-5% of gross revenues–a critical component of local discretionary revenues.) LUS (and similar entities its example may spawn) wouldn’t have to extract nearly the profit the incumbent desire and could afford to be generous with services and profit-sharing. That could prove very attractive to places abused by the incumbents inevitable move to squeeze the municipalities once the cities are stripped of bargaining power by state or federal takings.

Maybe AT&T will still think the advantages it gains over cable are worth the competition it courts by promoting a law that will give every small public or private entity in the state a license to compete in every corner of the state on an ad hoc basis. Maybe. But a year later it is clear that the decision is no longer a no-brainer with nothing but upside for the company. As the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for.

Cox’s (and the other cableco’s) rationale for backing AT&T’s law this time around is even less clear than it was last year. The emerging pattern of AT&T predatory build out policies in other states (predicted here at LPF) is now obvious: they take the best and leave the rest for the cable companies who have already built their networks to serve the entire community and have to carry that extra overhead.

Cox Baton Rouge, which now includes Acadiana, is particularly vulnerable: On the south it faces EATel, a local phone company which makes no bones about it desire to bring its FTTH-based cable competition to rapidly growing–and lucrative arc of outer suburbs developing south and east of Baton Rouge. That ambition was spoken before the storms devastated New Orleans and made those areas the new home to much of the population of that metropolis. Should EATel secure that arc it’d be posed to eat into the densely populated segments of the city–but not with AT&T’s barely capable DSL-based offerings but with full throated fiber to the home. On the Western verge of that territory it is now certain that Cox’s largest profit center in Acadiana, Lafayette, will be a profit center no longer. Inevitably LUS’ expansion will come out of Cox’s established base; with few exceptions every cable customer LUS gets will mean a lost subscriber for Cox. That nightmare is visible on the horizon. In short order Lafayette will be one of the least profitable networks in its system, supported by a subscriber base that is a fraction of what headquarters has grown to expect.

No, Cox does not need to add to its troubles by supporting a law written by its deadliest enemy.

Cox has allied with the wrong side. Here’s what would be much smarter: Ally with the Louisiana Municipal Association and the parishes. Join them in suggesting a pre-emptive law that protects local rights and keeps AT&T/BellSouth from securing unfair competitive advantages.

The outlines of such a law aren’t hard to see and could be based on a law suggested by local governments last year. That law offered to put a 90 day “stop clock” on any negotiation with a new competitor, assuring that no one could be unreasonably delayed in entering a new market. If an agreement couldn’t be reached quickly all the competitor had to do was agree to sign on to the same contract the incumbent cable company already had. Easy, fast, efficient, and transparently fair. It was, of course, rejected out of hand by the phone company. Their interest lay in securing advantage, not a level playing field.

This year’s version could look like this, for starters:

  • It should be based on the current local franchise; preserving local control of local resources.
  • It could lay out a reasonable timeline for a full build-out to match the current cable footprint. Small communities could expect to be served by a full competitor in three years and larger cities in, say, seven. That would remove the most anti-competitive aspect of the law, and the one that puts the established incumbent at a permanent disadvantage.
  • It could include a time clock (the cities are willing to agree to 90 days) after which the default “established contract” goes into effect–that would mean no long delays of the sort the phone companies claim to be worried about.
  • The default contract could include certain standard modifications such as: a “revenue neutral” clause for the city; meaning that the extras, like PEG monies, channels, service networks and the like would only have to be provided once…not twice. This could include a clause allowing the new entrant to pay the current provider for providing their pro-rata-by-subscriber share of these services or allow them to take over a portion of the responsibility directly as they expand and acquire the capacity.
  • Also standard could be clauses that provide real, automatic, penalties for not meeting contract requirements like one mandating buildout. To make sure that both cities and competitors are motivated to insist on contract adherence the default contract could have escalator clauses built into the monies paid the city and the incumbent if they failed to meet their promise to compete fully and fairly.

It would make a lot of sense for Cox and the state cable association to get together with the municipal and parish organizations and promote a bill that protects their rights and competitive interests while giving the phone company the quick and easy route to competition that they claimed they wanted last year.

On Really Getting It

One of the most gratifying things about Thursday night’s fiber forum was watching Lafayette’s leaders (and a nice chunk of the community) exhibit all the signs that they really get it. They understand the potentials of the new technologies and have a good sense of how to milk the most out of them. This, my friends, is extraordinary–and vanishingly rare.

There is evidence that they clearly understand: 1) Great things are coming but what those great things are is unknown; 2) that the best thing to do encourage unknown great things is to be generous, and; 3) generosity needn’t cost much or anything.

On Great Things are unknown:
At one point in the night Huval broke into an historical analogy. He said that he felt like his predecessor in in 1897 must have felt when electricity was being introduced. All the questions were about lighting and light bulbs: “What do we do when the light bulb breaks” and much concern was shown about the dangers of sticking a finger in the socket. Nobody knew about radio, or TV, or microwave ovens. The idea, of course, is that the hopes and anxieties of the initial stages of a new technology are incomplete and even misleading when viewed in retrospect. The conclusion is that we don’t, can’t, know all the great things that will result from ubiquitous really huge bandwidth. That’s wise. To believe otherwise encourages folks to build elaborate edifices for a future that is never realized–and that has been the single greatest danger of “visionary” enterprises. But the danger in the wise recognition that you can’t know the future in detail is that it might lead to inaction: there is a temptation to believe that you can’t encourage that which you do not know. That’s not true and these guys are NOT making that mistake.

On designing for unknown Great Things:
There is a way to design a system to encourage unknown great things: Where possible choose networks that leave open the most possibilities for users to “do things” with the network. And once you have such a networks don’t put any limits on users that are not absolutely necessary. That can get technical pretty quickly. But the underlying attitude is not complicated: Be Generous. If you have a choice to make about network design: Choose the more generous network. If you have a choice to make about what a user is allowed to do with the network: Be Generous. That’s a pretty simple and easy to enact principle.

Such a “generous” attitude was exhibited when Huval illustrated how he thinks Lafayette’s network will be different from other networks. Verizon, which has a fiber to the home network with the attendant large capacity, is not offering much of that capacity to its public. It is choosing to merely compete with its cable opponents by offering a little more of the same for a little less. Verizon’s attitude is that if it can’t make a buck off it then it won’t offer it–it won’t give away anything, not even something which costs it nothing. Huval, pointing to Verizon said “our philosophy is going to be completely different” and that LUS will take the position of offering a much as possible as long as doing so doesn’t create an obvious problem with the business plan. Both the decision to offer symmetrical bandwidth and to allow full intranet bandwidth between customers show what decisions result when you take a generous position.

On the idea that generousity can be cheap:
Given generous upfront decisions about the intial design of the network features like symmetrical speeds and full intranet speeds will be very cheap to provide in light of the huge excess capacity the network will have. Making the decision to be generous need not be expensive. This point was made during the discussion Thursday. One man voiced concerns that all the nifty ideas that had been suggested would be expensive and that only some of them could be chosen. Huval seemed genuinely puzzled as he responded that, actually, very few would cost anything. In that he was right…but his point was that he was inclined to do as much of it as he could in that case.

So these guys get it: Generosity pays dividends. We’ve always known this, of course, but it is interesting to find the principle showing up so vividly in the esotoric world fiber-optic networks.

Fiber Forum Reviews

Local medial covered last night’s Fiber Forum. Both local television stations, the Advertiser, and the Advocate ran stories. Take a look, both stories are worth your review if you are interested in the future of our project.

Teasers from the Advocate:

…when LUS Internet customers are communicating inside the LUS network — which will run throughout the city — their Internet speed would be the maximum LUS could offer.

It costs additional money for LUS to connect customers to the Internet outside its network, but not for “Intranet” traffic, Huval said…

Local lawyer Kaliste Saloom III said the new system should take advantage of bandwidth to enable and increase community-based programming, including greatly expanding the Acadiana Open Channel’s ability to distribute locally generated programming.

Huval said LUS would be looking at inexpensive computer devices for people to connect to the Internet — either through computers that are little more than a keyboard, screen and a connection to a network that holds all the software, or, at the suggestion of a resident [Glenn Lambert], cable set top boxes that come with a keyboard and act as a computer.

A wireless Internet product is also on the table, Huval said.

After the network is built to each home and business in the city, running fiber-optic cables down every street, there will be a “robust” backbone for a citywide wireless network, Huval said.

Teasers from the Advertiser:

…Huval said that public participation is important in LUS’ plan and is one of the things that makes the business different. The customers, who are also owners, have a real say in the way the business operates.

Dorsey said he hoped the fiber network could turn Lafayette into the first city in North America to embrace video phone technology.

Bill Connolly, a LUS customer, said it would be a good idea to include a feature that would allow citizens to check their daily water, sewage and electricity usage online instead of waiting for an LUS bill at the end of the month.

Huval also said interest in fiber optics network has spread beyond LUS customers.

“There’s been an interest expressed by people outside the city,” he said. “It’s hard to ignore that.”

Exciting times are upon us. The attitude exhibited by LUS and the savvy demonstrated by the public are good news.

Point of Personal Privilege; about the absence of KATC & KLFY links:
Both KATC and KLFY have videos available that cover this story but I can’t be comfortable linking to them. Frankly, there’s nothing in the content worth waiting through the ads and wading through the squirrelly javascript once you’ve managed to locate it. The proprietary MS technology that both have purchased from some common vendor in an attempt to make sure they can force you to watch additional ads is sure to break the links for folks with older or nonmicrosoft technology. The contrast between the city’s vision and the stations’ clunky adherence to broken technology could not be greater. Not everything is dandy in the hub city. (There’s something seriously wrong when the best, most accessible video on the local net is at the newspaper’s site.)

The First Fiber Forum

I just got out of the LUS fiber to the home meeting at City Hall. I’ve searched for a way to sound measured and reasoned but…Hell, I’m pumped!

Why? Well, attitude, information, and good suggestions just about sums it up.

The attitude
Well the attitude was everything a good little-d democrat could ask for: The people there were interested and engaged, wanted to contribute and did contribute. There was no whining about decisions that the community had already made. What was suggested was put out there with a good heart and in the hope that the suggestions might actually be helpful. Terry Huval, LUS head and event MC, was open—willing to say what was possible, what isn’t possible, and what he didn’t know. While there were moments of caution the feeling of candor was very comforting after watching people be cautious for so long. Just deciding to hold the meeting was evidence that the tone had shifted. We can relax and talk amongst ourselves now that the battle is over. Sniping from the outside is now largely irrelevant. A lot of folks have waited for this day.

You want to add you own ideas to the suggestion box? Write:

The information
There was news, and there were things that we hadn’t heard repeated in so long that they felt like news again.

  • Wireless, it is baldly asserted, is coming–just when and just how to be determined. But the wireless will be hung off the fiber and will come quickly after they get comfortable with the utility network they are working on now. Wireless, in the wake of fiber is described as relatively cheap and as something the dense fiber will make “very robust.”
  • We will get symmetric upload and download speeds for our dollars. (HeeYah).
  • What Huval calls peer to peer bandwidth, the digital divide report called “full insystem bandwidth” and others call “intranet speeds”, sounds like it is a go. With it every customer will be able to communicate with every other customer at the full available speed of our local fiber–regardless of the service tier (5 meg, 10 meg, etc.) limits that kick in when we get outside of our own network. This lays the groundwork for a whole raft of other wonderful things. (On which more when I can get around to it. A teaser? Yes.)
  • Dual mode cell/WiFi service to go with the wireless? That would require a partnership with a carrier. They are not in negotiations yet but LUS is aware of the issue and thinks that will be a capacity they anticipate the community will want.
  • Territorial expansion–e.g. service beyond the city of Lafayette. Huval was cagey. But cagey in a way that made plain that yes, it was under discussion, that LUS had capacity outside the city, and would consider partnerships or simply leasing the expensive “head end” facilities to burbs that wanted to do it themselves. Or, of course, LUS’ telecom division could simply move in and provide welcome competition for the incumbents. Clearly there’s been thought about this.
  • NO contract. NO deposit if credit not a problem. NO connection charge.
  • Reiterates claim that triple play packages similar to the incumbents will be 20% less

News more operational than technical:

  • Huval reacted favorably to the idea of community working groups, along the lines of the original Digital Divide Committee to address some of the questions raised.
  • There was a strong emphasis on localism–the idea that the network should be used to bolster our uniqueness. The idea of putting more channels–or simply bandwidth–into AOC, or offering channels/bandwidth to schools, community colleges, and the university for distributed education… with open insystem bandwidth some of this would come almost effortlessly.
  • There will be more Fiber Forums…at least one, perhaps more, perhaps more focused on particular issues or services.

The suggestions
The suggestions from the floor were grand. People had a good sense of what they wanted and what might be possible. You can add your own by email at My undoubtedly incomplete list in raw form, so you can get a sense of the range and richness:

  • integrated video phone technology
  • high definition programming
  • symmetrical upload and download
  • DVR settop box
  • a la carte
  • inexpensive low tier
  • peer to peer bandwidth
  • community working/study groups
  • inexpensive computer integrated into set-top box
  • wireless connectivity
  • territorial expansion
  • two way video TV
  • bandwidth opportunity with retail packages (intranet bandwidth, I believe.)
  • telephone features
  • Video on demand feature
  • open access support (Localism, AOC, 15 channels)
  • Provide AOC with Bandwidth and rack space
  • Use Internet with utilities consumption, customers could monitor own usage
  • web hosting facility
  • distance learning…for schools
  • Web Portal…(suggested)
  • traffic control..”Intelligent traffic control system”
  • Cell phone/wireless phones
  • Spam protection
  • all digital simulcasting
  • one number access (unified access service)

Don’t you want all that? Want to know when it’ll get to you? Tough.

But….Pre-sign up will be possible at some point, and if your neighborhood has all signed up, well that might well feed into the decsion of which area to work first. Desperate? Start a petition in your neighborhood. My guess is that you could get yourself on a list by using that same

I want it. NOW.