“LUS Fiber to hold ‘Community Fest’ Nov. 20”

Both the Advertiser and the Independent have short stories up telling essentially the same no-doubt-press-release generated story. It is also featured on LUS Fiber’s front page.

From the Advertiser:

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Parc International and will feature a free concert by Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble.

KJCB apparently will co-sponoser and give away a big screen TV. Local churches and noprofits will sell lunches, keeping the proceeds….

What’s most interesting is that this event is LUS Fiber’s first community outreach event (unless you count the opening of the LUS Fiber store—and I don’t). Choosing to celebrate a local ethnic community is a reasonable opening move for Lafayette-owned utility.

So far we’ve seen all but no marketing of LUS Fiber…yard signs being the most exciting effort to date.) The Indpendent ties this event to the impending completion of the network. Here’s to hoping we see a more vigorous marketing outreach soon. I’m hoping for one that emphasizes local ownership, local control, and keeping local money in local hands.

Only in Louisiana

In the Only in Louisiana Department:

What to do if your commercial fishing ecology is threatened by an invasive new creature that might breed wildly….How does the state department responsible for such problems react?

Well, only in Louisiana: You publish a recipe. 😉

From the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, via the IND blog:

Broiled Lemon and Garlic Tiger Prawns
1 1/2 pounds tiger prawns, peeled and deveined
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven on broiler setting. With a sharp knife, remove tails from prawns, and butterfly them from the underside. Arrange prawns on broiler pan. In a small saucepan, melt butter with garlic and lemon juice. Pour 1/4 cup butter mixture in a small bowl, and brush onto prawns. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over shrimp. Place broiler pan on top rack, and broil prawns for 4 to 5 minutes, or until done. Serve with remaining butter mixture for dipping.

They’d make a good experiment for your best BBQ shrimp recipe, too…and this sounds a whole lot better than those recipes for Nutria Rat Gumbo. (On the other hand, I have it on the best authority that Nutria and Garfish Gumbo was served to unsuspecting toddlers in the Houma region as far back as 1970—nobody needs the wildlife and fisheries guys to give us any ideas in the culinary arena.)

(Off topic, but too damned good to pass up.)

OneWebDay Celebration in Lafayette @ LITE, and via Webcast

Tommorrow—September 22nd—is “One Web Day” and it will be celebrated in grand style here in Lafayette. One Web Day celebrates the power of internet connectivity and will be observed in cities throughout the world. From the national press release:

OneWebDay was founded in 2006 as an all-volunteer campaign to build a constituency for the Internet in the United States and around the world. Originally imagined as a celebration of the World Wide Web – the services and content the Internet carries – OneWebDay has grown into a movement of organizations, citizens and consumers who are committed to universal and equal access to the Internet. Now in its fourth year, OneWebDay has a full-time Executive Director, powerful new partners and will see events in 50 cities across the globe.

Given that drive toward “universal and equal access” it is no surprise that Lafayette has one of the marquee events, and given the local joie de vie, no surprise that it involves some fun:

In the U.S., 9/22 events include: a documentary and discussion on copyright in Milwaukee; a broadband policy panel Washington, DC; a New York City rally with an Iranian political activist; elected officials and a Cajun band in Lafayette; a forum with Mitch Kapor in Berkeley; a Philadelphia panel on that city’s broadband grant.

The release goes on to quote internet sage Mitch Kapor as saying in reference to this year’s theme:

“Ultimately, we want to ensure that anyone who wants it has access to the Internet and, importantly, the skills they need to fully participate. The ability to access and use a fast, affordable, and open Internet is essential for every student, every entrepreneur, and every citizen who wants full access to our government and the democratic process,” said Kapor.

That’s the serious purpose…Ah, but the local fun…what of that? —From the local press release:

Lafayette, LA – On September 22nd as the world honors OneWebDay, Lafayette, LA will step up to add its voice to the chorus of gatherings across the country and around the globe with an event of its own, a celebration of Lafayette’s connectivity, culture, community, and innovative spirit.

This event will take place at the LITE Center, starting at 5:30pm with a reception in the lobby that will include free beer and wine, and continuing on from 6-7:30pm with a multimedia program in the main auditorium.

This program will feature a series of speakers talking about Lafayette’s commitment to becoming a hub city for broadband innovation, including City-Parish President Joey Durel, LUS Director Terry Huval, UL President Dr. Savoie, UL Provost Steve Landry, AoIT director Kit Becnel, LEDA Chairman Tom Cox, LITE CEO Henry Florsheim, Firefly Digital owner Mike Spears, and local big thinker John St. Julien.

In addition to the speakers, this event will feature a live Cajun band that will help showcase Lafayette’s rich culture.

The event will also be webcast out onto the Internet for the world to tune into to get a better idea of the exciting things happening in America’s most wired and inspired community. Tune in to learn about Lafayette’s cutting edge full fiber network, its commitment to establishing models for the next generation of education, and to supporting the development of 21st century businesses.

To watch the webcast, go to www.aocinc.org at 6pm Central on Sept 22nd.

Ok, I admit to being embarassed by this big thinker thing—but that’s what you get for practicing the trade without a real title…on the other hand everyone should be reassured to note that I know for a fact that the speakers have been sternly told to keep their remarks to five minutes—so nobody will have to put up with much of it.

More seriously, it’s great to see such broad local support for the ideals expressed by the OneWebDay Coalition; it is a set of ideas well worth supporting.

Come and celebrate the fun! Preferably in person, but if disability of location keeps you from making it please grab the webcast from AOC.

Update 9/25/09: The webcast of the event is up for “asynchronous” viewing at AOC’s UStream account and interested readers might want to review the Advocate’s coverage.

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

Tipitina’s Comes to Lafayette

Well, Tipitina’s music coop, anyway— 😉

This seems a month of wishes fulfilled for me. I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of the LUS Fiber network–that’s huge–but now Tipitina’s music coop is opening in Lafayette.

The basic idea is to provide well-appointed space and tools (musical, computer, and business) to aspiring musical artists. It appears to be mostly grant supported with a fairly nominal fee for coop membership.

Back in June I read a story in The Advocate about Tipitina’s Coop in other cities in Louisiana and wrote a bit on how it, coupled with AOC’s new ACFM, would give Lafayette some nice, commons-based media arts infrastructure. Suffice it to say now that its coming to Lafayette is a very welcome development.

Links to the Indepenndent’s story on the launch and to the Advocate’s.

Tipitina’s Foundaton, Lafayette’s coop facebook page.

Good things happening….

Anecdotal: Fiber in the Lunchhouse

Anecdotally Interesting…

Layne and I walked down to the Creole Lunch House for lunch yesterday after the rush and saw a crew at work burying some fiber on 12th street due to overcrowded poles. (Nice guys) When we went in we mentioned the fiber to Merline and the ensuing conversation between the three of us and some lingering customers surprised and heartened me.

Long story short: People off the street, with no particular expertise, understood some crucial details about a very technical fiber build our community is engaged in and understood the value of having technical assets in their daily lives.

Some details: Before the mail delivery lady went back out to her truck she chimed into the conversation with accurate info about a schedule for inspection and replacement of “telephone poles” and her friend let me know that even though they were replacing poles in Breaux Bridge that fiber wasn’t going to be deployed there. The discussion quickly morphed into an enthusiastic talk about the niece who got a “30 dollar an hour!” job because she “knew the computer” and another whose 17 thousand dollar raise (to around 60) was acclaimed a general wonder and attributed to computer skills. Getting adopted by this niece was jokingly made the task of the afternoon. More seriously, there was a general agreement that they all needed to learn “the computer.”

The point being that far from technically sophisticated people on the street are more knowledgeable than you’d think and recognize the value of the new network. They’d like to take advantage of the emerging resources in ways that make sense in their lives. That’s the sort of understanding that is the necessary foundation for all those dreams some of us have about building some new “city on the hill” here in Lafayette.

Like I said, I was heartened.

(Oh yeah: If you’ve never made it to Miss Merline’s you really oughta. The stuffed bread in that pic is the hot version…that’s the one I’d start with; the plate lunches are a killer too…Layne had the fried pork chop with greens.)

NPR Download: Feufollet

NPR today provided the nation with a look a the hot young band Feufollet with an Acadiana swamp story that gratifyingly contrasted with the recent news out of the red hills of Bogalusa.

Feufollet is the revered band of “youngsters” that that started playing the festival circuit together at ages like 8 or 12 and have matured into one of the most respected bands in the region. The story nicely captures both their respect for tradition and their willingness to expand the boundaries.

This is the sort of tale that displays NPR is best at: a bright, sharp, fond look at a bit of lived culture. It’s also an example of the quality multiple media that you can only find on the net. A user can check out the story page, which contains an edited textural version of the radio story. There you can find links to listen to the full story, and you can listen to 3 full songs from the band that illustrate some of the points made in the story. And, if you are so moved, travel to the artists pages and buy some songs. This is what is meant by “rich media.”

One of the advantages of a community-owned fiber-optic network is that we could make it dead-easy to do this sort of thing for ourselves and not wait around for occasional good publicity from the national media. Every ISP (Internet Service Provider) that you care to name puts up a server and gives its subscribers storage space on the network. Sometimes this is mainly a server to handle the email accounts that are given to subscribers and some online storage to keep the email. They do it because it brings in users by boosting the value of being on their network—and because, frankly, it costs next to nothing to offer it. Cox, AT&T and every other provider understands that providing services that add value to the network and are cheap when spread out over the subscriber base is a huge win for them. It’s so cheap that organizations like Google and Yahoo provide free email, massive storage, and even free applications over the web.

There is no reason that a community-owned network couldn’t do a much better and more thorough job of providing on-network services. After all providing service is not an incidental part of the job of making money (like it is for Google or Cox) but is the core reason that a utility like LUS exists. We can, and should, offer every community member a place on the network and the tools to work with. With 100 megs of internal bandwidth serving real applications—and even a full virtual desktop—would be easy. And it would differentiate Lafayette’s service and make its competitive advantage clear. No one would consider using an ISP that didn’t offer email. If you got hassle-free web space and the tools to use them from Lafayette’s network I’d bet good money that it would soon become a must-have part of having a network connection locally.

If LUS didn’t want to offer that directly (and I can see a few valid reasons why it might not) then pass the responsibility over to a funded nonprofit built on the PEG model—like Acadiana Open Channel—give it bandwidth and funding and make it an independent, nonpartisan, open resource for the whole community.

We talk here in Lafayette, based on Richard Florida’s work on the creative class, about how necessary it is to pushing Lafayette ahead to build a community around the synergies of Talent, Technology and Tolerance. We’ve even made some strides toward that goal. The Feufollet article suggests that we could go much further toward harnassing the creativity and talent of the local community if we made the technology to present it to the world (and each other) much more available.

Hell, it would even be good business—and a development project to boot.

(A hat tip to the Independent’s blog where I found this tidbit.)

Cute High Tech Alligator

If you don’t have much time for this tech story here’s the essential, defining quote:

The alligators love cheese curls and ice cream…

ONLY in Lafayette.

Now, there rest of the story:

The reflecting pond outside the big glowing “egg” at the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) has an alligator. Only in Lafayette would you find the strange concatation of a premier 3-D visualization and computing facility and a “cher bebe” alligator in it’s reflecting pond. Or at least only in Lafayette would the denizens of such a facility find the gator a “favorite attraction” sit around talking about. Who needs a water cooler?

Finally, only in Lafayette would the solution to the “problem” of an alligator in the pond at a public facility be solved by moving the toothy creature to (listen closely now) the public pond in the middle of the university beside the student union. Folks aren’t phased by such a decision and nobody finds it remarkable enough to notice. After all they’ve already got gators at ULL:

Mike Flaherty, assistant director for union building services, said
that while he hadn’t seen the gator as of Tuesday afternoon, he expects
it will adapt quickly to its new home in Cypress Lake.

“They do
quite well,” said Flaherty, who said about four or five gators live in
the lake. “No matter how many ‘please do not feed’ signs we post,
people think they are cute and feed them. The alligators love cheese
curls and ice cream, but they stay plenty healthy on their own, too. It
should adapt instantly and with no trouble at all.”

Like I said, Only in Lafayette.

Monopoly, Community Wisdom, and LUS

History counts for a lot in trying to understand a community and Terry Huval’s commentary in today’s Advertiser lashing the railroad monopoly is a good starting point for understanding how history works.

There’s been a lot of comment on “conservative” Lafayette could have voted, overwhelmingly, to start its own community-owned telecommunications utility. As a community which relishes confounding the expectations of outsiders we are happy to encourage the perception that we can’t be easily predicted.

In truth, what this community calls conservativism has very little to do with what is called conservative elsewhere in this country. (I suggest you spend a few minutes reflecting on Mardi Gras, Festival International, and the multitude of drive-through daiquiri shacks before you too quickly reject that statement.)

We often make reference to our latin heritage in explaining the cultural differences between South Louisiana and the rest of the South or the rest of the country—and that is accurate, as far as it goes. Just “being different” goes a long way toward explaining how a community that takes bold stands understands itself. But more particular histories count as well.

The fact that Lafayette has an LUS — a broad community-owned set of utility systems— makes it different from the adjoining towns. Our experience is different; we have a different history because we’ve decided to do things, like build a utility, for ourselves. We pay attention to different parts of the world precisely because we can make a difference in how our utilities are delivered–something most communities do not bother to interest themselves in because the cannot change it much.

So nobody here is surprised when the head of our local utility reaches out to repeatedly lash the railroad monopoly.

We don’t realize that ideas like these are vanishingly rare in the public conversation of most of our United States:

A recent guest column inaccurately addressed attempts by the Lafayette Utilities System to curb monopolistic railroad pricing….The real issue is that Lafayette is a captive rail customer that has no reasonable choice but to use railroads for coal deliveries to its power plant and has become subject to uncontrolled monopolistic rail pricing power…Rail companies take advantage of customers like Lafayette because they are allowed to do so.

Monopoly corporate power—and the federal government’s collusion in maintaining it—is not a topic for discussion in most communities because most communities don’t have utilities which are victims of monopoly pricing which are consequentially forced to pass on overcharges to the community they serve:

Due to these rail price abuses, LUS customers and businesses are paying a $15 million premium in electricity costs annually – with a cost share of $1.5 million being paid by our local education system.

And LUS can do something about it on our behalf. Terry Huval has repeatedly testified in Congress regarding the railroad monopoly’s exploitive pricing. There, no doubt, having the head of a small southern utility company stand shoulder to shoulder with giant mining corporations, the chemical companies and the oil industry, lends credibility to the claims that last mile monopolies in the rail industry are bad for everyone.

A number of public and private industries, including our state’s petrochemical industries, have banded nationally to form Consumers United for Rail Equity. Together, we support the passage of laws placing rail companies under the same anti-trust restrictions imposed on other businesses.

Monopolies are, in short, bad for business and bad for communities. Lafayette’s ownership of its own utility is a continuing source of rational, non-ideological conversation about such issues. LUS is a constant reminder that public ownership, good service, being pro-business, and being pro-community stance are not inconsistent.

Conversations like these are opportunities to take another look at the odd modern rhetoric that demeans taxation, recoils at public ownership, dismisses reasonable regulation of natural monopolies, and glorifies private greed. It isn’t true, for example, that all public services are a result of taxation. LUS is supported by fees-for-service. And those freely paid fees actually displace some of the taxes that other communities must impose:

Contrary to the misstatements made by the guest columnist, LUS is not supported by tax revenues of any kind. Instead, LUS makes substantial payments to help support the cost of local government functions, such as fire and police.

By contrast the federal and state governments often directly subsidize or give other special breaks to huge industries like the railroads–these cost governments income which must be made up by taxes. In most of the country mentioning such favoritism is considered an impolite violation of the illusion that corporations don’t seek or accept . Not in Lafayette:

On the other hand, the major railroad systems have had a long and continuing history of receiving governmental assistance directly from tax dollars paid by citizens and businesses….

Rail companies falsely suggest these proposals will “re-regulate” or place financial burden on the railroads. Reading the elements of the proposed legislation and reviewing the financial growth in recent years of the railroad companies quickly dispel those myths.

In short, we have an ongoing, concrete conversation in Lafayette about practical local decisions that are mostly abstract and ideological in other parts of the country. It makes a different sort of sense in Lafayette to rail against railroad monopolies (and telecommunications monopolies) because we don’t have to just lie down and accept it. We have utilities that can fight back in our defense. That makes a lot of difference in the public discourse here. And helps explain why we were able to understand how empty the ideology offered by the incumbents during the fiber fight was: we’d heard it all before.

As Huval says in his closing statement:

LUS will continue to represent its customer-owners by standing up to fight entities and practices that hurt our community.

Having someone to fight for us is a huge advantage. Having someone to keep or local conversation grounded in reality is an even greater advantage in the long run. Thanks, LUS.

Digital Arts in Louisiana & Lafayette

Here’s something that Lafayette ought to get one of: “Tipitinana’s Music Coop.” Or at least some of this funding for our native equivalent. An article in last week’s Advocate describes the concept and its utility:

[Tipitinana’s Coops] in New Orleans, Shreveport, Alexandria and now Baton Rouge provide workspace and office and production equipment for musicians and digital artists to help them make more money and fuel the state’s culture industry.

“It’s a job-skills training and economic development project,” said Todd Souvignier, technical director of the Tipitina’s Foundation who has spearheaded the opening of the co-ops.

For $10 a month, the co-ops give members access to technology — from conventional office machines to software such as Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro, “the kind of stuff real musicians need to get their hands on to do some real work.”

Souvignier said 1,200 musicians and digital artists use the various co-ops 12,000 times a year to check e-mail and make phone calls or faxes to book tours or use computers to make press kits, Web sites or MySpace pages.

As I understand it this is pretty close to the concept behind ACFM (Acadiana Center for Film and Media) But where Tipitinia’s starts with music and strays to video ACFM starts with film and strays to “media,” broadly understood.

Tipitina’s appears to be supported by grant funding with a small $10 dollar a month coop membership fee that could do no more than supplement the exterior funding. ACFM appears to impose no fee on users and has at least channels 15 and 16 on cable as farm league placement for the work of folk who do their production using the facilities.

Both concepts are good ideas in as far as they get the tools of production into peoples’ hands. There’s a lot of belief that the near future holds a lot of potential for media production moving away from the big centers and towards very local, artist and fan-produced works. If that vision is to be realized we’ll need lots of places like Tipitinas’ Coop and ACFM. It’s not enough for a thing to be possible–people have to be able to afford the tools and, even more crucially, find the community of folks that will help the learn how to use the tools well.

For my money, Lafayette could easily support both a Music-facing digital studio and a Video-facing one. You have to think the synergy would be good for both. And, you know, real soon now we’ll be getting an in-city network that will open up a 100 megs between local nodes on the LUS network. A Tipitianas or an ACFM could easily put together a “channel” on that kind of bandwidth. Either tap into the multicast stream or download from the growing archival library. It’d be an instant way to make good cultural use of the bandwidth we’ll have.