It’s the Same All Over: Chatanooga

Some news isn’t so much new as is a reaffirmation. To wit: “Murder on 33rd St.” “Administration refuses to release records” That not new…but it is newsworthy to occasionally reaffirm that the problem hasn’t gone away.

“Incumbents sue to scare community and lenders.” That’s not new either.

It is the same all over.

Tennessee cable is trying their best to prevent Chatanooga’s power utility from providing its citizens with a cheaper, better, fiber-optic alternative to the cable company. The tools:

  1. An incumbent-favoring law which gives the local monopoly cable providers a tool to challenge the financing of the community’s network
  2. A lawsuit taking advantage of their law; probably baseless but ceratinly something that muddies the water.
  3. Bluster and bombast by the incumbent providers aimed not stopping any illegal activity but at driving up the financing cost to the community to offer an alternative.

We saw exactly this same pattern in Lafayette.

The delicious irony: the subprime mortgage crisis is in the process of driving down the interest rate. Monney is cheap and this makes the incumbents crazy since it makes it much easier for a competitor to succeed. So they try to scare them off. But Chatanooga, if they’re smart, won’t allow that to happen. The delay will cause them to sell their bonds in a moment when money is as cheap as it has been in a long time. The cable companies are about to hand the people of Chatanooga the best present they could ever get: cheap money. And all because they’re so intent on raising the cost.

Poetic justice.

Good for the Goose…Cox Sued

Recalling the old proverb, “What’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander:”

In a development that is sure to bring a wry smile to those of us who witnessed the legal tactics used to delay the start of Lafayette’s fiber to the home project, Cable Digital News notes that Cox has now been sued over a service it wants to offer.

The gist is that Verizon is claiming that Cox’s VOIP phone network infringes on its patents. Verizon has already won a high-profile case against net independent phone provider Vonage over its use of the same patent-protected technology.

Another proverb: “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

Construction Begins….

Men in the field, boots on the ground:

The first installation crews are out in Lafayette neighborhoods today. The neighborhood southeast of Acadiana Mall off Robley drive is decorated with the color coded paint lines and little flags that mark the location of underground utilities. On Remington Drive, toward the back of that neighborhood, you’ll find the contractors’ trucks and the initial holes in the ground that positively locate the current utilities and will serve as install points for the fiber and supporting electronics.

Soon, folks, soon…

Click for a larger view of the pics… (And thanks to the anonymous commenter for the tip…anyone spotted more locations? I’d love to see some fiber strung from poles too,)

Advertiser Editorial Heralds Fiber

This mornings’ Advertiser heralds the imminent startup of Lafayette’s fiber-optic network with an editorial that promotes the economic benefits of technological leadership:

We believe LUS Fiber will mean more good-paying jobs and a better quality of life for the people of Lafayette. The availability of advanced, affordable telecommunications services to assure the ultimate efficiency in the transfer of information will be a priority of businesses looking for places to locate or expand operations.

…We have no doubt that LUS can stay abreast of technology. Lafayette has experts in all phases of telecommunications technology. There is a rich field from which to draw.

The plan is seen by national publications such as USA Today as a visionary, pioneering step toward a place of leadership in the global economy.

While generating revenue is essential to paying off the bonds and keeping up with constantly changing technology, revenue is not the basic goal. Competition will result in better rates, but as desirable as that is, it is still not the focal point of the Durel administration’s vision. The vision is one of technological leadership that will result in powerful economic growth.

That’s what the Durel administration and, by implication, the Advertiser find most valuable about the project. And there is no doubt that the promise of clean, high-tech growth responds to realistic anxieties coming from the great oil bust of the ’80s that seriously undermined the city’s natural sunny confidence.

But to my mind the real benefit is more basic and has even broader consequences: Lafayette can now control its own future in one additional and increasingly important area: Communications. This generation of citizens has made the gift of an extra few degrees of freedom and responsibility to the future. It is what we do with that Freedom and Responsibility that should now occupy us.

Weeklies Cover LUS Groundbreaking

The Times of Acadiana covered the recent groundbreaking in its “The Buzz” section and the Independent lent the project some virtual ink in their blog.

The Times has a useful description of the the way the video portion of the service will work:

The headend building is the origination point for all the video programming and will also house the telephone and Internet equipment. A satellite dish farm and tower-mounted antenna array will gather the video signals. All three services — TV, telephone, Internet — will be converted to light and distributed to customers across approximately 877 miles of fiber optic cable.

The Ind’s take is encapsulated in the post’s title:LUS fiber project starts next week.”

Anybody see trucks rolling? Or some of those doorhangers? Inquiring minds want to know.

WBS: “Milestone Reached in Lafayette Fiber Deployment – LUS FTTH is on track”

Whats Being Said Department

Broadband Reports, which has followed the fiber battle in Lafayette exetensively, continues to track the story. It now covers the announcement of the groundbreaking last Thursday. The site is probably the largest discussion forum devoted to broadband issues in the nation and its always interesting to see what folks have to say in the comments. In this one we are treated to a repise of the debate as to whether or not Lafayette is “in the woods.” Oh well; it’s fun to read anyway. One guy does seem to have a handle on how arduous the planning for a fiber network has to be.

Fiber Worth Moving For?

FiOS, Verizon’s fiber to the home project, is so good that people are willing to move to get it. At least that is what some geeks that Ars Technica talked to think.

In this month’s issue of Consumer Reports, the magazine took a look at ISPs and declared Verizon’s fiber optic FiOS service to be best of breed. Not only that, but the FiOS television service trumped all comers, including DirecTV, AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner. Top honors also went to FiOS phone service, which beat every other telco and cable company for reader satisfaction. The fact that FiOS gets such high marks may be the reason that some people have even moved to get it.

Andru Edwards of Gear Live tells Ars that he’s one of those willing to relocate for the promise of fiber optic goodness. “I moved 10 minutes north of Seattle specifically for FiOS service…”

That’s top in reader satisfaction in three separate categories: Video, Phone, and Internet services…That’s pretty amazing. Now that’s NOT for Verizon’s regular service, please note. That’s for the FiOS (Fiber-Optic Service) that Verizon offers in a various places across the country.

Surely Verizon, with a big investment in expensive infrastructure, is going to try and put their best foot forward. But to impress users as the best you have to actually have to have an outstanding product to sell them.

Apparently fiber to the home has let Verizon offer an outstanding product. And I am completely confident that LUS will offer an even better version.

So, will people move to Lafayette to get an even better version of fiber?

There has been speculation that individuals might move to Lafayette to get our product. I admit that I’ve thought that a bit unlikely even though Durel has said he’s heard of people coming home because of it. But then on top of the interesting story cited above I saw this bit tagged on to the recent LUS groundbreaking story in the Advertiser’s online forum from a reader who lists his or her location as “Las Vegas, NV (migrating to Lafayette in ’08)”:

May be the best thing ever to happen to Lafayette. We were scouting future possible locations in Louisiana for a move from Las Vegas. As soon as we saw the FTTH initiative announced, we knew that Lafayette would be our destination.

Congratulations to Lafayette specifically and I’m sure that Louisiana will benefit too.

And former Councilman Menard might not have said he plans to move…but he has said he’d like to be annexed.

Hmmn. Maybe there’s something to all those rumors. That’s one way to keep the housing market healthy.

LUS Groundbreaking in the Media

The media covered yesterday’s groundbreaking in force. The Advocate, the Advertiser, and KLFY all have online stories you can check into.

The Advocate’s story is the most extensive. In addition to covering the statements by public officials it also explored recently let contracts:

Chain Electric out of Hattiesburg, Miss., has been awarded the approximate $11 million contract to install underground lines — in areas where utility lines are already buried.

Where utility lines are already on poles, the lines will be run by an Indiana company, ElectriCom Inc., as part of a $4 million contract.

But the reporter tripped up a bit when trying to summarize the recent contracts as Blanchard acknowledged when I dropped him a quick question. But the Advocate quickly corrected it online. I’ve edited this post to account for that, striking the parts that no longer apply. The following bit that appeared in printed edition isn’t correct:

LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in under budget. The same goes for the head-end building construction, as well as the large contract with Alcatel-Lucent, which is providing all the large electronics including the boxes that will be at customers’ homes and businesses.

In fact, you need to invert that meaning: only the underground line contract came in over budget.

The story has been corrected online–the portion struck above portion now reads:

LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in over budget.

That’s not entirely surprising since digging up yards carries a lot of unknown risks–nobody can “look” at the job and see what it really entails. I’d bid high on any job of which I wasn’t confident.

If you’re curious as to how LUS will pick the first area to be served (and who isn’t?) you should check out the story:

LUS is picking the initial areas on using three sets of criteria, Huval said.

The first is which areas could provide the most potential customers at the lowest cost.

The second is which areas have a good mixture of residential and commercial — though with an emphasis on residential, as those customers are more likely to sign up in larger numbers.

The third is an area with a mixture of overhead and underground utility lines — again, with an emphasis on overhead lines because running fiber on poles is faster than having to bury them.

The idea of picking a diverse area is to get early experience and feedback in all aspects of the roll-out, Huval said.

That would describe almost any area of the city….though I’m personally hoping that it best describes the residential areas right around downtown. 😉

The Advertiser’s story is much briefer and focused more exclusively on the event and quotable quotes from the participants.

Huval said the service will have a long-lasting impact for residents and businesses.

“The real purpose is to provide a super broadband highway,” Huval said. “We’re going to be primed for new technology.”

City-Parish President Joey Durel said the service is going to “be something much greater than we ever dreamed.”

“We have underpromised, and we’re going to overdeliver,” Durel said. “A lot of things had to come together, but it’s here and it’s going to happen and we’re going to knock your socks off.”

There’s a picture of of Huval with Mike Stagg, Keith Thibodeaux, John St. Julien, and Gobb Williams in the background. (I’m still looking for that pic with with Gobb Williams and Durel both holding golden shovels, digging them into the council carpet, and grinning like mad.)

KLFY has only the briefest of stories, but if you own a windows machine you can probably view the video. (I’m weary of complaining…but will note that the mac market share has hit 8%, and the percentage of internet users on that platform is higher yet… Maybe the Advertiser will publish one of its nifty multimedia stories that are easily the best edited, and most accessible, net video in Lafayette.)

LUS Fiber; Some History

At this morning’s “groundbreaking” ceremony the initial moments were occupied with the obligatory remarks and reminiscences by officials and influentials. Much of the remarks were actually interesting—Durel again reiterated his promise that the Fiber project “over-deliver” and struggled to voice his enthusiasm by saying “We are gonna knock your socks off.” Purvis Morrison, representing the council as vice-chair read a short bit by new council chair Don Bertrand who played a large leadership as a private citizen during the fiber fight. Those remarks focused on the hope that the community’s goal of becoming “most connected city and parish in the country has taken a huge step forward.” Morrison, who represents a rural part of the parish that isn’t currently slated for service, made it clear that it was his hope that Bertrand wasn’t just being politic when he referred to the parish. He wanted fiber brought to his rural part of the parish.

But it was the reminiscences that intrigued the historian in me. Especially interesting was Randy Menard’s story. Menard was a member of the outgoing council that backed LUS fiber before that was an easy thing to do and which soldiered through the worst of the battle to secure it. His recounting pushed the story back more years than any tale I had heard before. Apparently Terry Huval recommended that council members attend an American Public Power Association conference in Toronto that planted the idea of a community communications network—12 years ago. On Menard’s retelling he went and came back an advocate. A fiber ring for city use came up later and was eventually built. When a discussion about trying to get other people to build a fiber network in the city came up Menard says he asked Huval “Why aren’t we doing that ourselves?” Huval’s careful answer was that some people up the line weren’t in favor. Translated: the then-current administration had put the kabosh on it. Menard and Ardoin, a former councilman, worked around that opposition. Menard, who does not live in the city proper, jokingly expressed a desire to be annexed. (I won’t be surprised if that desire becomes more widespread.) Apparently there was a time when Huval was not the most enthusiastic proponent of further extending fiber…but that changed. On Mayor Durel’s recounting Huval set him down even before his inarguration and laid out a plan to offer fiber to the home. When Durel committed to its support the course was fixed.

The rest, as is said, is history.

Correction: In the original version of this post I wrote Menard when I should have written Mouton …Mustaches, “M” names, recent retirement, and a southern parish district…Mea Culpa.—A hearty thanks to the reader who pointed out my error.

Correction to the Correction: Ok, I was wrong about being wrong. It was Randy Menard and after talking to others who were there I am now confident about that. I still need to absolutely confirm that Menard lives outside the city—that’s what my evidence shows, but… Anyway, a hearty thanks to the anonymous reader who encouraged me to think I might not be in error. 🙂

“LUS Fiber” Launched

LUS launched its brand and a new informational website this morning. Not at the site of the new headend building, as had been planned, but at city hall. A storm rolling the through Acadiana led to the last minute change of venue.

We did get a groundbreaking ceremony of sorts. A group of advocates from the administration and the public lined up in the front of the council meeting room and posed for a series of photos with golden shovels. As symbolism it was effective: we saw folks from the administration who’d been instrumental in the plan coming together standing shoulder to shoulder again with community activists and supporters. All lined up proudly in front of the room grinning to beat the band. There were two golden shovels and in a nice bit of symbolism Mayor Joey Durel handled one while community leader Gobb Williams posed with the other. I’ve gotta get a picture of that.

For those of us involved in the fiber fight as members of Lafayette Coming Together it was a special point of pride to see some of the key members of the activist organization that drove the referendum forward honored: Andre Comeaux, Kevin Domingue, Max Hoyt, Mike Stagg, John St. Julien, and Gobb Williams.

Less symbolically and more substantially we got our first glimpse of the new branding devices. What’s the service to be called? “LSUFiber.” That’s what you were already calling it? That, I think, is the point: without any other name by which to tag it we all got in the habit during the long fiber fight of calling what we were fighting for “LUS fiber” –everyone already knows what the term refers to; the identity is already well-established in the community. Why spend a lot of money trying to get some new term accepted? The new logotype that is pictured above was also on display. Expect to see it on a new fleet of trucks and service vehicles in your neighborhood. They’ll carry the slogan: “Building a Fiber-Fast Community.”

Citizens should start looking for door hangers announcing the upcoming service–that door hanger will carry a return card that will allow people to express interest and get in line for first crack at serrvice when it is finally offered in their region.

We also got access to the new informational website. It’s a flash-dependent site you can find at There you’ll find an initial FAQ and, tantilizingly, a chance to sign up for news updates. As the rollout gets underway the site will include updates on the construction and new services—both of which announcements are eagerly awaited.

What didn’t we get? Any announcement of just where the build will begin and who will get first crack at our new service. I’d hoped we get that today since I’ve had hints that a large percentage of Lafayette, including my neighborhood would be in the first section. But we’re to be kept wondering a bit longer though Terry Huval promised that it’d be revealed soon…and that eager citizens would be given a chance to express their interest and get in line early as the day of deliverance came near. (Ok, no he didn’t phrase it quite like that. 🙂 )

One more milestone laid down….