9.6% — William Theriot shouldn’t be respected as a councillor (by his own estimation)

Nice and succinct from the IND blog:

Percent of District 9 voters who sent William Theriot to the City-Parish Council in November 2007. The district had 18,452 registered voters, with 17.9 percent (or 3,307) going to the polls; of those voting, 1,773 or 54 percent went for Theriot.

Why is this significant? Because Theriot loves to question voters’ mandate for LUS Fiber, pointing out as recently as the Sept. 27 council meeting that it was “62 percent of the 18 percent that showed up to vote.” Applying that logic to Theriot’s district, 11.16 percent of city voters in Lafayette approved LUS Fiber, while fewer than 10 percent of District 9 voters sent him into office. Now that, Mr. Theriot, is anything but a mandate.

Theriot, the incumbent in the District 9 Councillors race, has long been hostile to LUS Fiber and is fond of saying that the overwhelming 62% to 38% victory for fiber after a long and bitter campaign was waged against it by the incumbent corporations wasn’t really the last word on “the people’s” judgment of the matter because the numbers didn’t add up to an absolute majority of all the people who could possibly have voted.

Elections go to those who care to show up and exercise their rights. That’s the basic democratic principle and always has been. Theriot’s (and others’) game-playing with this has always left a bitter taste in the mouth…so discovering that Theriot is less legitimate (by his own standards) than the fiber he criticizes in this way underlines just how hypocritical this line of attack is and always was.

And make no mistake, this line of reasoning—one which continues to be touted by anti-fiber crowd—has always been the height of hypocrisy. The nay-sayers wanted to force a vote on the rest of us because they, Cox, and BellSouth thought they could easily use the money and power of the huge corporations to win in the referendum. They failed, miserably, to convince the community that they were right. A vote was what what they claimed to have wanted and we can be certain that they’d have been happy to have said “the people have spoken” if they’d won. It was always hypocritical for Fiber 411 and those that said Lafayette couldn’t succeed and shouldn’t try to turn around and decide the vote they claimed to want so badly was illegitimate because they lost.

Here’s the real kicker: William Theriot shouldn’t be voting on anything to do with any of the LUS’ utilities anyway. He doesn’t represent any significant portion of the city. His ideological grandstanding over the LUS rate hikes and his snipping on fiber is a significant part of what broke the longstanding “fair-play” agreement between Lafayette Councilmen and the rest of the parish Councillors that the full council would endorse what a majority of the city Councillors thought was best when voting on purely city issues.

I wrote a detailed post on this back when it was all going down back in March of 2010.

His obstinacy—and to a slightly lesser degree, Councilor Bellard’s—is the most immediate reason that we are faced with a deconsolidation vote on October 22nd. So if you are in Mr. Theriot’s district and have discovered that you might suffer if the city of Lafayette withdrew from the current arrangement and became its own city again then you have only to look to your own councilman for the proximate reason those within the city don’t think that the present arrangement can be trusted.

“Subsidizing” Makes a Return Engagement—With a Twist

To begin at the end of today’s LUS Fiber budget hearing: all the old nonsense about “subsidizing” LUS Fiber returned again today. And, surprising no one, it came riding back in with Tim Supple. Supple’s long history of opposition to LUS Fiber has long included this particular falsehood. To give the devil his due Tim was definitely goaded by councilman Keith Patin after Keith and fellow rural member William Theriot failed to come up with a sufficiently news-worthy phrase during the questioning. Tim tried not to answer in the simple affirmative for a couple of rounds while Patin repeatedly pressed him to phrase his characterization of the LUS financials as being a subsidy that had to be being paid for by “somebody.” Supple finally caved and said it was, indeed, just like subsidizing Parks and Recreation as Patin suggested.

That, of course, is utter nonsense. Nonsense that Terry Huval immediately spiked. A loan that must be repaid with interest is nothing like using tax monies to support Parks and Recreations. But  Huval really shouldn’t have had to lay that out. A subsidy would illegal under state law. If LUS were breaking that law both Cox and ATT would make sure we all knew by suing us again. It’s silly to have to treat it as a sensible question.

For those who weren’t following this blog way back when the recurring issue of subsidization first arose way back in 2005 the idea was supposed to be that any publicly owned fiber utility would obviously and necessarily be subsidized by the public. The idea of a publicly-owned competitor being subsidized by taxes was promoted by BS (BellSouth, now ATT) and Cox as “unfair” and an affront to their two monopolies of phone and cable service—which they characterized as “free enterprise.” That was nonsense from the beginning—plenty of utilities are run without subsidies, including LUS’ electrical and water divisions and plenty of private companies are actually subsidized. LUS never, at any point, planned on using Lafayette taxes to subsidize the new utility. But the idea that some municpality might was one of the tools that BS/ATT and Cox used to convince the Louisiana legistlature to pass what would become known as the Municipal Fair Competition Act (or as I prefer: the (Un)Fair act). That state law outlawed any cross-subsidy. But only for LUS–Cox is free to subsidize from its extensive newspaper holdings and ATT from its wireless division.—Hence my preference for (un)Fair. There has been no subsidy, and if there was any half-rational way to characterize anything that has happened as a subsidy Cox and ATT would be happily suing Lafayette—yet again.

Subsidy with a Twist

But as a by-blow to all this an interesting subsidy did emerge. But it runs the other way…LUS Fiber is subsidizing LUS’ other divisions and through that, indirectly, Lafayette city-parish government.

Again it all goes back to the (un)Fair Competion Act. One of the things put in that act during negotiations is a concession that LUS Fiber would be able to borrow from LUS’ other utilities just like any other corporation could set up internal borrowing arrangements. This is not a subsidy, it’s a loan—with real interest. One of the efforts to raise an issue by Messrs Patin and Theriot centered around “imputed” taxes. Those are extra costs that Cox and ATT got the state to require that LUS include in order to force LUS to raise their price to customers (you!) above the actual cost. (Yes, really. See this. And these.) The idea was that LUS should have to pretend to pay taxes that it doesn’t actually pay when setting its pricing—and include those fake costs when competing against Cox or ATT. PSC regulations (not the law) requires LUS Fiber to send those monies to the larger LUS. So LUS utilities is holding money LUS Fiber earned. LUS electricty, water, and sewer loans it back to LUS Fiber—at interest. The net effect of this is to subsidize LUS’ other utilities on the back of the new utility, LUS Fiber.

That’s the only subsidy uncovered today.

You can’t make this stuff up. Only in Louisiana.

“LUS fiber means strong growth”

This morning’s Advertiser editorial lauds Lafayette’s Fiber to the Home project. It offers well-deserved high fives to Durel and LUS as movers in the project but neglects the central role played by citizen support and activism…ah well:

The path has not always been smooth, but the Lafayette Utilities System and the Durel administration have been victorious in regard to the legal scuffles and citizen opposition.

This simple formulation oddly erases the often mean-spirited and widely resented opposition of the incumbent cable and phone companies that was the real pivot point of the fight and ignores the kudos Lafayette has received worldwide for taking on the incumbents—and winning. The NATAO Broadband Hero award Durel won and the Advertiser proudly cites was, in fact, focused on just that bravery. That sentence also rewrites history in another way: Citizen opposition? Real citizen opposition was extremely limited throughout the referendum fight. The four Fiber 411 guys were pretty much the only visible opponents and their visibility was largely a creation of the media who needed someone to play the role of “she” in the “he said, she said” narrative structure of the newspaper article. (I’ve flogged this horse before. See: “How LUS Beat the Big Guys” )

Economic Development
The Advertiser gets it largely right, however, when it points out that utility revenues and cheaper prices aren’t the real point:

While generating revenue is essential to paying off the bonds and keeping up with constantly changing technology, revenue is not the basic goal.

Competition will result in better rates, but as desirable as that is, it is still not the focal point of the administration vision. The vision is one of technological leadership that will result in explosive economic growth.

Economic growth is certainly the basic emphasis of the City-Parish and motivates a substantial amount of citizen support—especially among the business community. Economic growth in the guise of “Keeping our Children Home” was a major element in the winning referendum campaign as well. The fiber project, before it has even launched, has already paid dividends in both national prestige/mindshare and in actual jobs in both the private and the public sectors.

Human & Community Development
But there is another, perhaps even larger, potential that goes beyond the immediacies of revenue and frugality or even simple economic development. Lafayette will soon be in the possession of a community-owned fiber to the home network that has few rivals world-wide. This will, potentially, make Lafayette’s people into a unique community with the widespread ability to access affordable (rather than forbiddingly expensive) connectivity. Everyone on the data network will have a minimum of 10 megs of symmetrical capacity—and a full 100 megs of peer to peer connectivity. What’s important about that is not the technical specs but the human and community ones: Lafayette’s network

  1. will be available to everyone,
  2. will have a lower price and hence greater potential for widespread adoption higher, and last,
  3. has enourmous capacity for communication between citizen-owners, and
  4. most importantly, WE will own and control this network and be able to use if for the benefit of the community, not for the profit of outside owners,.

These are the qualities that level the real challenge: to do something with this rich potential to ratchet the very definition of community up a notch. We’ve made a fair start: both the 100 meg intranet and the use of settop boxes as internet devices can be traced back to citizen-suggestions and pressure. On the evidence it seems LUS and LCG is able to listen. We can make a real difference. So…

What is next? What can we do to improve our community? There is no one else in the world that can answer those questions for us.

KVOL Gets Silly

According to a couple of friends KVOL has been hosting a rerun of the same old FUD attacks on the fiber optic network LUS is currently building. It’s August and, I suppose, they can’t find anything real to cover in these hot, lazy summer days. The latest bit of retread nonsense came yesterday when one of the 3 antifiber guys during the referendum, Neal Breakfield, was on the afternoon drive-time show. (He’s supposed to be on again this afternoon, so if you want to tune in and put up your two cents worth try 1330 AM from 4 to 6…It would be useful to remind him why his argument lost back during the fiber fight.)

The folks at KVOL are trying to make a go of this talk radio thing. (And not too successfully apparently: The last Arbitron rating has the station bringing up the rear with a 24 out of 28 rating in our market based on a .5 market share.) They’ve apparently decided that being anti-everything is the formula for success in talk radio—but it’s not working so far. Maybe only about .5 percent of people of Lafayette are that negative.

Be that as it may, the current jihad they’re apparently carrying on against the LUSFiber build is a nonstarter that is guaranteed to put them on the wrong side of most of the community. The whole issue was thoroughly “talked” out 3 years ago and the fiber advocates won a resounding victory at the polls. KVOL would do better to go after the nearly 2/3s of the population that voted for the idea and leave their .5 percent antis to the pleasant pursuit of complaining about unprofessional dress of the guys that cut grass along the highways and their neighbors’ chickens.

Update 8/15/08: Neal Breakfield has said in the comments that my remarks about KVOL’s Arbitron rates were “baseless.” They are not. Though Todd Elliot called and tried to demand that I take this post down and Stephanie Ware tried to make the same plea the truth is the truth. Arbitron does ranks KVOL at the bottom of the barrel in listenership. Neither Todd nor Stephanie tried to deny that what I said was true—they just didn’t, contrary to their fearless-truthtellers on-air personas, want the public (or their advertisers, I presume) to know this inconvenient truth about their own organization.

KVOL may well be on to something regarding their redflex crusade. I don’t think automated, privatized “policing” is wise public policy either. It might even do something for their ratings. But whatever good they do the community—or themselves—by pointing out real problems they lose when they make the common criticism that they are just “anti-everything” credible. Attacking even the good things this community is doing for itself is a sure-fire way to give ammunition to those who would criticize KVOL as merely anti-everything. Lafayette is pro-fiber. We proved it at the polls 3 years ago. Lafayette went through a huge public battle over fiber, the community was as well-informed as one can be over a complex public infrastructure issue. There were full page ads filled with the names of people and businesses that were willing to publicly support our fiber initiative. And the community decided to do for itself what the incumbents plainly said they would not do for us. The vote was 2 to 1. The people know what they want and they know what they voted for and hearing KVOL attack it only serves to confirm the idea that KVOL is anti-anything. I’m giving good advice here: if you have a good cause stick to it. Don’t muddy the waters.

The reader who wants to confirm KVOL’s rankings for themselves can travel to the Arbitron radio page and in the pull down menu on that page labled “market” select “Lafayette, LA.” There you will find that I was actually as generous as possible in my characterization of KVOL’s ranking in my original post. In the latest rankings, in Spring of ’08, Arbitron ranked KVOL as tied for last place with with KPEL and WYPY among ranked stations with all 3 clocking in at a .5% listenership.

Other corrections: I had mispelled Arbitron in the original post. That is now corrected. I’ve also included the link to the radio page in there.

It’s working in Bristol (TN & VA)

The fiber to the home projects in Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia are going great guns according to an article in the newspaper there. The Virginia project got going first and helped its sister city just across the border get started (it has extended its service regionally as well). The good news is that both projects, in a struggling area of Appalachia are signing up more customers than they had planned for and are are considerably ahead of their original business plan. About Tennessee:

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services has added far more customers in its first 18 months than projected, said Chief Executive Officer Mike Browder…

“Our cable and Internet is still growing,” Browder said. “At the end of March, we surpassed the two-year projection of our business plan.”

About Virginia:

“We’ve blown away our original business plan,” she said. “Our original projections were 35 percent of the market – as an over-builder – was good and 45 percent was outstanding. We’re at 65 percent.”

The projects, and their cities, are getting great publicity. Finally. They deserve it. Bristol has been used and abused by the incumbents across the nation. A group of corporate officers and a few well-funded “think tanks” have portrayed the project as an abysmal failure that revealed the incompetence of municipal utilities in general and Bristol’s officials in particular. Since “everyone knows” that government is inefficient and can’t compete too many accepted their claims at face value. It turns out that it was all a crock-a crock that was designed to serve as a PR tool for the incumbent corporations. BellSouth and Cox certianly trotted out those falsehoods here in Louisiana.

Folks who followed the intricacies of The Fight for Fiber in Lafayette will recall Bristol, Va–again and again the supposed failures of Bristol’s fiber to the home project were used to imply that LUS’ project would fail. (You know, Appalachians, Southerners, Cajuns & Creoles…) Trouble was, Bristol’s project was doing, and is doing, great. It was all strategic lies and misinformation.

A partial list of the falsehoods spread about Bristol by anti-fiber partisans in Lafyette:

  • 8/04: Right out of the gate at the so-called “Academic” Broadband Forum Bristol was held up to ridicule and “supporting” documents distributed to the press and the crowd that mislead the people of Lafayette about the true story of Bristol’s network. Mike, in one of the earliest entries on this site, methodically pulled the incumbnet argument apart–and presciently argued that showing disrespect for the citizens of Lafayette by peddling such stuff would boomerang on Cox and BellSouth.
  • 10/04: A Cox mailer to Lafayette’s “Important Leaders” contained the same sorts of misleading assertions concerning Bristol as the general public was treated to two months earlier.
  • 7/05: Stephen Titch, a writer of paid advertorials, published in the Advertiser an essay that compared the Bristol and LUS projects–unfavorably for both. An earlier version of the report the essay was based on had been submitted to the State Bond Commission. That document was funded by the incumbents and was originally designed to support their position that LUS should not be able to issue its bonds. (The commission found otherwise.)
  • 7/05: At the CODA debate between Fenstemaker (pro fiber) and Breakfield (anti) Breakfield repeats false or misleading claims about Bristol and other public utilities, claiming disastrous losses. Don Bertrand and Fenstemaker point out that any capital intensive business won’t make money while it is in the investment phase–even if it is meeting or exceeding its business plan.
  • 7/05: On the eve of the election Fiber 411 distributes a mass mailer prominently featuring a dishonestly manipulated quote from Bristol’s hometown newspaper—a qoute that inverts the real meaning of the paragraph from which it was drawn in a transparent attempt to make the people of Lafayette think the project had failed when, in fact, it was beating its business plan.
  • 4/06: Even after their referendum loss Cox continued to push tall tales about Bristol. A letter to the editor over the signature of Sharon Kleinpeter tied increases in Brisol’s utility rates to that city’s fiber project. However, the local paper there had documented that their increases had nothing to do with the fiber project.

Bristol has earned its day in the sun.

Municipal Campaign Strategy; Learning from Lafayette

So what did we all learn from the battle of Lafayette? I’ve been asked recently and have been thinking about it some…What follows is a first draft which focuses pretty much on the active strategies of the two sides as I see it. —It’s about what they tried to accomplish and where they wanted the conversation to go. This ignores some interesting larger factors (like trust in the mayor, or the relaxed southern Lousiana attitude toward government, or Lafayette’s peculiar ways of organizing influence, for instance) that could be considered important but background factors. It also mostly ignores the tactical questions–how the strategies were enacted–that are some of the more interesting things to come out of this fight. Instead this is a more birds-eye view of what, it seems to me, both sides might have learned from Lafayette’s fight for fiber.

First off, it’s pretty apparent that the incumbents don’t have much new up their sleeves. The campaign they waged here mirrored campaigns they’ve waged in the past. We didn’t see the as dramatic a finish as we saw in the Tri-Cities but that may well have been because the battle was already lost for BellSouth and Cox before the end arrived. But that doesn’t mean that their basic idea about what makes for an effective campaign has changed: the basic strategy of sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt seems pretty constant. The tactics seemed to involve a lot of replays as well…Push polls were used here, albeit pretty counter effectively. We got two last minute overexcited direct mail focusing on false claims about taxes, the repeatedly disproven idea that all municipal broadband (or even most) is failing, and silliness about the debt families are supposedly taken. Too, as in the Tri-Cities, an editorial writer who played a prominent role in the opposition was taken to task for unseemly involvement with the incumbents or their allies. The tactics were mostly retreads; what was different was that the predictable campaign was not fronted entirely by the incumbents themselves but, especially in the last days by their allies at Fiber 411.

One of the things the incumbents learned here was that long campaigns are bad for them. Given time, and an aggressive willingness to fight back, lies can be disproved, push polls turned to outrage, and promoting fear and insulting the intelligence of the locals begins to sour any possible relationship with the community. In Lafayette the fight went on for too long. The incumbents had to trot out their best weapons too early and pro-fiber partisans were able to correctly label them as FUD and drive home the message that the incumbents were not being truthful—a message that inoculated the public against further last minute lies.

Unfortunately, I think the incumbents also learned that, saved to the last minute, and promoted through a local proxy, their FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) approach can still be effective. I agree with Don’s analysis that the last minute mailers, the full page ads that simply reprinted a (non)local editorialist’s massively inaccurate take and automated phone calling about a new fantasy “debt” issue were effective. They were simply not effective enough. The local pro-fiber groups kept up a dogged insistence, even during the incumbents’ quietest moments, that the incumbents and their allies were not truthful. Radio time remained filled with a recut version of the push poll and Lafayette Coming Together (LCT) was relentless in pushing the issue. LCG and LUS, while toning down this message near the end and moving it away from the Terry and Joey, never fully abandoned it.

What the pro-municipal fiber forces learned was probably more valuable: that they can win. The overwhelming economic power of the incumbents can be blunted. Their willingness to leave accuracy and truthfulness aside in the pursuit of their own interests can be turned against them. What it takes is something that most municipal officials will not have the stomach for: a full throated attack on some of the most powerful corporations in their city. Telephone corporations have a long history of being the most “generous” investors in state election campaigns and the most powerful lobbying force in state legislatures. Cable companies control what politicians understand to be the most powerful media in town. Lafayette was willing to fight with a strong local and populist message that clearly labeled its opposition as “greedy” “out-of-state” “monopolies.” The spectacle of our Mayor and the head of the utility system “standing up” for Lafayette in a press conference after every bit of misinformation spread by the incumbents and being uncompromising in calling them on each and every false claims was crucial to the campaign. Driving home the message that the incumbents self-interest and greed was driving this process was invaluable in resisting the final onslaught.

There is little doubt that Lafayette had advantages that might not be available in all locales. The bravery of the leadership and its willingness to call a monopoly, a monopoly and greed, greed has already been noted and was tremendously important. There was also a determined, deliberately broad-based coalition of citizens that made it hard to paint the project as one fostered by wealthy technocrats. The coalition group, Lafayette Coming Together, was also quite sophisticated about the use of both old and new media. But the greatest advantage was a pride of place born out of a realistic belief that the region, and Lafayette as the heart of that region, is unique and not subject to rules imposed on us by outsiders. It mixture of cultures, its cultural identities, and the ways the people have found to sustain their cultures make it very difficult for outsiders to successfully come in and infer that the locals are incompetent or successfully introduce effective divisive tactics. (One of the more despicable strategies, used all the way through and culminating in simple lies on Black radio near the end, was to try and split the Creole and black communities away from the rest of the community by using historical resentments which had nothing to do with the issue at hand. Without the aid of community leaders this attempt did not take hold. But the attempt is destined to be one of the longest remembered stains on the campaign of the incumbents and their allies.) Most communities have never had to develop that sort of resilience in the face of outside disapproval but the communities of Acadiana are very good at dismissing outsiders.

Other considerations that helped support a victory in Lafayette appear to be a result of market and national policy worries of the incumbents. Fights like the one in the Tri-Cities can be considered Pyrrych victories—the cost was high, not necessarily in terms of money, but in terms of their reputation both locally and nationally. The cable and telephone companies simply are regional monopolies in their core business and maintaining a favorable regulatory relations at the state level and franchise agreements at the local level depend upon their being perceived as good, or at least benign, local citizens. It will surely take a decade or more to regain that status in the Tri-Cities; even voters who succumbed to the arguments of the incumbents could not help but notice the fear-based tactics that were used to bring them along. There was no large federal issue ongoing at the time of the fight in Illinois. But major initiatives of both the Cable and the Phone companies are before statehouses and more importantly, the Congress. The centrally important 1996 telecom act is up for revision this legislative season, in but one example. An ugly, high-profile attack on Lafayette when the defenders were willing to fight back by identifying the incumbent corporations as “greedy monopolists” may well have been too much to stomach for those at corporate central who felt they had bigger fish to fry and to much to lose to risk that sort of battle in a single small city.

Finally there is the basic market motivation: too much bad behavior damages the bottom line–if you lose. Surely BellSouth and Cox had done their own polling and could read the writing on the wall as well as anyone. The referendum was going to succeed and p0lling no doubt showed that the first reaction of the population to a new round of misinformation would turn more people against them than it gained. If there was any doubt about that the swift and overwhelmingly hostile reaction to the second push poll this summer proved the point that the usual incumbent tactics had become counter-productive. The hard truth was that BellSouth and Cox still had to compete in Lafayette and a loss in a full scale assault would have immediately pushed the likely “take rate” among voters past 5o% percent if corporate behavior turned a “Yes” vote into a vote against Cox and BellSouth. Working through proxies and saving the mail pieces and scare phoning until the end when they could not be answered might well have been all that can be done without damaging their market position by turning the referendum into a marketing tool for LUS.

Lafayette’s battle deserves, I believe, to be seen as one model for regaining local control of crucial monopoly infrastructure. The underlying populist message of local self-determination and legitimate anger toward regional monopolies like BellSouth and Cox was what drove the winning argument in Lafayette. People saw nothing wrong with building for themselves a network that the incumbents refused to build for them. Similarly, people do understand that these companies are monopolies whose bottom line has nothing to do with what is best for the communities across the country in which they reside. That is the core upon which electoral success was built. Lafayettes’ leadership, her aware citizens’ group, a committed ‘old Lafayette’ leadership, and the way her cultural distinctiveness played out made the message relatively easy to develop and denied the opposition virtually all local assets. Other communities might not share those particular advantages but the anti-incumbent message that can win has now been established and future communities can sharpen the message and develop their own resources.

Lafayette can be proud to have developed a winning model and strategy—not without help of course, but with plenty of verve. It will be up to our successors to sharpen the tool and make it more generally useful.

Misinformation Alert: Mail Piece

Fiber Supporters,

A misleading mail piece has gone out to Lafayette residents. The text below which is in bold refers to charges in the 4- page mailer. The design of the piece is meant to elicit Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt…Large, screaming headlines dominate the piece. (The headline on the front page is literally being screamed by a young boy.) The flyer hopes to gain some credibility by quoting newspapers but, unfortunately for the author’s arguments, the sort of selective quotation you find there only serves to put the reader on notice that the argument being made cannot be supported any other way.

This is a return to the sorts of deliberately misleading tactics that we saw in the two push polls and in the so-called academic broadband forum. It is an attempt to manipulate the people of Lafayette.

Please take a moment to read this note. Talk to your friends, neighbors, and family about the real explanations of the points raised. Don’t be fooled and don’t let your people be fooled either.

Page 1:
Marietta sold at a loss:
The Marietta system has nothing in common with LUS’ plan. It was a speculative wholesale system that marketed bandwidth to large companies far beyond the boundaries of the city by taking advantage of peculiar Georgia laws. Even so it was breaking even when it was sold to fulfill a campaign promise. The new owner retained the whole staff and continues to pursue the original business model.

It has nothing to do with Lafayette’s Fiber to the Home business plan. BellSouth, Cox, and Fiber 411 know this. And until this flyer hit the 411 guys had quit trying to use it; it made them far too easy targets. But when there’s no time to point out how foolish this is the temptation was too great…

Bristol-losses and rate hikes
This part of the flyer is an ugly attempt to lie to people by selectively quoting the local Bristol newspaper. Here is the context for the part of the paragraph that the flyer reproduces. The part the opponents of Lafayette’s plan have chosen to pull out of context is marked in red. Read the red parts first and then read the full paragraph. This is simply and plainly dishonest; it distorts the plain meaning of the paragraph:

A year after it became one of the few public utilities in the country offering full telecommunications services, Bristol Virginia Utilities is beating its business plan and reaching its goals more quickly than expected. Still, BVU experienced unexpectedly heavy losses in 2003 because of legal and regulatory obstacles and raised its cable rates by as much as 15 percent. Competitors continue to complain about the public utility’s unfair advantages over private enterprise; a battle over the legality of BVU’s telephone service drags on. But customers are signing up – and staying with the service – in unexpected numbers, Chief Executive Officer Wes Rosenbalm said. BVU is one of growing number of public utility providers around the country using public money to get into the traditionally private-sector telecom business. It traditionally had provided electric, water and wastewater services. BVU now offers a suite of services including cable, phone and Internet access under the title BVU OptiNet.

Notice please, that the article mentions losses ONLY in the context of celebrating the fact that those losses were not enough to keep the utility from reaching its goals only a year later.

Page 2:
Fiber has been a failure….
Cut through the hysterical tone of this paragraph and notice that all they really mention is Marietta, and Bristol. –The examples of failure which, as we saw when we went over page one were either not failures or had nothing to do with Lafayette.

Extra Taxes and Extra Debt….higher rates
As the incumbent providers and Fiber 411 well know BellSouth’s law, passed last summer, forbids “cross subsidization”—meaning that it is against the law to use money from rate hikes in the rest of the utilities to support the telecom side. BellSouth, of all “people” should know that. They drafted the law. As to taxes: are NO taxes involved with this project. It is all to be paid for from revenue that people willingly offer to purchase services they find valuable. New taxes MUST be voted on by the people of the parish before they can be levied. This is pure fear-mongering.

Private Companies offer the same service:
This untrue. “Other” companies will not offer Fiber to the Home and have firmly and repeatedly said so. Fiber to the home is not the same thing as fiber to the curb. Fiber to the Curb is BellSouth marketing-speak for the more accurate term “fiber to the node.” In fiber to the home the fiber goes to the home. Period. BellSouth’s fiber to the curb plan takes fiber to within 500 feet of the home…1 and 2/3 football fields. I suggest you go out of the front door of your home and mentally count all the homes that are within 1 and 2/3rds football fields. That is how many people you would have to share the bandwidth of a single strand of fiber with. It just isn’t the same as having your own. And no one should try to tell you so.

Page 3

Marietta again. Repetition doesn’t make it any truer. See the response to page one.

Bristol again. Repetition doesn’t make it any truer. See the response to page one.

I don’t have the facts to hand about Ashland. Sorry. I’ll dig around. Maybe Ashland is in trouble….but I’d want to look it up myself before I accepted that as true based on the quality of the “research” shown in this flyer.

Page 4
Don’t Let Lafayette be the Next National Headline.
That’s the entire text of the page in large, bold, type. Lafayette Coming Together suggests just the opposite: Vote Yes, For Fiber, and Lafayette will make national headlines for having stood up to the incumbents and for having decided to invest in ourselves and our city’s future…

PS: if this sort of stuff offends you; please consider joining our volunteer effort to get out the vote as a way of counteracting it.

To Phone Bank Friday and Saturday:

To work on getting out the vote on Saturday:
(put a note in the comments box that you’d like to do election day work)