LUS Fiber Outside Installation

I’m behind on my LUS Fiber reporting…I’ve tried something new: here’s a Flicker set “illustrated story” of the outside part of my installation.

Long story short: the outside installationg went smoothly and took about 2 hours; that seemed like a pretty quick install considering all that they did; that they were still getting used to the process and were training a new guy.

The slideshow story is embedded below. You can just play it–but that won’t be very interesting since the descriptive narrative won’t be visible. To get the story start the show, mouse to the bottom left to show the controls and pause the show, the click on the expand button that appears at lower right hand corner, go to the upper right and turn on “show info” to get the narration. Then you click through the nice big images and read the story…Or you could take the easy way out and just jump to the standard page and read the story while looking at the photos in the regular way.

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My Ordering LUS Fiber Service

When my blue fiber announcement came in the mail I immediately rang up the new LUS call center to sign up and lay claim to an installation date. A comfortingly local accent answered the phone, was overwhelmingly solicitous and had clearly been trained to explain what he was doing and why in patient detail. I’m the sort that likes understanding every little bit so I enjoyed the experience. YMMV. 🙂

The order didn’t go overwhelmingly smoothly. They’ve just started up the ordering process, and clearly have in place an elaborate computer database setup to methodically walk through the necesarily complex details involved complex services—getting you registered, address, identity validation, phone numbers, porting, 911 service, email address, passwords, confirming question (like mother’s maiden name), multiple channel packages, and other seemingly endless bits and pieces. I managed to find oddnesses in the software. (My street name has a St. before it & a St. after & my name has a St. before…that software can be confused by such I know from long, unhappy experience with university databases–my guess is that the software designer didn’t live in South Louisiana…)

I didn’t buy a simple bundled package, but broke it up into high end internet, a middling channel package, and a minimal landline phone order. The folks on the other line handled all that quite easily and when you order you should know that you can unbundle almost anything…including buying phone services a la carte. Just ask. One thing I forgot to ask about in my eagerness was static IP addresses–a beta tester told me that he’s got one and that it is supposed to cost $5.00 a month. If you want such just ask. My experience was that the folks on the other end of the line either actually know all the details or when they are uncertain just ask…a good norm in a service center.

At the end of the afternoon after a couple of callbacks all was done, and I was and remain an exceedingly happy man. (Who now has to take that Cat 6 out of his trunk and actually finish rewiring the house.)

For those who’ve asked for the nitty-gritty details…remember you did ask…here is the long version:

The Process:

  1. You get a nifty sheet folded to make it into a two page (4 page front and back) promotional brochure. The brochure comes folded in half to make a mailer the size of a large postcard. It’s sealed with tape and tucked inside you’ll find two informational sheets with all the prices and the most current channel lineup.
  2. You eagerly tear it open
  3. Get with your significant other/s and decide on what you want
  4. Call the number on the flyer (99-Fiber)
  5. Transverse the phone tree to get to hold of one of those new LUS service reps. Punch 1 and then 1 again… I got a very nice guy with a distinctly local accent who was both methodical and very solicitous.
  6. They go through a process to verify that you really are in the area that is currently open for service. This verification apparently is separated from the sign-up process so they ask for a few things a second time later on. (But my guy told me he was going to be asking again and apologized in anticipation. I was in no mood to worry about such.)
  7. Once you are confirmed as a potential location they want to know who you are. You get to verify your identity, in my case by SSN, and get an identity in their system. I provided a password and the answer to a standard security question.
  8. Then you get to give your address and billing address. That should be easy. But in my case having a “St.” in front of the street name caused problems. We eventually hit on a series of letters that the database acknowledged existed. (Saint needs to be spelled out.)
  9. Part of confirming your address is that you need to have one that the 911 system acknowledges. So the address needs to go in and be accepted in that database. We wrestled with that a bit too…as it turns out that field doesn’t like the other “St.” —the one that denotes “Street.” (That one needs to be left off entirely.) Coming out of that series of retries we got a “unexpected error” error. —Another of those ever so informative computer messages. He couldn’t get unhung and asked to call back.
  10. He got unhung and called back. We managed to duplicate the error. Great for bug tracking. Frustrating to my service guy. He let me go again.
  11. My callback was from a nice, brisk, and apologetic woman who apparently was the supervisor. Anyone who has hung on technical support lines for hours recognizes that I’d had a level upgrade… She muscled past the buggy screens and finalized my setup.
  12. At that point I “just” had to specify my order. That was complex. Even the most minimal land line has to go through a lot to port a number and set up all the required 911 details. I asked a lot of questions (being who I am) about service details on the internet side, got the fancy 50 meg symmetric package, and a digital DVR box with one premium channel…That involved a lot of talk.
  13. She set me up on the spot for an inside install and let me know that the outside installer would be coming but would ring us up first.
  14. She apologized for everything one more time, checked my particulars and let me go. Done!

It’s a lot to get hooked up with, validation details, all those services, myriad supporting details, and to setting up two appointments all at one blow. Especially since I was so eager. But my experience with folks on the other end were that they were methodical with and unfailingly helpful toward even for an over-eager beaver like myself.

I eagerly await.

“Stay Tuned”

The Independent came out today and in it is a story on LUS Fiber—the launch, the short delay, and (very little on) the pace of the rollout. There’s info there that I’ve not seen elsewhere; evidence that the reporter probably actually called up and asked some of the more obvious questions—and found the limits of what LUS is currently willing to say.

On immediate service:

This week, it is sending out mailers to a select number of Lafayette residents eligible to begin receiving service. Connecting the service will take approximately two weeks from the time an eligible resident calls in to subscribe. Billing will begin March 1. LUS Director Terry Huval will not say how many mailers will be going out through the week, or how many people LUS is ready to begin providing service to.

On longer-term rollout plans:

As far as a timeline for its rollout, LUS is sticking to its initial projections. Last year, LUS released a build-out map breaking the city down into four rollout phases. Huval did say that all residents in Phase I will likely be able to receive service by the end of this year. Beyond that, he says only that LUS expects to have offered the service to everyone within the city limits by the first quarter of 2011. “That’s the objective we’ve set for ourselves.”

The emphasis on quality appears to partially explain both the delay and the slow rollout:

For those customers who do receive service, Huval says he expects they will immediately notice a difference in quality. “The quality of our system is going to be pristine by all standards,” he says. With an all-fiber network, he contends customers should never experience the kind of TV picture pixelation or delay that sometimes occurs when cable providers push their bandwidth to the limit. “The picture quality even on standard definition is significantly superior to what I have seen on standard definition on other providers,” Huval says. “In fact, in some cases, our standard definition doesn’t look too much different than what you would see on high definition. It really has a difference.”

Huval adds LUS’ controlled rollout is due in part to its commitment to quality service. “This is just the beginning,” he says. “We’re hopeful that our customers will be pleased with our customer service, with our constistency, with our reliability.

There’s also some good, meaty stuff on the struggles to get the extensive cable channel lineup complete—and a bit about the crucial National Cable Television Cooperative (a coop of small independents that are federally chartered and protected) that has recently re-opened membership. As I understand it, there is also a coop for small telecos…and with LUS an official CLEC, a phone company, they might be in the unique situation to pick and choose between different coop schedules and their own independently negotiated contracts. And it’s not just about money—the conditions of use, which could be very important on LUS’ very flexible system—would also be in play. Complex stuff indeed.

“LUS continues to build a fiber workforce”

The Advertiser this morning runs two front page stories on the fiber project in advance of expected news on the network later this week. The boldface, above the fold headline is “LUS continues to build a fiber workforce.” That article is pretty much a bare-bones list of project costs. The most interesting bit in the article is a listing of some of the good-paying workman-level jobs:

Of the employees, five are fiber optics technicians who make anywhere from $22.71 to $25.14 per hour. There are also four communication network technicians, all of whom make around $18 an hour.

There also are two customer service supervisors, one of whom is paid $27.25 per hour and the other who is paid $23.12 per hour. Two communications customer service representatives are each paid $14.16 per hour.

The printed version of the story (but not the online one) contains what looks to be a listing of all hourly wages of the division’s 47 current employees. The 14.16/hr is the lowest paying job on the list.

Those are good jobs—steady, good-paying Lafayette jobs. Folks should be reassured that the community network will produce a core of good-paying high-tech jobs in Lafayette solely on the basis of maintaining the network.

The rest of the story is pretty much a recounting of the contract costs. Again, the printed version has a long listing of the contract amounts and a sketchy label telling what the company supplies.

I can wish for more complete reporting….what’s missing is any context, any background, any education of the public. Providing such is the civic purpose of any newspaper.

For instance, about wages: How much money do these wages add up to? It’s common in businesse reporting to report on the total wages that a new company will bring into the local economy. Are these wages comparable to the others in the industry? To wages paid by local competitors like Cox and AT&T. How many employees of Cox and AT&T are based in Lafayette? (If the private providers refuse to reveal such information that too should be part of the reporting.)

Or about contracts: A sentence or two of background on the low-bid law governing the awarding of contracts might be useful as would be some indication of just how specialized the work is and how large this project is. This is a big enough network that there are really few companies world-wide that could tackle it. The specialized network equipment—like the IP-capable Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) is likewise only available in the large quantities required from a few companies with world-wide reach.

WBS: “Louisiana city offers 50Mbps fiber for $58”

What’s Being Said Dept.

An article reviews the pricing structure for LUS Fiber and, usefully, both briefly reviews the history of the fight and compares the offering to national standards.

Lafayette’s fiber comes despite significant opposition to the deal and others like it in the US from cable and DSL providers Cox and AT&T, both of whom have publicly objected and are believed to have quietly funded private lawsuits attempting to thwart the plan for city-wide fiber.

Much of the resistance is believed to come from fears of competition, as the Lafayette Utility System is estimated to cost about 20 percent less per month than the strictly private alternatives but is also as fast as otherwise very expensive services such as Comcast’s DOCSIS 3 and Verizon’s FIOS, both of which cost at least $140 per month for 50Mbps Internet service alone.

A hint of memory about how hard we had to fight to get this network and the national advantage we’ve already gained is notably missing from the accounts in local media. One would expect that a review article about the history of the network and the advantages it offers would be forthcoming. Such gracious coverage would surely be seen if the new network were being brought in by an outside corporation who was investing $110 million dollars in a superior infrastructure that promised dramatic savings to the community. Why doing it for ourselves should be less noteworthy is difficult to understand. It’s hard not to believe that the incumbents’ advertising budgets don’t have something to do with the stilted delicacy of local coverage.

FYI: LUS Fiber’s First Email

For Your Information

Not too much to report here except that LUS has sent its first round of emails out to what I presume was the list I signed up for way back when. (You can get on what is probably the same list at their signup page:

Here’s the text of the message:

Welcome to your future!

The time has come! LUS Fiber will begin serving our first customer early 2009. To ensure quality customer service and a timely installation, we will launch a controlled roll out of our TV, Internet and Phone services. Customers in Phase One of our four-phase city-wide build-out plan will be notified by mail when service is available to them.

We are also very excited to give you the first look at our residential VIP (Video, Internet and Phone) Bundles. Our full suite of products will be announced soon.

Our 100% fiber optic network will provide the highest quality communication services over Lafayette‚s only customer-owned system at competitive rates. Our strategy is to keep our pricing simple and straightforward. In the coming months, we will keep you updated on our products, services and the status of our city-wide build-out.

We look forward to delivering enhanced television programming, lighting-fast Internet speeds and crystal-clear phone services. As always, you can reach the LUS Fiber team by calling 99-FIBER (993-4237) or visiting our website at

Happy Holidays!
Your LUS Fiber Team

Fiber Plans:Deployment, Tiers, Pricing, Digital Divide and More

LUS Fiber is here. Welcome to your future. That was the message as LUS director Terry Huval stood before the City-Parish Council and laid out the near-term deployment plan and the basic products that will be offered by the new community-owned network. Joey Durel, in his introduction, took visible pride in the system, saying that they had under-promised and over-delivered—something which he’s a bit paradoxically claimed was his startegy from the start. If that was the plan; they’ve met their goal. The network’s first offering of services is more than I’d have said possible or likely when we were first thinking about it. —But not more than I and others fought for as ideas about the community’s network matured. (One of the huge advantages of owning your own network is that you can make suggestions, fight for them and sometimes help open the door to new directions. Local, public ownership, frankly, is an innovation as important as any technology to LUS’ success.) It’s a world-class network that we’re building. We’ve every reason to be proud.

I’m goining to hit the highlights here but if you want to see the goods for yourself visit the LCG Auditorium channel at and watch the archived video there.

As always, the LUS presentation was tightly and logically structured: Huval broke the power point into news about the rollout & construction, pricing, unique features, and customer service.

Rollout & Construction
First and foremost, the January date for lighting up the first customers is holding. Just who, when, and how many remains vague but the system will launch with paying customers next month.

Fiber will rollout first at the two ends of the “phase 1” area building out from fiber huts—”hubs”— located on the grounds of the power substations at each end of the build area. The first customers will apparently be signed up in the area around the Acadiana Mall at the southwest end of the build area and those in the Northeastern segment served by the “PEC” substation will also start seeing availability. (See my Google map, or LUS’s version to get an ideaof the geography involved.)

click in to examine your neighborhood or
View Larger Map

When fiber becomes available on your street every address will get a nifty piece of mail announcing: “LUS Fiber is here. Welcome to your future” reversed out of a light blue background. Watch closely for that distinctive piece of mail. And then call.

Pricing & Tiers
The big announcement today was was the service plans and prices. The short story is that more-for-20%-less promise is being kept. And in some situations it MUCH more.

Here’s a list of the pricing bundles. In some ways it’s misleading to call it a bundle since bundle’s usually mean some complicated formula for discounting the price of the services if you buy an approved bundle. LUS’ packages won’t work like that. There will be no penalty for mixing and matching service levels like there are in the incumbent’s bundles. All the service are offered for a single straightforward discounted price. Clean and simple and easy to understand. And no attempts to entice you into spending more for service levels you don’t really want in order to get a price break for something you do want. (Why? Hint: you’re being treated with the respect accorded an owner.) So you could order the top tier internet and the cheapest Video and Phone, or NO video and phone, without penalty.

VIP (Video, Internet, & Phone, get it?)

Video: expanded basic: more than 80 channels $39.95
Internet: 10 Mbps Up and down. $28. 95
Phone with services: 15.95

VIP Silver

Video: over 250 channels incld High Def $63.31
Internet: 30 Mbps Up and down. $44. 95
Phone with a long list of services & 5 cents a minute long distance: 28.95

VIP Gold

Video: over 250 channels incld High Def plus Premium Movie suits $98.09
Internet: 50 Mbps Up and down. $57.95 (wow)
Phone with a long list of services & unlimited long distance: 43.95

More for less. —Now some will try to point to the cheapo bundles that Cox is already offering (and for whose existence you can thank the threat of competition) but those aren’t “real” prices, lock you into a set of services for a year or more that you might not want, isn’t customizeable, and is a LOT less product. How much for an internet tier to compare with LUS’ 30 or 50 meg tiers? There really is no similar product from Cox or AT&T. For value the LUS prices can’t be beat considering the number of channels or speed of the offering. But there is no truly cheap, low end offering. Cox offers a 768 kbps thing they call “high speed internet” for goodness sakes. That’s cheaper than LUS’ 13 times faster 10 meg low tier…but not, I think, much of a value. Of course, LUS really low price for internet is access free…and probably works at at least 768 Kbps—see below.

Unique Features: Digital Divide & 100 Mbps Intranet
These are the bragging points—and pretty impressive they are too…taken together I think they are truly unique to Lafayette.

LUS’ response to the Digital Divide question is to enable the internet capacities of their digital set top box. Using a limited browser a user will be able to read email and do basic web surfing on their TV. And Lafayette is going to do it For Free. There is not surer way to get folks online than to package it into their cable service. Once the rollout is complete Lafayette will inevitably become the most connected city in the nation. Technically, at least. Now helping folks use that capacity fruitfully is a whole ‘nother matter. And properly something the community shold pitch into to do. (Any takers?)

The 100 Mbps intranet has been discussed on these pages for a long time. Suffice it to say that any regular customer will have access to blinding 100 meg speed over the internal community intranet. Want to download the 6 hours of one of those interminable contensious council meeting? In HD? No problem. It will come down in a flash. Video telephony. Shuttling those huge files will become trivially easy—if only inside our net. That will encourage businesses and tech-oriented citizens to locate inside the city…which might do more to encorage “smart growth” than any suggestion I have heard to date.

Customer Service
There’ll be two customer service centers down the road. The customer service people—both in the buildings and on the streets—will be your neighbors.

Finally, I’d have to say that LUS didn’t talk about one of the greatest features of our network: the money you spend on LUS, the money that gets you more for less, will stay here in Lafayette and won’t be shipped off to some high rise in San Antonio or Atlanta.

Frankly, it’s all we asked for initally and more…it’s fiber to the home with its near-infinite expandability. It’s cheap. It will be offered to every last person and business in the area. We will own it and can do with it what we like — and both the 100 mbps intranet and the digital divide initiative are the products of local folks pushing for them and evidence that community ownership can make a huge difference right off the bat. Sure there’s more that I can hope for and fight for now. But on this day to have all the hopes that we held back in 04 realized is enough…It’s amazing. A dream realized.

LUS Fiber news @ the C-P Council

LUS presented its budget to the city-parish council last night and the Advertiser headline read “LUS utility bills may drop.” The gist of that story was that Terry Huval, the head of the utility, expects the fuel adjustment rate –an amount the PSC allows to be tacked onto your rates due to the changing cost of fuel–to fall. That shows some confidence that fuel costs will fall…a confidence I wish I shared.

More interesting was a brief mention of LUS reducing costs by leading the charge to convince Congress to to change “non-effective” laws having to do with coal. If that seemed a bit confusing when you looked at the article you need some background and Lafayette pro fiber is happy to serve (see 1, 2) . Huval is referring to Lafayette’s first “last mile” monopoly situation: the overcharge the monopoly railroad charges to tote coal the last few miles to our generating plant near Alex. AT&T and Cox are just the latest monopolists to impose costs on Lafayette’s people. Better federal regulation is being sought to correct the coal situation. (We’re working on a home-grown solution to AT&T and Cox.)

But for avid followers of LUS’ Fiber plans there was some straight on fiber news. The standard fiber news:

Huval added that LUS plans to soon open a customer service center at the corner of Pinhook and Kaliste Saloom roads. That location would house a showcase area for the Fiber-to-the-Home initiative, and serve as a call center for customers.

The first Fiber-to-the-Home customers are expected to receive service in January.

The showcase has been mentioned before and with the January light-up date are indications that everything is still on track. (Hurrican Gustav’s threat is worrisome in that regard. If Gustav comes up through Barataria Bay as a category 3 storm we’ll lose a lot of poles. While the electrical outage, with the help of regional colleagues of LUS, won’t last long we can’t expect the same sort of ability to help in getting the fiber reworked. A delay might well result.)

Zydetech & LUSFiber

I attended Zydetech’s rebirth at LITE yesterday evening and healthy rebirth it was. The snacks and conversation were good, the attendance great, and the presentations better. Congratulations go out to David Goodwyn, the driving force; Keith Thibodeaux, CIO of LCG; and Erin Fitzgerald of LITE, all of whom I happen to know worked hard to make it happen and happen right. Similar high fives to those who labored beyond my view. Zydetech was long the premier association of techheads and tech businesses in Acadiana and active in promoting both tech and the region.

Zydetech was at the heart of much Lafayette’s tech explosion back in the day, as demonstrated by a huge chart locating the “tipping points” in Lafayette’s development as a tech center that stretched across the LITE main theatre screen. Its return augurs well.

The Advertiser has an article on the event — and you should click through to get their overview — but my take here is going to focus, as you might suspect, on what was revealed about our fiber network. (Incidentally, even if you have read the printed version, click through to the online one. The printed version cuts off abruptly after Louis Perret’s presentation. The online version has an overview of the others as well. Maybe the Advertiser figured that stuff would only matter to the geeky sorts and that they’d get it online anyway.)

Among the gathered tech types, the LUS presentation was clearly the hit of the evening. After the applause died down following Mona Simon’s presentation, Logan McDaniel, who represented the school system, got up and, tongue planted firmly in cheek, thanked the organizers for putting him after LUS . . . which got him a nice bit of laughter to launch his bit.

LUS presentations are all of a type, whether the presenter is at a civic organization or at technical gathering: a charge through the major characteristics of the network with a staccatto list of highlights for each. The term “bullet points” was invented for these guys. But it goes so quickly that it does make it hard to keep good notes.

Some highlights. (Using bullet points, of course.)

What’s Done:

  • The public schools are connected with a 1 gbps backbone and each school is connected with a 100 mbps connection. (McDaniel made it clear that the system was very happy with that, describing it as “rock solid.”)
  • 250 of the 800 miles of fiber that will be built are completed.
  • The head end is completed and the electronics are being tested.
  • The huts housing field electronics are being built.
  • The launch schedule is holding. Still looking for a launch in the first section of January, 2009 and completion of the city by 2011.

What’s Coming:

  • 20% less. LUS is still saying that they will launch their triple play at 20% less than their competitors. They were originally only promising to charge less than the incumbents were charging at the time they announced the plan, but that’s kept shifting to a current time frame. Caveat: LUS’ price will be the “real” price – no 6 month specials – and their competitors’ real price is the one they promise to beat.
  • Lots o’ channels on video.
  • DVR–Digital Video Recorder, like TiVo.
  • VOD–Video on Demand, download TV through the TV interface.
  • VOIP–Voice over Internet Protocol, aka phone, aka nifty integration.
  • 10 mbps symmetrical will be the lowest, cheapest internet tier you can buy.
  • The cable service will be IP-based and Mona was direct in saying that they were going to make use of that to intro new features and integration.
  • The Peer to Peer intranet will run at 100 mbps. No matter how little you spend on internet connectivity with LUS, you will be able to communicate at 100 mbps with every other citizen in the city that has purchased the service. This has emerged as the signature feature of the new public network and Mona actually paused for a few seconds to emphasize they expected folks to do really interesting things with all that capacity. By which, I think she meant that she expected the people in the room to do really interesting things and write the apps to let anyone else do so as well. (CampFiber anyone?) This is the part of the presentation where the crowd murmur really got loud.
  • The video service Digital Set Top Box will be used for Digital Divide purposes. After a bit of a hesitation she said that she’d say that. I gather that there is still some question about that or about just how it will work. (I’ve fretted about this pretty often. It’s not the perfect alternative that it should be just now, but the upside is that it would get a NAD-Network Attached Device into every house that bought cable.)
  • Simultaneous wireless deployment is ongoing. LUS is wiring up and lighting up a wireless system as they deploy the fiber. Right now it is only open to their employees but the intent is to open it as a retail product — a free or very cheap feature of internet service. (Done that way, they wouldn’t have to worry about pushing signal to the interior of houses or businesses; if you have fiber service you’ll have plenty of in-home bandwidth. So they can just concentrate on getting high bandwidth rates going. TRULY ubiquitous, TRULY high-speed connectivity throughout the city would be available. (3G? Paugh. I spit on your 3G. ;-))
  • Connections to LONI and the Lambda Rail are in place.
  • Energy: this has been a low key but constant emphasis of LUS – which is, after all, an energy company. But the recent energy crisis has made this topic newly salient to the public. Being considered are: demand-side appliance management (lower peak demand costs, saving capital costs and fuel costs), time of use metering (get lower costs if you use off-peak electricity). Mona also pointed out that teleconferencing will be dead simple over the LUS intranet and that has the potential to save transit time and money. (And maybe even help unclog Johnson Street? Nah, technology can only do so much.)

During the question and answer period most of the questions went to LUS. While several were about just how soon the questioner could get hooked up, the most consequential one was on the uber-geeky topic of static IP addresses: Would customers get static IP addresses? As I understood from across the room: Business accounts would. If I heard right, that’s a disappointment. The concern is with some users abusing their bandwidth. IMHO that’s not the best solution. Cap uploads if you must, but with IPV6 there is no technical reason not to give every household a unique address and a whole host of applications and communication tools that I could imagine would be facilitated by static IPs. (If you’re whacky enough to think so too, I urge you to contact LUS. They’ve already heard from me on this one.)

It’s a fun and exciting list. And very few people have any sense of what we are about to get. LUS needs to get that information out there and create a sense of excitement.

LUS Update in the Advocate

The Baton Rouge Advocate runs an update of the LUS fiber project in today’s paper.

Begin Meta Media Aside:
Alert readers will note that the story, “Faster service set for ’09, Lafayette Utilities readies fiber optic lines,” is written by Richard Burgess rather than Kevin Blanchard. Kevin, who I had admired unreservedly, has gone back to school and taken a job with Cox researching the (un)Fair Competition Act that he so ably researched and covered as a reporter. As a Cox employee he’s working for a company that he well knows wishes his community ill. I’m hoping that he’s accumulated enough good karma from his years of journeyman reporting to offset a move to the dark side. Be that as it may, Burgess is a reporter cut from the same strip that Blanchard was: a solid worker that follows a beat in depth and whose stories show signs of real background work. His beats have included environmental (the tornadoes, the derailment chemical spill), government (the bus station, police and fire back pay) and general civic issues (like the Attakapas-Ishak bike trail). He’s often assigned work with a challenging technical foundation. He’ll be good on this story and I (with mixed feelings) expect the Baton Rouge Advocate to remain the best source of Fiber To The Home stories as Burgess comes up to speed on the social and business implications of the new system.
End Meta Media Aside

There’s not much that is new news in this story—the point is to review the basics and signal what is coming. So if you want a refresher on the plan and the basics of how the connection will work take a good gander. But the clear overview offers some interesting tidbits for those who’ve been following closely. To wit:

On the build itself:

LUS is rolling out the service in four phases.

Huval said the first phase will make the service available to about 25,000 homes and businesses, nearly half of LUS’ current customer base of about 57,000

That is interesting–you might wonder why LUS is rolling out to fully half of its customers in what is clearly at least two separate segments instead of biting off smaller chunks and doing promotional sign-ups of each small segment to build excitement. The simplest answer is the (un)Fair Competition act. Lafayette cannot do anything that a suit-happy incumbent could call “offering service” until it has the largest possible number of subscribers. That is because the law has set up a minimum date for “profitability” based on when the first “offer service.” So Lafayette is well-served by waiting to start the clock until they can bring lots of customers on quickly–regardless of otherwise smart marketing possibilities. (And, yes, our “conservative” legislature has legislated a time-bound, state-structured definition of success for our project. The big boys at the state house think they know best. As in the looming state video debacle the legislature’s idea of conservativism apparently has little to do with keeping control as close to the people as possible everything to do with pleasing out-of-state corporations. Such is the new “conservativism.”)

On the heart of the system:

The fiber system’s main hub is a building near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 49, where LUS will tap into one of the main Internet lines running along the interstate system, receive satellite feeds for the television service and operate the telephone switch.

The fiber lines will run from the main center — built with 6-inch concrete walls to survive hurricanes — to one of 13 existing electrical substations and then along city streets.

On what is emerging as the signature feature:

Huval said that regardless of what service someone signs up for, anyone on the LUS fiber system will be able to send or receive at the 100 mbps rate when communicating with someone else within the LUS system.

“It’s just opening things wide open for the creative class of the community,” Huval said.

The high speeds could also give freedom to workers tied to the office because of data-intensive work.

“You will truly be able to work from home,” said LUS Fiber Communications Engineering and Operations Manager Mona Simon.

Simon said at speeds of 100 mbps, the quickness of most file transfers will be limited only by the user’s equipment.

“It’s not going to be bottlenecked by virtue of the system,” she said.

On the services to be offered:

LUS officials are not yet talking about specific service or pricing options, but they tout “breakneck” Internet speeds and a wide variety of TV choices at a price about 20 percent below competitors.

The minimum Internet speed with the service will be 10 mbps — more than enough for casual Web browsing, quickly downloading media, streaming high-quality video or playing multi-user games over the Internet.

Users could opt for up to 100 mbps, which would allow for quick communication of the massive files used in everything from data-intensive oil-and-gas research to filmmaking and music production.

…Simon said the television service will also run at 100 mbps, allowing for seamless video-on-demand and the ability to watch multiple high-definition programs at once.

The Internet and television do not share bandwidth, so intensive use of one service will not cut into the other, she said.

That’s all pretty deluxe.

It’s an understatement of the first order to say LUS’ cheapest, slowest offering of 10 mbps (symmetrical!) is “more than enough” for common web uses…it’s an astonishing speed. That low end product is a capacity that is only available as the most expensive option for the cable incumbent and is unavailable for any price, anywhere from AT&T. It’s national news on the net when one or two private providers begin to offer a “limited to a few subscribers” speed of 20 megs. Here that speed will be cheap, available to all and popular enough to be the basis of real business plans. It is simply not purchasable, at any price, to almost all in the rest of the country–and never at a price regular folks can afford.

That alone is a digital divide story that deserves to be told but on top of all that is 100 megs of intranet “peer-to-peer” service. Giving everyone equal communications access to one another is to lay the groundwork for an equitable community in the coming net-centric era. Lafayette will be in a position to allow participation, both live and asynchronously, that will simply be unparalleled and will allow Lafayette to move onto completely uncharted ground and create new models of community. (We better get cracking with that imagination thing.)

As the story notes, LUS has remained chary of committing to detailed service plans months in advance of market situation when it actually begins to sell product. But a recent bit in a consultant’s critique of iProvo’s recently sold service hints at the initial thinking:

For example, Lafayette has told the public they will be offering three residential products – a 10 Mbps, a 20 Mbps and 50 Mbps symmetrical data products to the Internet. In addition, they plan to offer 100 mbps Intranet for connections between any two customers on the network within the City.

That consultant is LUS’ primary advisor and presumably knows whereof he speaks.