“LUS fiber project still on schedule”

The Advertiser published a small update on the LUS fiber project “LUS fiber project still on schedule” whose title just about says it all.

The headend building near the I-10/I-49 junction is now up; I was by there the other day and it is a solid looking building—massive prepoured concrete slab walls give a solid impression. It’s not the showcase building LUS might have originally wanted but it ought to weather the storms.

But here’s the part I liked; a quote from Huval:

“But I can tell you that it’s going to be everything we promised and more. We’ve got people working six-plus day weeks trying to make this thing happen.”

That’s what I like to hear. (Incidentally, I talked to one of the engineers in charge of the project the other day and from the way she described her job it sounds like the director’s description of the work week is pretty much literally true.)

LUS Fiber Construction Map

Latest: aerial fiber 1/3/08 at South Magnolia & 12th st.

View Larger Map

Pins on this map locate sightings of construction on the Lafayette community’s new fiber-optic system.

This is a publicly editable, collaborative map. You are encouraged to add your own sightings to the map. Please!

Click on “View Larger Map” to go to a page that will allow you to put your own pin on the map.

(You can bookmark this map using this post’s permanent URL or Googles’ map URL)

—The obvious disclaimer: this publicly editable map is neither official nor complete nor guaranteed to be accurate 🙂 (It is only as accurate as its users. If you want to “fix” it you can; that’s the idea.)

HISTORY: Originally posted: 1/18/08, Updates: 1/24/08, 2/08/08, 2/28/08, 3/14/08, 4/3/08….

Full Page LUS Fiber Ad

The Sunday morning Advertiser has a full page LUS Fiber ad…the first, but not the last, we’ll see.

At left is the page. The blue banner is explanatory—they want folks to know that they’ll be seeing “visible signs of progress” because the “crews will be working hard to bring you a fiber-fast, fiber-fantastic network.” (Whew!) “And with it , lighting-fast internet speeds an miles of expanded bandwidth. Plus crystal-clear cable TV and telephone service” Now that’s somewhat florid language but not inaccurate—we hope. You can get a larger picture by clicking on the one at left.

The pic below is a scan out of the ad… if you click it to get the big picture you should be able to read the ad text yourself. And for local fiberistas it is a lot of fun to read…and reassuring to see list of all the things we’ve been promised make it into advertising. It’s one thing to tell the loyalists what they want to hear and quite another to put into print advertising.

And the advertising is still more conservative than the talk…the promise in print is that the triple play will average 20% less than Cox (and AT&T if it every gets around to offering its cable package.)

The body copy opens with a bit of bragging: Fiber to the Home and Business Technology is the most advanced means to provide what is typically referred to as a ‘triple play’ of communications services—cable TV, phone, and high speed internet—directly to homes and buisneesses. There are no FTTH systems serving entire commuities in Louisiana and very few in the U.S.

Other bullet points:

  • will serve apartments (Happily for competitors like LUS the FCC is trying to outlaw exclusive apartment contracts—the cable companies are, of course, suing)
  • local programming and stations
  • advanced phone options
  • Video on Demand
  • DVRs–Digital Video Recorders
  • Channel guides

Media Roundup of Phase 1 News

All the local media has at least a blip on yesterday’s announcement of the construction schedule of our new fiber to the home project.

If you want to run down the list here are the links: Advertiser, Advocate, KLFY, KATC. There is a lot of overlap.

If you have time for only one you should spend it on the Advocate’s coverage (and that’s not because yours truly is briefly qouted.) The article spends less time on describing the boundaries—which is better dealt with via a map anyway—and more on the why of the build schedule and immediate plans for other elements of the startup like the storefront and headend construction. There’s also a brief bit about expansion:

There are no plans to extend LUS service outside the city limits — as LUS is owned by city residents — but that doesn’t mean LUS Fiber service couldn’t one day extend into the parish or the smaller municipalities, Durel said.

Outside areas could annex into the city, or they could raise the revenue necessary to provide the infrastructure LUS would need to provide service, Durel said.

Several reporters talked to Durel about this issue and he was pretty expansive…I’d stay tuned. Lots of people in the parish want this and it’s only now sinking in that this is a city build.

The Advertiser’s full article adds some man-on-the-streeet remarks from residents that are pretty typical, I think. But more interesting is the discussion in the comments section of yesterday’s brief online blurb following the press conference. As much as the omnipresent reflexively resentful naysayers irritate me I have to say that I was proud of the level of understanding of a pretty technical issue that the pro-fiber crowd showed in forum often noted for its ugliness, and uninformed “opinionating.” I don’t think you’d see that level of technical and economic sophistication in many places—or here before the fiber fight. Politics can be educative. It was also interesting to note the folks from outside the area that are following this issue closely enough to find the story before it is actually published in the paper. Nevada and Germany are on the list….and surely many more who are also watching attentively.

Google-Based LUS Fiber Phase One Map

I’ve worked up an easy to navigate map of the first phase of LUS’ fiber to the home buildout. You should be able to use this just as you’d use any standard google map.

This should make it fairly simple to tell whether your home is in or out of the first stage of the buildout scheduled to be completed by January of 08.

The light orange “blotch” on the map below is taken from one of LUS’ maps of phase one and overlaid onto a standard google map of Lafayette. It’s transparent so that as you zoom into the map you’ll be able to read your address through the light tint. Clicking on the map lets you dive into it. Just click in your area of town and dive in till you can see your neighborhood street names appearing. If you get a little off target click and drag in google window and pull the map around so the part you want to see is visible. You can also jump to the “larger map” and use the standard google interface to look around for your home or business.

View Larger Map

A reader complained in the comments to my earlier post that the map on the LUS Fiber site was hard to use. I had to agree….and tinkered this up in Google maps to accommodate him. Enjoy!

Phase 1 Service Area Announced

Well the big announcement has finally been made. The first areas to be served by fiber are now set. Here’s a screen capture from the interactive map on the LUS website:

Someone in that map will be the first person served with a projected date of January 2009 for the official launch of the network.

Take a good look at that map (click for a larger version or jump to the interactive map on the LUS website)—that’s an awfully large chunk of the city encompassing almost all of the traditional core neighborhoods. Just at-a-glance I’d say that it covers around half the population. Maybe more. It’s a very aggressive first stage.

Here’s the 4 part buildout map:

The system will be complete by 2011 with those in Phase 4 the last customers brought online in the city.

“How’d they decide that?” those of you in Phases 3 and 4 may be asking. LUS says that there were a number of factors, among them:

  1. Huval said: “…how can we get to the most customers at the cheapest cost.” meaning densely populated regions where the utility anticipates a high take rate
  2. They also said they wanted a good mix of residential and businesses but preferring a higher than average percentage of residential. The rationale there is that businesses are slower to move to new services and they want a quick uptake. (Of course it also has to factor that the residents are the owners…and when the owners want service they tend to get preferential treatment.)
  3. Terry Huval also said that areas with aerial service (service on poles) were preferred in the initial build because it is cheaper to run services in those areas. LUS should get more bang for its buck out of those investments.

Now if you know Lafayette you can see how these points played out by looking at the map. Older, hence for the most part more densely settled neighborhoods with smaller lots are in Phase 1. Those are also the neighborhoods with aerial service. And that all makes financial sense. But it also makes political sense. There is a northern and a southern segment–and in our city that denotes, fairly or unfairly, black and white, creole and cajun/Americain, and poor and well-off. Read by Lafayette eyes it is a declaration that all will be served; none will be left out. The pattern that falls out of LUS decision making-parameters has the consequence of serving more people in the city core, and a larger percentage of the community’s most needy first. This, we should note with satisfaction, is exactly the opposite of the pattern shown by corporations like AT&T who have consistently demanded they be allowed to serve the wealthy suburbs in preference to the core community and who will not, in fact, promise to serve that population at all. Public ownership makes a real difference and a difference our community can see from day 1.

Three other things of interest: 1) pricing was briefly discussed and, contrary to the impression that the speakers gave, there was a bit more info on pricing. 2) There are already rumbles about service outside of Lafayette. Diplomatically handled by the administration….but not dismissed. 3) Durel is very big the intranet and the potential for all that enourmous peer-to-peer bandwidth to change the equasion in Lafayette. He’s right about that. But more on those points in a follow-up post.

(And YES: I AM in Phase 1! On the southern edge of the northern area. YESSS! 🙂 )

Construction Begins….

Men in the field, boots on the ground:

The first installation crews are out in Lafayette neighborhoods today. The neighborhood southeast of Acadiana Mall off Robley drive is decorated with the color coded paint lines and little flags that mark the location of underground utilities. On Remington Drive, toward the back of that neighborhood, you’ll find the contractors’ trucks and the initial holes in the ground that positively locate the current utilities and will serve as install points for the fiber and supporting electronics.

Soon, folks, soon…

Click for a larger view of the pics… (And thanks to the anonymous commenter for the tip…anyone spotted more locations? I’d love to see some fiber strung from poles too,)

WBS: “Milestone Reached in Lafayette Fiber Deployment – LUS FTTH is on track”

Whats Being Said Department

Broadband Reports, which has followed the fiber battle in Lafayette exetensively, continues to track the story. It now covers the announcement of the groundbreaking last Thursday. The site is probably the largest discussion forum devoted to broadband issues in the nation and its always interesting to see what folks have to say in the comments. In this one we are treated to a repise of the debate as to whether or not Lafayette is “in the woods.” Oh well; it’s fun to read anyway. One guy does seem to have a handle on how arduous the planning for a fiber network has to be.

LUS Groundbreaking in the Media

The media covered yesterday’s groundbreaking in force. The Advocate, the Advertiser, and KLFY all have online stories you can check into.

The Advocate’s story is the most extensive. In addition to covering the statements by public officials it also explored recently let contracts:

Chain Electric out of Hattiesburg, Miss., has been awarded the approximate $11 million contract to install underground lines — in areas where utility lines are already buried.

Where utility lines are already on poles, the lines will be run by an Indiana company, ElectriCom Inc., as part of a $4 million contract.

But the reporter tripped up a bit when trying to summarize the recent contracts as Blanchard acknowledged when I dropped him a quick question. But the Advocate quickly corrected it online. I’ve edited this post to account for that, striking the parts that no longer apply. The following bit that appeared in printed edition isn’t correct:

LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in under budget. The same goes for the head-end building construction, as well as the large contract with Alcatel-Lucent, which is providing all the large electronics including the boxes that will be at customers’ homes and businesses.

In fact, you need to invert that meaning: only the underground line contract came in over budget.

The story has been corrected online–the portion struck above portion now reads:

LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in over budget.

That’s not entirely surprising since digging up yards carries a lot of unknown risks–nobody can “look” at the job and see what it really entails. I’d bid high on any job of which I wasn’t confident.

If you’re curious as to how LUS will pick the first area to be served (and who isn’t?) you should check out the story:

LUS is picking the initial areas on using three sets of criteria, Huval said.

The first is which areas could provide the most potential customers at the lowest cost.

The second is which areas have a good mixture of residential and commercial — though with an emphasis on residential, as those customers are more likely to sign up in larger numbers.

The third is an area with a mixture of overhead and underground utility lines — again, with an emphasis on overhead lines because running fiber on poles is faster than having to bury them.

The idea of picking a diverse area is to get early experience and feedback in all aspects of the roll-out, Huval said.

That would describe almost any area of the city….though I’m personally hoping that it best describes the residential areas right around downtown. 😉

The Advertiser’s story is much briefer and focused more exclusively on the event and quotable quotes from the participants.

Huval said the service will have a long-lasting impact for residents and businesses.

“The real purpose is to provide a super broadband highway,” Huval said. “We’re going to be primed for new technology.”

City-Parish President Joey Durel said the service is going to “be something much greater than we ever dreamed.”

“We have underpromised, and we’re going to overdeliver,” Durel said. “A lot of things had to come together, but it’s here and it’s going to happen and we’re going to knock your socks off.”

There’s a picture of of Huval with Mike Stagg, Keith Thibodeaux, John St. Julien, and Gobb Williams in the background. (I’m still looking for that pic with with Gobb Williams and Durel both holding golden shovels, digging them into the council carpet, and grinning like mad.)

KLFY has only the briefest of stories, but if you own a windows machine you can probably view the video. (I’m weary of complaining…but will note that the mac market share has hit 8%, and the percentage of internet users on that platform is higher yet… Maybe the Advertiser will publish one of its nifty multimedia stories that are easily the best edited, and most accessible, net video in Lafayette.)

LUS Fiber; Some History

At this morning’s “groundbreaking” ceremony the initial moments were occupied with the obligatory remarks and reminiscences by officials and influentials. Much of the remarks were actually interesting—Durel again reiterated his promise that the Fiber project “over-deliver” and struggled to voice his enthusiasm by saying “We are gonna knock your socks off.” Purvis Morrison, representing the council as vice-chair read a short bit by new council chair Don Bertrand who played a large leadership as a private citizen during the fiber fight. Those remarks focused on the hope that the community’s goal of becoming “most connected city and parish in the country has taken a huge step forward.” Morrison, who represents a rural part of the parish that isn’t currently slated for service, made it clear that it was his hope that Bertrand wasn’t just being politic when he referred to the parish. He wanted fiber brought to his rural part of the parish.

But it was the reminiscences that intrigued the historian in me. Especially interesting was Randy Menard’s story. Menard was a member of the outgoing council that backed LUS fiber before that was an easy thing to do and which soldiered through the worst of the battle to secure it. His recounting pushed the story back more years than any tale I had heard before. Apparently Terry Huval recommended that council members attend an American Public Power Association conference in Toronto that planted the idea of a community communications network—12 years ago. On Menard’s retelling he went and came back an advocate. A fiber ring for city use came up later and was eventually built. When a discussion about trying to get other people to build a fiber network in the city came up Menard says he asked Huval “Why aren’t we doing that ourselves?” Huval’s careful answer was that some people up the line weren’t in favor. Translated: the then-current administration had put the kabosh on it. Menard and Ardoin, a former councilman, worked around that opposition. Menard, who does not live in the city proper, jokingly expressed a desire to be annexed. (I won’t be surprised if that desire becomes more widespread.) Apparently there was a time when Huval was not the most enthusiastic proponent of further extending fiber…but that changed. On Mayor Durel’s recounting Huval set him down even before his inarguration and laid out a plan to offer fiber to the home. When Durel committed to its support the course was fixed.

The rest, as is said, is history.

Correction: In the original version of this post I wrote Menard when I should have written Mouton …Mustaches, “M” names, recent retirement, and a southern parish district…Mea Culpa.—A hearty thanks to the reader who pointed out my error.

Correction to the Correction: Ok, I was wrong about being wrong. It was Randy Menard and after talking to others who were there I am now confident about that. I still need to absolutely confirm that Menard lives outside the city—that’s what my evidence shows, but… Anyway, a hearty thanks to the anonymous reader who encouraged me to think I might not be in error. 🙂