Clarksville Servers First FTTH Customer

The Clarksville FTTH project is serving its first customers! Congratulations to the good folks in Tennessee.

We’ve been following Clarksville here at LPF (coverage) because the Clarksville project is very similar to our own but is somewhat ahead of our schedule. The stories about Clarksville are like a little peek into our own future.

It will be awhile before Lafayette gets our version of the feel-good story about the first fiber customer that citizens in Clarksville recently found in their Gannett newspaper, the Leaf:

This week the new network went live, as the first public residential customer was connected and immediately able to utilize the utility’s cable television and Internet offerings…

“You can’t understand the concept of what this means to my son,” Berardo said. “He is so advanced beyond my time.”

Berardo signed her 15-year-old son Zachary out of school early Wednesday so he could be around while their home became firmly wired into the 21st century.

“He wanted to be in the whole thick of things,” Berardo said.

Zachary does not claim to be an avid video gamer, but was nonetheless wide eyed talking about the prospects of a new Internet connection of 10 megabits per second.

“That’s fast,” Zachary said, with a grin that bordered on mischievous

Indeed, that is fast—and that is the lowest, indeed, the only, speed that CDE offers. Zachary will be getting a symmetrical 10 megs. That level of service costs only $34.95. Ahwoogah! Actually Zachary’s mother is shelling out no more than $30 dollars extra for her son’s 10 megs since she’s also buying cable. If she’s getting phone service as well (and why not?) only $20 dollars on top of the first two services buys her son some of the fastest symmetrical bandwidth available in this country. —And you’d never heard of Clarksville, had you?

In comparison: 7 megs from Cox is $41.95 in Lafayette so Zach is getting 10 megs for about 20% less than I get 7. (Is that %20 a familiar number?) 20% less cost for 30% more service? That sounds pretty good all by itself. BUT: the upload speed in Lafayette is only 512 k— only 5% of the speed young Zachary is getting!

When LUS launches here I expect a 10 mbps symmetrical tier to be their lowest offering. It’s gonna be fun.

Clarksville Chronicles: 3 Points

I’m following the news on Clarksville (the Tennessee city whose fiber deployment rivals Lafayette’s in size) since they’re a bit ahead of us on their deployment schedule and their experience should help us anticipate our own. (LPF coverage) Today’s chronicle of their progress includes the selection of their marketing director, a map of their progress, and a few thoughts about their newspaper—and ours.

A Marketing Director
Clarksville, according the The Leaf, has chosen a Marketing Director with an interesting history in the cable business and, most recently, as executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce. She talks about her new job:

As the telecommunications marketing manager, I will be responsible for providing the management, direction and planning of the marketing and promotion of CDE’s services offered through the fiber to the home project.

This will include developing product strategy, product pricing, packaging, research and training of the products.

The biggest benefit for the consumer here is choice. CDE’s new fiber-to-the-home technology will allow them to offer services such as video, Internet and telephone. CDE has invested in the most up-to-date technology for the delivery of these new services.

With her history, she’ll likely also be the public face of the project. Given Huval’s high profile that part of the job description may not apply here. But we should look forward to the appointment of a person to manage the marketing of Lafayette’s system. The Lafayette system will have to be sold; this is a spot where LUS will be learning new skills. We may be thrilled to have a telecom company with the sensibility of a public utility (I’m looking forward to it!) but it will have to be sold vigorously and smartly—a skill that the wasn’t necessary for the old municipal utilities. The selection of someone to fill the marketing director’s job will be crucial.

A Contruction Map
They’re already building and have a nifty-keano map of the current build. I’m looking forward to a similar one here in Lafayette and to seeing my area of town turn green.

Gannett Newspapers
The Leaf-Chronicle, like The Daily Advertiser, is a Gannett newspaper. That means that the two largest cities in the country with municipal FTTH builds are both “Gannett Towns.” That opens up a pretty large opportunity for the media chain. The corporation is in a position to do itself a favor and come off like local heroes.

Its presence in these cities gives it a window onto a digital world that won’t exist in most places in this country for 20 years. If Gannett were to put some real resources into developing not just a state-of-the-art web presence but a cutting edge, research-driven project in the two cities it could learn something about how to survive in the emerging new network-dominated news environment. And it could do it in a way that teams with the local community; helping with the research, sharing data, and building applications that drive usage and celebrate the new ultra high-speed intranet connections of the Lafayette network. Thats the sort of thing that is really “local.”

Anyone who follows modern media at all knows that newspapers are seeing very troubled waters ahead and are floundering about how to survive, much less thrive in an environment where the news (and hence advertising dollars) flows outside their pages. No chain will ever get a better chance to learn in a relatively safe environment than Gannett.

In Lafayette and Clarksville Going Local means going high-tech on the local network…or going under.

Clarksville is Building its Fiber

Via the good offices of Hank Ballew at I discovered that Clarksville, TN has begun its fiber-optic build. The trucks started rolling on June 13th.


Clarksville is interesting to Lafayette citizens because its situation is remarkably similar to our own. Most noticeably Clarksville and Lafayette are aproximately the same size with Lafayette showing 7,000 more people during the 2000 census but Clarksville boasting a few hundred more in the 2005 estimate. Similarly Clarksville serves 54,000 customers while LUS sells electricity to 58,000. The two cities construction schedules will substantially overlap with, it seems, Lafayette running about 6 months behind Clarksville at the beginning but finishing at about the same time. Atlantic Engineering is Lafayette’s network’s designer and will oversee the build while it is both designing and constructing Clarksville’s. So watching should be a little like looking into a mirror—the similarities and differences that emerge ought to be interesting.

One of the differences, as I’ve noted previously, is that Clarksville did not have to fight for its network in the same way that Lafayette did. It’ll be interesting to see if that makes any difference in the way citizens regard the service and therefore in the utility’s subscription rates.

Clarksville, TN votes in Fiber; 72% vote Yes!

The Leaf Chronicle of Clarksville, Tennessee reports that the voters there voted in fiber by a 72 to 28 percent margin.

Clarksville voters overwhelmingly approved Clarksville Department of Electricity’s bid to provide telecommunication services over a new fiber-optic network.

With the blessing of almost three-quarters of city voters, CDE in about six months will begin offering cable television and broadband Internet access over more than 700 miles of fiber-optic cable.

Interestingly apparently the city-owned electrical utility there, CDE, heavily emphasized the benefits to electricity customers of having a grid monitored by fiber. Those benefits were barely mentioned during the Lafayette fiber fight and certainly played no role in the eventual vote.

Clarksville’s cable incumbent Charter and phone incumbent BellSouth did not impose an extensive battle on the community in the way they did in Lafayette. Charter is in real financial difficulties and BellSouth had its merger with AT&T on the table as this proposal spun up. That might have something to do with the relative lack of opposition. It might also be that BellSouth and the cableco’s learned a lesson in Lafayette. I was contacted early in the campaign about helping with a battle there–but that battle apparently never really happened.

To my recollection this is the first fiber referendum to pass since Lafayette’s — recent muni broadband referenda have focused on wireless systems. But this should demonstrate that the appetite for real municipal broadband has not passed.

Welcome Aboard Clarksville!

Update 11:16–While noodling around the internet looking for info the Clarksville fiber network I ran into an interesting fact about Clarksville’s plan: they’re gonna run fiber to every home. Period. Wow.

The deal here is that they will be installing new “meters” to monitor electricity, eliminate meter readers, and provide the possibility of new services. These meters are also set up to provide phone, cable, and internet should the customer want to purchase those too. So their upfront costs will be greater but will presumably be borne at least in part by the electrical side of the utility–some part of the maintenance cost for the fiber will be borne by the electrical utility as well. For the record: more sophisticated monitoring and maintenance devices has long been a big issue with electrical utilities and the day of their arrival has been delayed often. The desire for such capacities has not been invented for the purposes of Clarksville–this was the idea behind the initial development of BPL–Broadband over Powerline, a perennial wannbe in the broadband races.

Clarksville’s utility is so committed to the monitoring aspects that it is going to go ahead and build a fiber-optic monitoring system at a cost of about 72% of the total for a full telecom system even if the referendum fails. So the referendum becomes an issue of whether or not to put the system to use for the benefit of the citizens or or just use it monitor electricity–not whether or not the system will be built. The choice is between an 88 mill system with benefits and 73 mill (with interest) system without. Here’s the way an article in the Leaf puts it:

Voters, then, technically will be making a $25 million decision as to whether CDE can offer telecommunication services in lieu of raising rates an estimated 3.5 percent to cover construction costs.

The political and fiscal advantages to taking this route are pretty obvious.

I’d think the downside aside from upfront costs would be that replacement costs and eventual telecom system upgrades would be more expensive than they would be otherwise. (If you’ve got a combo fax/printer/scanner you have to replace it all if the scanner goes down or if you decide that you need higher printer resolution.) But if the incremental cost of the monitoring module were small (and I expect it would be) and if it could be hung cheaply in a widely available commercial box that might not be a noticeable issue.

Well worth thinking on. Louisiana law does allow for shared costs…..and future muni fiber designers and their politcal backers might well want to consider the idea.

It’s the Same All Over

It’s the same story all over the map; corporate opposition to local telecom initiatives has become a regular feature of such ventures.

In the day’s news are upset communities from across the country. Naperville, IL is furious with AT&T (our new phone company overlords) for refusing to follow the law (shock!); Muskegon, MI can’t fathom why Verizon won’t allow poll attachments for its new fiber system (No!); Clarksville, TN anticipates opposition to its plan to roll out fiber (Duh).

Naperville is angry about AT&T’s claim that it doesn’t have to follow the law governing cable companies if it wants to offer cable services since it isn’t a cable company….. Confusing? You bet. AT&T likes confusing laws. Fron the local Daily Herald:

An angry city council rejected the telecommunication giant’s request Tuesday to offer the service without full build-out in the city after learning the company had reneged on several negotiating points previously agreed upon.

“I’m very sorry I wasted my time meeting with AT&T,” Councilman James Boyajian said. “I have not dealt with many companies that showed less integrity than AT&T on this thing and if this is the way they are going to do business, other municipalities better watch out.”

The build-out requirements were the nub of the dispute over BellSouth/AT&T’s recent attempt to secure a state-wide video franchise. The phone company really, really doesn’t want to have to serve everyone in exchange for using the community rights of way.

In Muskeogen the phone giant Verizon isn’t allowing a local school district/local government consortium to attach to poles they own regardless of a state law requiring them to do so

Local officials are fuming about Verizon’s actions, calling them “delay tactics” and “sabotage.” The total cost of avoiding Verizon poles is estimated at more than $300,000, said officials with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, which spearheaded the fiber project.

“This is a classic case of a project that has been developed for the common good going up against corporate self-interest,” said MAISD Superintendent Susan Meston…

“It makes me angry because somewhere along the line, I have to guess their stand has to be fiscally motivated,” McCastle said. “In the name of their dollar bottom line, they want to do what they can to mess with people in Muskegon County.

State law requires pole-owning companies to allow educational institutions to attach to their poles and other owners are complying. Verizon, you’ll be shocked to discover, is fighting the law on hard-to-understand technical grounds in the courts. The local group has decided it would be cheaper and faster to simply lay in their own poles.

Sound familiar?

In Clarksville a referendum to approve revenue bonds for a fiber-optic system similar to Lafayette’s is going to be put before the people in November.

Spradlin said voters can expect to see campaigning by CDE and opponents to the plan — such as Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association, Charter Communications and BellSouth — as the referendum approaches.

“There have been some relatively bloody fights in some other communities,” Spradlin said…

“After seeing what these other communities have gone through, we realized real quick we were going to need some help in these areas,” Spradlin said.

Representatives of Charter, BellSouth and the TCTA spoke at City Council and town hall meetings last winter as CDE sought to become an authority, in addition to lobbying the City Council members individually.

Clarksville needs a citizen’s group. Watch out guys…

I’m no longer surprised at such stories. But the what I’ve started to notice in the last 6 months or so is that the language on the part of the communities has changed. Back when Joey Durel and Terry Huval were calling the incumbents “greedy out of state monopolies” and “gourmandise” such langauage was shocking–and inspiring. But now it is clear that the wind has shifted and such langauge is no longer taboo. This is how attitudes change. The incumbents are burning up their credit with the public. They’d be wiser not to stand in the way of local communities.

It’s the same all over. Lafayette is hardly alone.