CampFiber: October 4th

So now that you’ve got it, what are you going to do with it?

That mildly threatening challenge pretty much describes the status of Lafayette’s new fiber network: we fought for it, the install trucks are rolling now, and come the new year we’re going to have a shiny new, state of the art, fiber-optic network that will shortly run up to every home and business in the city. It’ll be stunningly fast. It’ll be cheap. And you will own it can have a say in what we do with it. The capacity will be enormous. In comparison to what is available almost anywhere else we’ll have capacities that are pretty literally futuristic—the future is now in Lafayette.

It’s a great start. But we haven’t decided what to do with those capacities.

It’s time (past time) to think about what we can do with our network.

Geoff Daily, Terry Huval, Abigail Ransonet and a few of the usual suspects are cooking up an event that hopes to get the ball rolling. That event is the first “Lafayette CampFiber.” You can get your info on the event straight from the source at the Lafayette CampFiber web page. If you are interested in attending you can sign up at its EventBrite page. Mark your calendar’s for October 4th at the Travis Technology Center.

This first event focuses on two groups of people here in Lafayette: first, the developer community, and, secondarily, it will sponsor a roundtable of community leaders in education and other areas that will put their greatest network needs and hopes before the community and the attending developers. For developers there will presentations on their latest and greatest from folks here in town, a chance to collaborate and a talk with one of Louisiana’s premier venture capitalists—all your resources in one place.

The time for getting creative and supporting our community’s decision is now. So if you can, and especially if you are interested in development or have suggestions for new and innovative uses of our community’s fiber-optic network please plan to participate.

This, friends, is the payoff to the long fight and the long wait. Now we can begin to do great things. —And so this is the mildly threatening challenge: it is up to you.

“Cox donates laptops”

Credit where credit is due: Cox is stepping up to donate 100 laptops to the 100 students who will be entering the freshman class of the new “Early College Academy” according to this morning’s report.

The Early College Academy was recently announced (see two short articles in the Advertiser on 8/7 and 8/8) by the school board in partnership with the South Louisiana Community College. The hope is that students would be able to leave high school with an associate degree or other certification from SLCC. Just what that would entail is unclear but a more intense academic experience is almost required. And for that a computer will certainly be helpful. And, because every student will have a machine teachers will be able to build their curriculum built on that level of access. (It’d be an additional help for Cox to donate the home internet connection to make these uniformly available as assignment and homework machines….)

Kudos to Cox on this one.

KVOL Gets Silly

According to a couple of friends KVOL has been hosting a rerun of the same old FUD attacks on the fiber optic network LUS is currently building. It’s August and, I suppose, they can’t find anything real to cover in these hot, lazy summer days. The latest bit of retread nonsense came yesterday when one of the 3 antifiber guys during the referendum, Neal Breakfield, was on the afternoon drive-time show. (He’s supposed to be on again this afternoon, so if you want to tune in and put up your two cents worth try 1330 AM from 4 to 6…It would be useful to remind him why his argument lost back during the fiber fight.)

The folks at KVOL are trying to make a go of this talk radio thing. (And not too successfully apparently: The last Arbitron rating has the station bringing up the rear with a 24 out of 28 rating in our market based on a .5 market share.) They’ve apparently decided that being anti-everything is the formula for success in talk radio—but it’s not working so far. Maybe only about .5 percent of people of Lafayette are that negative.

Be that as it may, the current jihad they’re apparently carrying on against the LUSFiber build is a nonstarter that is guaranteed to put them on the wrong side of most of the community. The whole issue was thoroughly “talked” out 3 years ago and the fiber advocates won a resounding victory at the polls. KVOL would do better to go after the nearly 2/3s of the population that voted for the idea and leave their .5 percent antis to the pleasant pursuit of complaining about unprofessional dress of the guys that cut grass along the highways and their neighbors’ chickens.

Update 8/15/08: Neal Breakfield has said in the comments that my remarks about KVOL’s Arbitron rates were “baseless.” They are not. Though Todd Elliot called and tried to demand that I take this post down and Stephanie Ware tried to make the same plea the truth is the truth. Arbitron does ranks KVOL at the bottom of the barrel in listenership. Neither Todd nor Stephanie tried to deny that what I said was true—they just didn’t, contrary to their fearless-truthtellers on-air personas, want the public (or their advertisers, I presume) to know this inconvenient truth about their own organization.

KVOL may well be on to something regarding their redflex crusade. I don’t think automated, privatized “policing” is wise public policy either. It might even do something for their ratings. But whatever good they do the community—or themselves—by pointing out real problems they lose when they make the common criticism that they are just “anti-everything” credible. Attacking even the good things this community is doing for itself is a sure-fire way to give ammunition to those who would criticize KVOL as merely anti-everything. Lafayette is pro-fiber. We proved it at the polls 3 years ago. Lafayette went through a huge public battle over fiber, the community was as well-informed as one can be over a complex public infrastructure issue. There were full page ads filled with the names of people and businesses that were willing to publicly support our fiber initiative. And the community decided to do for itself what the incumbents plainly said they would not do for us. The vote was 2 to 1. The people know what they want and they know what they voted for and hearing KVOL attack it only serves to confirm the idea that KVOL is anti-anything. I’m giving good advice here: if you have a good cause stick to it. Don’t muddy the waters.

The reader who wants to confirm KVOL’s rankings for themselves can travel to the Arbitron radio page and in the pull down menu on that page labled “market” select “Lafayette, LA.” There you will find that I was actually as generous as possible in my characterization of KVOL’s ranking in my original post. In the latest rankings, in Spring of ’08, Arbitron ranked KVOL as tied for last place with with KPEL and WYPY among ranked stations with all 3 clocking in at a .5% listenership.

Other corrections: I had mispelled Arbitron in the original post. That is now corrected. I’ve also included the link to the radio page in there.

Comcast Blocking Blocked; Cox Next?

In what is being widely touted as an historic decision the FCC has issued a ruling that that Comcast’s did indeed illegally monitor customer connections and block specific protocols. They’ve been ordered to stop doing so, to submit details of what they have been doing, and to inform customers as to what it will do instead.

The small firestorm of comment on the web is a bit anticlimatic since FCC chair Martin made it clear more than a week prior to the ruling what the outcome would be but the ruling itself is bracing.

The most impressive thing about this event is the way the Commission talks; it says that Comcast was indeed blocking legal content, that the effect was anticompetitive and that Comcast had an economic motive to drive downloaded video off its network since it was in the business of selling video. Talking that way is the regulatory equivalent of dropping the bomb—a finding of motivated anticompetitive behavior triggers the possibility of truly draconian punishments.

Beyond letting Comcast know what it did wrong the Commission also acerbically dismissed Comcast’s ways of justifying its behavior; in ways that are worth qouting at length, even though the original press release is even more dramatic:

The Commission concluded that Comcast’s network management practices discriminate among applications rather than treating all equally and are inconsistent with the concept of an open and accessible Internet…

The Commission also concluded that Comcast’s practices are not minimally intrusive, as the company claims, but rather are invasive and have significant effects…In essence, Comcast opens its customers’ mail because it wants to deliver mail not based on the address on the envelope but on the type of letter contained therein…

The Commission concluded that the end result of Comcast’s conduct was the blocking of Internet traffic, which had the effectof substantially impeding consumers’ ability to access the content and to use the applications of their choice…

The Commission rejected Comcast’s defense that its practice constitutes reasonable
network management. While Comcast claimed that it was motivated by a desire to combat network congestion, the Commission concluded that the company’s practices are ill-tailored to serve that goal for many reasons: they affect customers who are using little bandwidth simply because they are using a disfavored application; they are not employed only during times of the daywhen congestion is prevalent; the company’s equipment does not target only those neighborhoods suffering from congestion; and a customer may use an extraordinary amount of bandwidth during periods of network congestion and will be totally unaffected so long as he does not utilize an application disfavored by Comcast.

The Commission’s determination that Comcast was not engaging in reasonable network management is supported bythe overwhelming weight of expert testimony in the record…The Commission also concluded that the anticompetitive harms caused by Comcast’s conduct have been compounded by the company’s unacceptable failure to disclose its practices to consumers. Because Comcast did not provide its customers with notice of the fact that it interfered with customers’ use of peer-to-peer applications, customers had no way of knowing when Comcast was interfering with their connections. As a result, the Commission found that
many consumers experiencing difficulty using onlycertain applications would not place blame on Comcast, where it belonged, but rather on the applications themselves, thus further disadvantaging those applications in the competitive marketplace.

Bear in mind that this is the FCC saying this sort of stuff. The only place I’ve seen even similarly blunt langauge has been on the blogs of open network advocates who have bitterly complained of the mainstream media’s “fair and balanced” reporting which lent credeence to Comcast’s nonsensical claims that it wasn’t “blocking” traffic and that it was only “managing” its network for the good of the little guy. Those same news outlets religously avoided noticing that the P2P protocols that Comcast blocked were almost always used to download video that competed with Comcast’s cable and Pay Per View products. I hope that having the FCC, a body well know for sympathizing with the corporations it is supposed to regulate whenever possible, lash Comcast on all these points will result in better reporting—but I doubt it since the reporting on this ruling even now avoids repeating the most damning findings. It is really outrageous that the first most folks will hear this analysis is if they track it down themselves. Only the credulous report both sides of a story without noticing when one side is plainly flat-out lying. The FCC has reacted appropriately. Would that our media had half the common sense.

Here in Lafayette the question is whether Cox will take the hint and avoid the sort of public rebuke that Comcast has just experienced. As long-time readers will recall Lafayette Pro Fiber has long followed this story and noted that Comcast’s silent partner has been, since the first days of the story, Cox Communications. Cox has been engaging in exactly the same sort of blocking for which Comcast has been censured. —In fact a large-scale German study revealed that only three companies in the world were engaging in this behavior: Comcast, Starhub in Singapore, and Cox. Comcast had the bad fortune to get caught a few weeks before Cox and the bad judgment to engage in a historonic and clearly deceptive defense of its practices while Cox mummered confusing, uninteresting remarks that nobody found qoutable. If they are as smart as that reaction indicates they’ll wait a few weeks and issue a quiet press release saying that they don’t admit anything but are interested in finding some (confusing) new techniques to manage their service. And then cc the FCC.