Refer a Friend: LUS begins Social Marketing Push

Ok, now that’s what I’ve been wanting to see! LUS has begun a real marketing push that leverages its home town advantage.

The “Refer a Friend” program recently launched by email announcements to current subscribers and promoted on the web offers both current subscribers and their new subscriber friends 50 dollars each time a friend joins up…

It’s brilliant. Folks who’ve got the service are always the best advertising…and are already doing most of the marketing that’s getting done. (Notice the distinct lack of LUS media marketing to date? I have. Where are they getting their good numbers? From the word of mouth of friends and neighbors…) This puts a little juice into the deal and rewards those who are advocates of the local service.

If I were LUS I’d do two things: 1) blast this from billboards and 2) emphasize the local angle even more. It’s our network. Everyone who comes on is one more person who’s making our network a success…as more and more of the community comes aboard the cost per each user drops, we pay back the bond holders quicker and LUS can lower our prices yet more. It’s a good deal all around. And the 50 bucks deal is just a good example of the larger process: we all save when our friends and neighbors join up and support the community resource.

P.S.: Anyone need a friend? 😉

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CenturyTel to Buy Qwest in $10.6B Stock Swap –

The third largest telephone company in the United States will be located in Monroe, La…Bastrop really.

Really. Honestly. No kidding…

The New York Times reports that CenturyTel will buy Qwest, the western Bell company for 10.6 in a stock swap deal announced today.


The combination would have about 18 million phone lines serving customers in 37 states, but would still be dwarfed by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. It would be based at CenturyTel’s headquarters in Monroe, La., rather than in Denver, where Qwest is based.

The number of landlines in the U.S. shrinks by about 10 percent per year as consumers chose to rely on their wireless phones or service from cable companies. The fourth-largest provider of landline phone service in the country, by number of subscribers, is now cable company Comcast Corp.

Official LPF reaction: Wowser. This new company will create a national rural wireline carrier. It may well have the largest footprint in terms of square miles in the country.

Portland’s Gigabit Beer Coming to Lafayette…

From the Mayor’s staff blog in Portland Oregon:

Saturday, Mayor Sam Adams, Hopworks Brew Master Christian Ettinger, city staff and local Google fiber initiative supporters were present to send the gift of five kegs of special organic Portland Gigabit IPA to Parish President Joey Durel of Lafayette, Louisiana — the first American city to establish a fiber-to-home infrastructure. Layfayette has proven how useful and efficient the ultra fast network technology can be and Portland is working toward doing the same.

The Gigabit send-off ceremony at PDX was a thank you to Lafayette for leading the way in fiber development and will be enjoyed during their Fiber Fete, an international summit of fiber-to-home, ‘celebrating our future connections,’ Tuesday through Thursday, April 20 – 22.

Now what can you say to that? Besides “Thank You.”

Scuttlebutt has it that Mary Beth Henry, of Portland and NATOA, will be the bearer of the good tidings. Looking forward to it! All five kegs…

“FiberFete Celebrates City’s Fight To Build Its Own Information-Age Utility”

WBS dept.

Broadband Breakfast has a short story up lauding today’s launch of Fiber FĂȘte.

Lafayette gets good press:

The city floated $110 million in municipal bonds in 2005, fought telecommunications companies that cried foul over the move, and proceeded to build the network in addition to a sophisticated 3D imaging center used by Hollywood movie companies to render their animated films into 3D images.

“We had a unique opportunity because we have our own utility company that already had a fiber optic loop that was already in the wholesale end of this business,” says Durel. “This project was about doing something great and raising the bar.”

There are interesting blips about the purpose of the event:

“What Lafayette can show to the world is how to create a network that’s just about state of the art, and that the whole community supports,” explains David Isenberg, FiberFĂȘte’s co-organizer along with journalist Geoff Daily. Isenberg is a long-time advocate of such community-driven telecommunications networks. “Lafayette’s leadership also realizes that they need help, that you can’t just hang the fiber on the poles and miracles will happen – they know there’s a lot of expertise out there, and they’re hoping to bring people with a clue into town.”

….The conference is a timely one since the Obama Administration has just released its National Broadband Plan, a national blueprint for how America can stay competitive in the global race to get connected to anyone else in the world through high-speed internet networks. Durel hopes that the city can serve as a model for other cities around the nation.

There’s a lot to learn. It’s an interesting world….

Fiber FĂȘte Press Release

Fiber Fete issued a press release this morning and posted it to their website…exciting stuff!

I am jazzed about this event. If you go browse through the agenda you’ll see some of the of the most exciting names in their fields nationally and internationally. To name off a few: Jim Baller (US), Benoit Felten (France), Joaquin Alvarado (US), Herman Wagter (Netherlands), Minnie Ingersoll (US), Bas Boorsma (Netherlands), Lev Gonick (US), Dirk van der Woude (Netherlands), David Weinberger (US). Googling any of these names will impress you….I am extremely eager to hear, for instance, what Weinberger has to say about the effects of ubiquitously available fiber. Minnie Ingersoll is a Product Manager for the Google Gigabit Project.

How much the ash cloud hanging over Europe will effect some people’s ability to attend remains an open question, as is the possibility of bringing them in via streaming video. But in any event the quality of the national and international speaker list is truly amazing. And it is doubly exciting that they are convening in Lafayette.

The release:

FiberFĂȘte Conference Launches Tuesday
Technology and Community Leaders to Dream up Possibilities for Our Most Wired Cities

LAFAYETTE, La. (Apr. 19) – FiberFĂȘte, a conference featuring Internet innovators from around the world, will be held April 20-22 at Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) in Lafayette. FiberFĂȘte celebrates Lafayette’s deployment of a community-owned fiber network and explores the potential of fiber-powered communities.

FiberFĂȘte brings global technology entrepreneurs and activists together with local community leaders to explore how fiber networks can help other cities like Lafayette enhance economic development, community participation and quality of life.

“The people of Lafayette have led the country in equipping their community with fiber,” says FiberFĂȘte co-producer Geoff Daily. “Now they’re committed to driving the conversation around what innovative things fiber can enable them to do.”

Welcoming FiberFĂȘte guests Tuesday will be Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret and Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel. “We have a story to tell, to share with America and the world,” says Durel. “The future of fiber optic networking isn’t a dream. For us, it’s a reality, it’s here, it’s working, and it’s an example of what is not only possible, but of what will be the future in America.”

FiberFĂȘte speakers include representatives from Google, Cisco, Harvard University and Case Western Reserve University, as well as municipal officials from Seattle and San Francisco. A full agenda is available online at

While an invitation-only event, FiberFĂȘte is also open to the world live via the Internet. Viewers may access the webcast online at Coverage will run from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. CST Tuesday, April 20 and from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 21.

FiberFĂȘte is distinct from other international broadband conferences in that it is sponsored by the community in support of its own network infrastructure. FiberFĂȘte is funded wholly by a diverse coalition of local public and private partners.

Fiber FĂȘte – live streaming video!

Fiber FĂȘte is going to be streamed live. So if you can’t attend in person hie yourself to the nearest computer screen in your favorite screening venue. If you’ve got a special interest on the agenda it’d be worthwhile to pull together some of your friends with a similar fixation and view it together. Happily, you can even set up a late-night viewing. By the miracle of time-shifting Livestream allows you to catch up by visiting the site at a later date and viewing the events at your leisure.

Fiber FĂȘte, bandwidth touted

Fiber network looks to bolster local economy” appears on the front page of this morning’s Advertiser and focuses on the value of big bandwidth and Lafayette’s upcoming fiber fĂȘte conference. Tom Cox and are featured as a business which is already using LUS fiber to real advantage and that plans to use the speed even more in the future. Cox, not surprisingly, will be on Thursday morning’s panel “Driving Lafayette’s Digital Economy.”

Lafayette, Google and 1 Gig Fiber

LPF noted LUS’ application to the “Google Fiber for Communities” project several weeks ago as a bit of lagniappe to an article about the city’s tech efforts more generally. Both the Independent and the Advocate caught the story late this week, in advance of Fiber FĂȘte. Google’s Minnie Ingersoll, a product manager for alternative access and one of the people shepherding the project will be a speaker at Fiber FĂȘte on Tuesday of next week and that connection is noted by the Independent.

[For those of you who were on a different planet for the last two months—or just from a place which already has its fiber—and missed the fevered internet excitement, here’s the short version: Immediately prior to the unveiling of a National Broadband Plan that pushed an anemic goal of 100 megs in 10 years Google announced that it would fund a testbed project that would offer communities a gig FTTH network. Conditions to apply were minimal: not more than 500,000 people, and a demonstrated eagerness to “accept” a 1 Gig, open network. More than 600 communities officially applied and another 190,000 individuals applied on behalf of their communities.]

Both stories reported that LUS based their appeal on Lafayette’s vision, willingness to battle to build its own network, and on how cheap it would be to up grade LUS current system to the 1 gig standard. As the Independent wrote:

“We already have a system in place and that’s what we were trying to sell to them,” Huval says. He notes that LUS’ fiber network, which reaches internal speeds up to 100 megabits per second, could be upgraded to 1 Gig per second speed relatively easily. “We looked at what kind of things do we bring to the table that might be unique,” Huval adds, “and yet still substantive enough to attract Google’s attention and we felt that the fact that we already have a fiber to the home infrastructure almost completely in place that we have clear unambiguous community support because we had a vote of the people [on fiber] with strong support. We also talked about the strength of the utility system and we talked about our visions for the future, that we didn’t build this system only to have competitively priced cable TV, telephone and Internet, we were looking at building an infrastructure for the future.”

The Advocate’s coverage made it plain that LUS was intent on moving to a 1 gig to the home network even without Google’s help, even but that it would take till the next scheduled round of network upgrades to get there:

The city’s LUS Fiber system already offers top-tier Internet speeds and has the capacity to eventually offer 1 Gbps service, but Huval said Google’s project could speed the pace of development.

He said the advantage that Lafayette offers for Google is that the 1 Gbps speed would be easier to achieve here because the city has already installed fiber lines in most areas.

LUS application chose to present what some might say were Lafayette’s weaknesses in such a competition into strengths—to turn the fact that we already have fiber and some of the fastest, cheapest speeds in the nation into a testament to the community’s dedication to the vision of a faster, cheaper, community-controlled network.

But another part of the difficulty in applying for Google’s support is that the LUS network is not an open network in the sense that Google set down as a condition for gaining its support. Google’s version of network openness is that of “open access” which means that any service provider could provide services in competition with LUS. LUS almost certainly can’t afford to travel that path. It can’t afford to take the risk that the much maligned (un)Fair Competition Act would be used to force it into a premature forced sale if it ran for even a short time a loss—particularly as the law’s chief consumer effect is to put a limit on how low the local utility can drop prices in response to price competition. (The enormity of that unfairness is whole ‘nother post. Or two.) The most immediately obvious problem is that opening the network to Cox invites the cable operator execute a double edged strategy that would use Lafayette’s superior network to undercut LUS’ network offerings on, say the high end, where its own network is bandwidth-constrained, while lowering its price for its low-end offerings to levels LUS would not be able or even allowed to follow. Cox would not, of course, be under any obligation to offer its low-end network to LUS at prices that would allow it to compete fairly over the cheaper, slower network. The slightest misstep in such an open access scenario would put our community’s hard-fought and very expensive network on the block for fire-sale prices. As much as it pains me to say it, unless circumstances change it simply would be irresponsible to open Lafayette’s network.

Of course, circumstances can change. LUS could conceivably reach a tĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte with Google by promising to open their network to any provider that does not own a competing network in Lafayette….there might be something to talk about. Or Google could simply agree to shoulder Lafayette’s risk. It’d still be a cheaper way to build a network as all Google would have to do is promise to get the city out of any hole the new policies put it in. I doubt that LUS suggested any such thing (but would be pleased to stand corrected). Much more likely is that they put their best foot forward where they had a good argument and intended to deal with the hard parts when, and if, Google decided on further talks.

There is, however, another way to try and dodge the bullet of Google’s desire to experiment with an open network; one that I suggested. Eventually I went ahead and made citizens application on behalf of Lafayette that tried to make lemonade not only out of the lemon of already having a network (using the same approach as LUS) but also leaned on the fact that Google went to great lengths to insist that their experiment, well, was an experiment. As far as I can tell most analysts cynically assumed that all that “science” talk was feel-good misdirection meant to underline the fact that Google wasn’t trying to establish a toehold in the business of building a national network. It’s more likely that Google is being perfectly honest. Anyone who has thought much about the roots of their search engine and then watched them build services like Google Apps has to believe that experimentation is is the company’s genes. Google looks like a company that actually took the “knowledge-based” economy seriously. The bit about being the most profitable business in the world is a by-product of successfully making that commitment; not the goal.

What Lafayette could do is offer to make Google’s experiment a LOT better. To improve their knowledge.

Science wienies will tell you that a good experiment controls independent variables…and to make even a stab at that you have to have multiple conditions. Helping Lafayette reach a gig and installing the same experimental apps and resources it does in other “Google gig communities” would give the overall experiment a lot needed validity; it would let you, for instance, decide whether open networks OR local ownership or experimental apps were more important factors in rates adoption and levels of innovative use…or at least it would allow a researcher to think about it with at least some contrasting data. (To prove that Lafayette also cares about research itself I’d point you to the fact Lafayette did its own full-throated “pretest” evaluation of internet attitudes and usage—on its own dime. The DIY attitude extends beyond simply building our own network.)

Sooo…if you want a look at the ridiculously dense, full-throated, Lafayette fan-boi version of the idea that I submitted to Google you can have a gander for yourself: Google Lafayette, La Proposal