WBS: Lafayette Attracts Talk

WBS Dept. In my catchup from being in B.R. series…two more

One of the more interesting (and, ok, personally gratifying) things that have resulted from the fiber fight and the creation of LUS Fiber is that Lafayette has gotten a pretty iconic status in the admittedly small (select?) world of high speed internet mavens. Lafayette is seen as something of a touch-stone…people watch and people compare what they’re getting to Lafayette.

People watching includes Benoit Felten in France who runs a well-respected fiber-oriented blog called Fiberevolution. Benoit’s day job is as an analyst tracking this sort of thing in Europe for the Yankee Group so he’s pretty much up on this stuff. After reading the recent Ind article he says:

When I look at the delays of the French commercial FTTH deployments, what LUS is facing is, at this stage, fairly insignificant and certainly doesn’t seem to compromise the operation (despite what a number of telco/cable lobbyists seem to be implying if I read the comments below the article…)

Those comments are not from lobbyists—they are just lobbyist-inspired…

Lafayette also comes up on dslreports when Cox launches its 50/5 meg package in Arizona. The news is, that for the first time, someone else is getting the 1/3 off deal Cox gave Lafayette when it launched the new tier. From the write-up:

Cox is offering the service in Arizona for $90 for the first year, the same low price they’re offering customers in Lafayette, Loisiana, [sic] where Cox does battle with dirt cheap municipal fiber. Other markets aren’t so lucky, with customers in Northern Virginia paying $140 for the tier, and customers in Rhode Island paying $145. Behold the benefit of actually having competition in your local market.

Qwest, the west’s equivalent of AT&T or Verizon, recently launched a fast new 40/4 mbps tier at a cheap $99.99 and the new service, and lower price are responses to that development. —Cox’s deployment strategy with its new 50/5 meg tier seems to be reactive rather than proactive. It offers the tier where it has competition that is much faster than its regular offerings and only lowers the price where the regional competitor has a much-cheaper-than-US-standard pricing structure.

Catch Up: Lafayette Gets It…in two senses

In my catchup from being in B.R. series …Lafayette Gets It…in two senses

First off, just like those big cites Lafayette now not only has traffic, hey Lafayette has Google traffic tracking! Aren’t we big time. (Well actually, only the Interstates’ traffic get tracked so far as I can tell by tinkering around with it, but still it marks some sort of coming-of-age.) From the map page click tracking and play around with the time-of-day and week projections. [Hat tip to Adam Melancon.]

Lafayette gets it: Tipitina’s music co-op has got to win some sort of prize for being the perfect blend of tech and music for Lafayette. (To bad N.O. came up with the idea first.) The co-op is putting on some free lessons today; it’s making me wish I wasn’t in Baton Rouge.:

Wed, August 26th, TONY DAIGLE teaches BEGINNING PRO TOOLS 5:30-7:00pm then thursday BRAM JOHNSON teaches BEGINNING ILLUSTRATOR 6:00-7:00pm

You CAN get there from here! Or, at least you used to be able to.

The story making the trade papers today is that Level 3 Communications is going to apply for some of the broadband stimulus money. That’s a good thing and could also be a good thing for Louisiana.

Here’s why.

Level 3 owns and operates one of the largest fiber networks in the world. You can download their network map here (PDF).

You’ll note on the map that Level 3 has two routes in south Louisiana. The original route runs along I-10. The second route runs a bit north of there along a natural gas pipeline right of way that connects Houston to Atlanta. Going back to the days when I used to map these networks as they rolled out across Louisiana, arguing to the Mike Foster administration that these were the Rivers of Light (PDF) that could produce corridors of opportunity in this state, that second route was built by the Williams Company of Tulsa, OK, and sold when the telecom branch of the firm went bankrupt around the turn of this century.

So, what does this have to do with broadband in Louisiana?

Let’s let Level 3 explain:

Edward Morche, senior vice president of the Federal Markets Group for Level 3 Communications, said last week that his company would partner with cable companies, LECs, wireless providers or state and local governments in seeking to offer broadband access in unserved and underserved areas, building off its national network.

“When we built our national fiber optic network, we had to put in regeneration nodes, to re-amplify the signal, in tier 2, tier 3and tier 4 markets,” Morche said. “If you look at where we have those regeneration nodes – and there are about 500 of them – we are looking at a couple of dozen that we could use [to apply for stimulus funding] for the first round.”

At the time this and other networks were built, these regeneration stations were needed about every 35 miles along the network. As you drive along I-10 now, there are two fiber regeneration stations not far from Lacassine. One on the north side; the other on the south side. The station north of I-10 is Level 3’s. Each serves a different fiber network but serves the same purpose — generating the light that carries communications signals down the network. Neither Google Maps nor Mapquest provides high enough resolution images to definitively identify those stations through their satellite or aerial formats.

Level 3 has their own regeneration station in Lafayette, located in a LEDA industrial park north of I-10, in a lot adjacent to LUS’s cable head end facility. Ironically, Level 3 provides network backbone nationally to Cox Communications.

Qwest Communications owns a lot of fiber in south Louisiana. It’s original route runs along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. They have a regeneration station in downtown Lafayette that sits across the tracks and towards Johnston from the train station. The next point is about 35 miles down the track.

All of these fiber networks are the same. All of these regeneration stations are the same. Each offers the opportunity to plug into a regional/national/global fiber network.

Had Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Durel administration not agreed to the colossally short-sighted provisions of the Louisiana Municipal Fair Competition Act back in 2004, many other Louisiana communities would now have the opportunity to follow Lafayette into the business of building the networks that for-profit companies do not find profitable enough. How many cities? Back in 2000 I had compiled a list of those Louisiana cities with the access to fiber and other assets that made them prime candidates for such development.

Instead, Lafayette is getting its fiber network. But it erected a high barrier behind it to impede others from taking a similar course.

The price of that short-sightedness is now becoming apparent as Level 3 makes clear that it is willing to open its network at those regeneration points to non-incumbent providers.

WBS: Slick Sam Slade Rides Again…

Governing Magazine has a good story on Lafayette’s fiber network: “Bandwidth on the Bayou.” The heart of the article is to inform its readership about the obstacles they’ll have to overcome if they try and pull down some of the broadband infrastructure stimulus money for their unserved or underserved communities—and Lafayette is their comprehensive example. Apparently we’ve seen it all!

The tale opens with the Now-famous slick Sam Slade “fast-talking his way through a mock TV commercial comparing an exotic sports car to a bicycle.” (The video is embedded in the story or you can travel directly to the YouTube video if you’d like to sample it.) From there you are walked through a very nice history of the fiber network—most of which is the story of incumbent opposition to the community’s plan and how Lafayette overcame the obstacles. It makes for a pretty stirring read (if you think public engagement in policy issues is exciting).