LUS Reveals Long-Term Plans

(Please note: this was first published on April 1st. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the following is simply true and more is actually planned; what isn’t true is credible IMHO…the fun is in figuring out just what the status of each claim is. Might be worth coming back next year.)

LUS has revealed its long-term plans!! Sorta. A daylight savings glitch apparently caused a timed press release to be sent early. (This sort of thing has happened before.)

After a press release dated tomorrow, Friday, showed up in PR inboxes across the city mid-morning calls to LUS and an embarrassed George Graham (from whose office the missive was mailed) confirm its authenticity. The surprise release gives an amazing amount of detail (7 loosely organized pages) about topics the local utility has always deemed “proprietary information.”

Said Huval:

Yes, It’s real…We just decided that since it has become extremely clear that Cox and the Independent’s FOI [Freedom of Information] requests will force us to reveal many details that would remain private were we a privately owned company like Cox or the The Independent we’ve decided to make the best of a bad situation. If we can’t keep our competitors from using and critics from revealing much of our proprietary information we’ve decided that a pre-emptive strike is our best bet. We’ll simply tell our community—our owners—everything we are hoping to do and see what their reaction is. Hopefully we’ll get good feedback that will help us make final decisions. [Pause] Besides most of this stuff is either obvious or nothing Cox or AT&T can do anything about anyway. Why not let the community know?

Huval declined to elaborate on what was meant by “extremely clear.”

Said Graham:

Yes, it’s for real. No, it’s not supposed to have gone out quite yet….the attached pages haven’t been fully edited and organized…that’s pretty much the way it came over from LUS and our writers haven’t much of a chance to whip it into shape. There’ll be a better version this evening. The thing was on automatic send for tomorrow. There’s some sort of time glitch in Outlook that’s in the news this morning…our IT intern is supposed to be on it. I’m not a happy camper.

The pages are pretty much a mess…. But the substance is pretty visionary. No need for LPF’s reporting to wait till the evening. If we can get even half this stuff done….well…. I’m impressed.

On to the good stuff as I see it; extracted from the PDF, organized into my categories:

Major points:
LUS is planning a set of hardware upgrades to the network

  1. The local backbone electronics are being upgraded to 10 Gbps as we speak. [This is about 2 years earlier than the first electronics upgrade anticipated the business plan.]
  2. New 1 gig-capable CPE equipment [the box on the side of your house] has been ordered and installs done after May 1st will use it; early adopters with 100 meg equipment will be upgraded “according to demand.”
  3. The 100 meg intranet is being upgraded to 1 gig [LUS has always talked, awkwardly, about the intranet as a “full available capacity” feature and this upgrade is consistent with that stance since the CPE was the choke point before…but: wow.]
  4. A 100 meg symmetrical internet connection will be available for retail customers. (100 megs is currently only available in a “business” package though a household is allowed to buy that package if it wishes. Presumably the retail version will be cheaper.)

LUS is upgrading their set top boxes, software and hardware

  1. The software upgrade comes first and is due March 15th.
  2. The plan is to install new MS Media Room software “beginning” on that date. (no hint on whether you’ll have to bring your box in or if an over the network upgrade is possible. Either way expect an uncomfortable transition moment.)
  3. A set top hardware upgrade is planned for August. Upgrades will be available to current “upper tier users on demand.” (Why switch boxes? no hint…)

A WiFi network will extend the fiber. This has long been in the plan, both Terry Huval and Joey Durel have stated their intent in public forums but no concrete plan has emerged before today.

  1. The network will consist of both public and private “channels.” (Presumeably the “private” channels will serve safety functions — there’s been a lot of discussion of GPS costs on the council recently and this would be a very cheap way to address location issues inside Lafayette.)
  2. The public side will exclusively use 802.11N and will be offered on a “best effort” basis
  3. 1 meg of symmetrical wireless service will be offered to everyone on a “guest” basis.
  4. Subscribers to internet service get free “best effort” service. (WiFi N is rated as high as 600 Mbit/s ( but I doubt we’ll see such speed—but 50 or a 100 wouldn’t be impossible considering LUS’ rejection of the bandwidth-sapping mesh architectures that hobble most muni networks.)
  5. Probably associated with the wireless issue: “The CPE [Customer Premise Equipment] will equipped with a wireless repeater node.” (I’m not sure I fully understand that but I’m pretty sure I like it.)
  6. Cellular interoperability for “select” WiFi phones from “a major carrier.” (?)

Digital Divide/ Digital Inclusion, the one sheet devoted to this and is in a different format for what that is worth. Digtial divide and digital inclusion are used interchangeably, possibly this is the beginning of the Graham Groups rewrite…digital inclusion is the newer term.

  1. There will be a comprehensive DD/DI program whether or not the current application for a stimulus grant is won. That is, support for community computer centers is planned for a “slower rollout” if the grant bid fails.
  2. The WiFi node in the new CPE is cited as part of this.
  3. The new set top box is also mentioned in this regard. Apparently it has on-box memory that is regarded as necessary to use this box as a “fully functional” web browser. (The current WAP-based browser in the set top box, while innovative, is simply not practically useable.)
  4. The free 1 meg of wifi to all is mentioned again on this page.
  5. Discussion of supporting “NAD’s” seems to refer mainly to smartphones and perhaps to the new iPad and recent netbooks. (Network Attached Devices is an odd generic term to use and may refer to a recent LWV study and other local mention.)

Things I don’t understand….
Well, there’s actually plenty I’m not sure I understand; the doc could use a lot of clean-up. I’ve tried to stick to reporting stuff that made sense to me. The upcoming release of a cleaned-up version should help a lot.

  1. There’s stuff in there about a media server and AOC that are opaque to me… also stuff about VLANs and remote access to the same. (I need to do some research to get into this.) AOC is also mentioned in reference to support for its “new location” (?) and server space in the front-end for “multi-format web-based VOD.” (again ?)
  2. There’s stuff about cloud computing, standardizing access protocols, and “supporting” a unified data access categories “scheme” that probably means something to some readers but doesn’t to me. (help?)
  3. Interoperability & “widgets:” A lot of emphasis throughout the doc is placed on interoperability and widget-based interfaces. APIs are mentioned that would support incoming phone calls on the TV, Caller ID, remote login to video recording features, etc. The Media Room product supports some light programming so apparently the idea is to allow local 3rd party developers access to some (but not all) of the hooks.

Ok folks, that’s a lot to digest. A dream-list. I presume they’re not wedded to it all and Huval explicitly asked for input from the community. What do you really want LUS to get behind?

“LUS: Fiber schedule, meetings, software and more

Who DAT! You Dat! 🙂
If you’re recovering from Saints fever I have just the antidote. A long post on the latest in Lafayette’s fiber fortunes. If you’re starting to think that maybe anything is possible, well, read on.

Amanda McElfresh over at the Advertiser has an article up that apparently derives from following up remarks made by Joey Durel in his state of the city-parish address. In that speech (video) Durel devoted a fair amount of his time to touting the LUS Fiber network (@ minute 8:00). He revealed publicly what had been widely rumored locally: LUS Fiber was far ahead of schedule, and that the city-wide availability was expected by July, 18 months into a 24 month schedule. Durel linked the completion of the network to a series of meetings meant to engage the community with discussing what the “fiber-powered future” could look like.

Discussing that Fiber-Powered Future
As long time readers and friends will recall the general idea that Lafayette’s people need to get involved meetings that would shape the future of the new network is something I’ve long advocated. Both here and and in various community groups like Lafayette Coming Together and the League of Women Voters. So the ears pricked up at the idea that the City-Parish President would be promoting a series of meetings to look at our fiber utility and the future of our city.

The first item on Durel’s list of community meetings is “campfiber” a series, according to Durel, of “participant-driven conferences will be opportunities for local innovators to share their projects, get feedback from the community and for everybody to discuss their fiber-powered future.” There have been several CampFiber meetings already (LPF coverage) and to date they’ve been strongly oriented toward software developers as participants and not toward public response or discussion. If they are to serve the purpose Durel describes they’ll have to change. Engaging the imagination of the technology-types is crucial, of course—they’ve got more to dream with—but two other groups will be needed as well: the public and LCG/LUS. Both are crucial to a worthwhile discussion. The need for public involvement is obvious. But just as critical is a fully engaged LCG administration and LUS. LUS and the administration did attend and engage at the first campfiber. But in the end that participation seemed mostly defensive; real progress here will require the developer and the larger community be given more information with which to work. Two useful models occur to this writer: bring together distinct community groups beyond developers—nonprofits, church, medical, educational, creatives, small business, and neighborhoods all come to mind and ask them what a community-owned network could do for their sectors. (The Lafayette League of Women Voters has held the prototype of this model in two meetings involving nonprofits and community service organizations with fair success.) The other angle would be to organize around specific elements of the new system…for example: channel selection, internet storage, TV-phone integration, TV-internet integration, or set-top box uses (I can guarantee interest in the set top box.) For CampFiber meetings to engage the community will require focus and commitment from LUS and LCG.

The other item on Durel’s list of meetings was Fiber Fete (website) which he described as designed to “bring experts from around the world to Lafayette to meet with local innovators to discuss what our fiber future looks like and plan on how to get to there from here.” I’ve talked with the organizers—David Isenberg and Geoff Daily—and sit on what passes for the local board. The quote from Durel is just about the current extent of the planning; it is only now getting into any concrete planning. I’ve pushed for a more consistently social approach and for bring in speakers who are prepared to speak about how technology can be part of making communities stronger and people within them more active and powerful participants. Too many “visionary” tech conferences are trapped by the amazing technical wizardry and raw possibility of new technologies. Others go beyond that narrow vision only to focus solely on the business potential of these same technologies. While both of those motives are proper enough in their place that is not what a new community network needs and I’d hate to see
Fiber Fete captured by such limited visions. What’s needed is a sense of how powerful communications technologies can be leveraged to create a stronger community and a more active and informed citizenry. (I am aware of the irony of suggesting that at a moment when deconsolidation is the talk of the town.) Having David Isenberg as one of the chief organizers gives me considerable hope that we might actually be able to accomplish this. His Freedom To Connect Conferences (F2C) are directly about promoting the idea that ensuring that we can freely connect to one another over the new network is the modern equivalent of freedom of assembly and free speech…That, rather than technical gee-whizary, is the right starting point for Lafayette and its people (not merely its “innovators”) to start their thinking about a the responsibilities of a community-owned network.

For any of these public meetings to be useful rather than ornamental they’ll have to involve more than the usual crowd labeled “innovators” — they’ll need to involve a real cross-section of the community’s most active citizens and the sense that LUS and LCG are open to sharing the information the community needs to assess what the network can accomplish and the sense that their conclusions will matter after the conference closes. That’s a tall order. But it’s one worth striving for.

The Rest of the Story
But Sunday’s report had a lot of fiber news beyond the revelation of an early completion date and the prospect of public meetings. The new customer service center that we’ve heard about for so long is now scheduled to open by June. Says LUS’ Huval:

a customer service center set to open at the corner of Pinhook and Kaliste Saloom roads by June. The building will include samples of LUS Fiber products, and will also be equipped to handle the needs of utilities customers, thus freeing up some of the gridlock at the customer service center at City Hall.

That will coincide with the completion of the network and, hopefully, a more vigorous public relations campaign promoting the new network.

Huval continues to be coy about adoption rates but says that “many” thousands have joined up. I’ve talked to friends who talk about most of their block or street moving over. I can’t say that of my northside neighborhood and suspect that take rates are a very local phenomena at this early moment.

What should be welcome news was the declaration that LUS Fiber is going to be going through its first major upgrade. Again, from Terry Huval:

“It’s tied to the set-top boxes and enhanced DVR services,” he said. “It was a technology that was not completely ready for us to use when we deployed our system, and it’s something that’s not costly to us.”

The software used on the Motorola boxes just isn’t very good…it’s older and the interface is a pain to use. So I don’t use it. Now I am an interface nerd of sorts and also refused to use Cox’s set top box software. With both LUS and Cox I have done most of my TV watching via the two old TiVo’s that sit precariously perched on a rickity table by the widescreen. My understanding is that the new software will be an iteration of Microsofts’ Media Room. That software package has been used by Verizon in its FiOS FTTH build out in the northeast. Verizon also uses the same family of Microsoft set top boxes that LUS has purchased so it should be a fairly mature implementation and full-featured platform. It will also be a much easier basis on which to build extended services than the Alcatel-supplied software currently in use. Heck it might even be usable.

A real concern has to be the internet capability which was the bright spot in the less-than-stellar Alcatel software. That feature is a great idea but its current reliance on a WAP-based browser both limits its practical utility and makes it extremely dificult to use. That capacity exists in the set top box and represents LUS’ most innovative attempt to date to bridge the digital divide in Lafayette. It should be possible to utilize it on Mircrosoft’s software–after all media room for the PC allows for internet connections. If it is not baked in developing a real net connection would make a great contest with which to involve local developers.

Set Tops Boxes…yet more

The set top box follies is turning into a long-running show. The latest show is back in Washington where the FCC has just issued a waiver to a cable company for their new set top box. The new waiver joins other recent decisions that mark a continued retreat on the part of the FCC from enforcing its long-standing “rule” that demanded that providers of cable services separate security from navigation. This was supposed to fix things so that you could go out and buy a set top navigation box made by a third party like TiVo and use the provider’s security apparatus to make sure you weren’t stealing service you hadn’t paid for. It’s a good idea—put the FCC has never consistently enforced it and in recent years has backed off requiring the cable card technology that it once relied on to provide the security end. The new waiver significantly extends the latest rationale for setting aside its own rules:

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday granted a three-year waiver to Evolution Broadband for two low-cost set-top boxes that do not include CableCards — a blanket exemption to the so-called “integration ban” that could pave the way for cable operators to deploy much less expensive set-tops.

The sub-$50 devices from Evolution Broadband covered under the waiver are one-way “limited-capability devices” that provide integrated security, referred to in the industry as digital terminal adapters. The boxes convert digital signals to analog format and don’t provide advanced functions like digital video recording.

Under the waiver, Evolution Broadband is allowed to provide the set-top units to any cable operator. The FCC reached the decision May 28 and issued the order Tuesday.

“It’s pretty clear — it’s an unlimited waiver,” John Egan Sr., chairman of Evolution Broadband, said in an interview with Multichannel News. “It’s something the industry should have done years ago.”

There are a couple of interesting things about the waiver. First, as the article indicates it is effectively an unlimited waiver for the alternate technology: anyone with the need can by one of these cheaper boxes and deploy it. That’s opens the floodgates pretty wide and skirts the edge of simply repealing the rule; albiet in favor of a single company—a favor that can’t long be reserved for one maker. Note, too, that LUS’ request for exemption is also about money—their application notes that the technology is simply not available at any cost for the Lafayette network and that LUS can’t afford to develop the technology on its own.

Another interesting thing, especially in light of Cox’s opposition to LUS’ waiver, is the way that the involvement of the American Cable Association highlights Cox’s purely mercenary motives in opposing Lafayette’s waiver. The cable industry as a whole (not excluding Cox) has benefited by repeated extensions of waivers and the ACA is quick to laud any exemption for its members. (See also another recent waiver for a cable company.) Cox’s opposition has nothing to do with principle or even self-interest in the broader sense-it has demanded and received similar waivers for its own operations. It’s opposition is purely about trying to game the FCC to gain a momentary advantage in one small city in south Louisiana.

Set top boxes are interesting (they are!) because of the critical position they occupy in the video/cable ecology. Everything passes through the set top box and as the number of channels expands and the sources of video multiply—think Amazon or Netflix—the capacity and openness of the set top box has profound implications for how the “broadcasting” industry evolves. In general Cox and other incumbents are hoping to control the experience (and dollars) of users by controlling the box. They want to own the box and use it to promote everything from Pay Per View to security services to its own controlled versions of internet downloads. They also want to make sure that you don’t simply start watching your shows through net-based services like Hulu and Netflix. And they want to make extra-sure that the set top box doesn’t evolve your TV screen into another, bigger montior to simply switch your attention over to the internet; a competing media that is already cutting deep into the “eyeballs” that are needed to support the “cable” services that all players count on for revenue.

Freeing the set top box from the constraints of the cable/broadcast model would be hugely beneficial. Especially if it leads to erasing the wall between the cable service and the internet service. That’s what incumbent providers most fear. LUS is unique on this continent for having opened a crack in that wall by making internet service directly available through its set top box and onto the screen. You can read wikipedia (alibeit pretty clunkily) in your house in Lafayette with NO computer and that is the real value—and threat—behind LUS’ use of the set top box.

NOTE: I’ve been repeating a mistake for quite a while on this blog that is related to the set top box issue: LUS cable service is not translated from digital to analog at the wall of the house. Instead it’s translated from digital into analog at the headend and sent on its own wavelength of light to side of the house where its combined with data signals from the internet side and piped over the coax to your set top box or TV. I’m not sure of how to understand this distinction; when you get deep into the tech and physics the line between analog and digital can get pretty blurry—especially when you’re talking of going from digital to analog and back and layering together purely digital and “made analog” signals on the same pipe. I’ve been promised a clearer explanation of the new description of how things work. And when I get it I’ll pass it on.

More Expensive than Hurricanes

Having lavished some ink on Cox today it only seems fair to give a little attention to AT&T, Lafayette’s other incumbent friend in this digtial age.

An article in Multichannel News reports on AT&T’s slowdown in builidng out its “fiber to the node” network. FTTN is the half-measure that was supposed to be the less costly but adequate reply to Verizon’s more capable fiber to the home rebuilding program.

AT&T’s strategy isn’t working and it is scaling back its investment:

AT&T tacked on 264,000 U-verse TV subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2008, but video and other growth areas were more than offset by dropping wireline voice connections, and the telco also said it would scale back capital spending on building out the U-verse network.

That’s really no surprise and the scuttlebut about U-verse pullbacks has been going on all year. But what really caught my eye was the following:

the telco said costs associated with subsidizing sales of the popular iPhones reduced pretax fourth-quarter earnings by approximately $450 million. Costs related to hurricanes, by comparison, reduced pretax earnings by approximately $120 million.

Really!? In a year that boasted major storms Fay, Gustav, and Ike making landfall in its territory the iPhone ate into its (still substantial) profits more than hurricanes? I bet the denizens of Houston, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge are going to be surprised. Especially as the people of the gulf coast states shoulder the burden of making up those “losses” for AT&T. There’s a grim oblique humor in this sort of thing that the residents of Louisiana south of the interstate have grown to savor. (The iPhone has earlier been lauded in these pages a great NAD and digital divide device…)

Still, hasn’t the iPhone been a great thing for AT&T? If my life is any indication it has been…I was at one of those geeky/food/socials for an out of town tech maven that seem to be a Lafayette trademark on Sunday and once people started calling around for early-season crawfish the woman at the end of the table looked around and remarked that 7 of the 8 attendees had pulled out iPhones. Even six months ago there’d have been a healthy mix of Blackberries and CE machines in the mix. No longer. And apparently that’s not far out the ordinary:

AT&T hung its subscriber numbers on the board this morning: 2.1 million Net Gain in Wireless Subscribers in the fourth quarter and…1.9 million Apple iPhone 3G activations.

That’s worth pausing a moment to consider one more time: 1.9 million Apple iPhone 3G activations – in the fourth quarter alone…

The iPhone was a rival killer – About 40 percent of the customers carrying the device that Steve Jobs built (so to speak) are new customers to AT&T. How many used to send their monthly bills to Sprint, Verizon or T-Mobile USA?

Even wth the estimated 325-425 dollar subsidy that AT&T apparently lays out that’s surely a good thing for the company.

In the long term.

And therein lies the irony for this resident of Lousiana’s flood plain who has been primed for a little grim humor by the earlier news about the iPhone being more expensive for AT&T than our hurricanes. You see, what AT&T is doing is smart, modestly daring business: it is spending money upfront on the promise of getting all those high-margin, big-spending iphone customers for the long time. But it is, almost certainly, losing serious money on the front side and cross-subsidizing this venture with revenue from other aspects of its far-flung empire.

AT&T in its earlier guise as BellSouth was responsible for writing the law that denies Lafayette’s local utility, LUS, the ability to make a similar smart decision to bear upfront losses for long-term gains. There was a lot of preening and huffing and puffing about “cross-subsidization” by AT&T lobbyists and regional vice presidents as if that were some sort of bad thing. As if the money that AT&T realized from its monopoly on landline telephones hadn’t cross-subsidized its move into the expensive wireless regime that now is its the engine of its growth.

It’s darkly funny. I guess.

“LUS’ superfast fiber”

The Advocate published an article, LUS’s Superfast Fiber, this morning as its way of marking the imminent launch of LUS Fiber. I’m pleased to report that it didn’t focus on pricing and marketing details but instead chose to explore “what the new system could mean for the community.”

The top of the story looks at internet speeds:

The fastest connection offered by LUS will be 50 Mbps for a standalone cost of $58 — a speed available in few markets and generally costing more than twice as much.

Connection speeds from customer to customer on the fiber system within Lafayette will be at 100 Mbps, regardless of which connection plan a customer buys.

“100 megs peer-to-peer is mind-blowing,” said John St. Julien, a retired education professor who was part of a grass-roots push for a publicly owned fiber optic system.

It’s so fast that few people see a present need for such speed, which makes it all the more interesting for people like St. Julien.

“The part that I can’t imagine is what I’m most excited about,” he said.

A couple of caveats: As I understand it the 50 meg speed is simply the highest standard tier…if you want more, you can talk to LUS about it. I expect they’ll eventually get around to standardizing a policy on such. LUS’ standard Customer Premise Equipment (the box on the side of the house) tops out at 100 megs at the default internet port but conceiveably that could be doubled by using the second port currently reserved for video traffic.

The 100 megs is indeed mind blowing…and it’s less the speed than the fact that it will be symmetrical which will make interactive, participatory conversations the equal of one-way passive experiences which predominate on our cable and internet media. Right now the quality of passive intertainment and communication far outstrips the quality of active ones because upload speed are a small fraction of download speeds. But we humans much prefer conversation…as is evidenced by the fact that we made texting a surprise essential on cell phones, greedily tolerate cell phone quality audio to continue talking to friends and loved ones on the go, and that (amazingly) email remains the killer app of the internet and the one factor that moves those still offline into the digital realm. LUS’ symmetrical connections makes what we really want —a human connection— an equal player and I fully expect that we’ll find ways to mashup community experiences as soon as we have the bandwidth to make such dreams possible. For instance, I can imagine serving up a high-def video out my local cache to a couple of households around town (say a Northside championship game?) onto nice big TV screeens while holding video chat play-by-plays with four or five special buddies on our laptops. In the background my wife commiserates with their wives in a separate video chat. (The social dynamics remain the same. 🙂 ) Could that swallow up some bandwidth? Is it technically possible now? Yes…yes indeed. If we had the bandwidth. And that’s only the start. Classrooms, good classrooms, are good conversations and tech-enabled teaching will only flourish when tech-enabled conversation is a rich equal to passive teaching designs.

But as mind-blowing as that much symmetrical speed is there’s more…..everyone, everyone, who purchases internet service from LUS will be able to communicate at that unheard-of speed. This punches up the value for all. The fancy academic term for this is “network effects.” The classic example is telephones: when one in a thousand has a phone it’s almost useless. But when we all have phones and cell phones disembodied, at-a-distance speech no longer seems magical and has become a natural, inevitable, even inescapble part of our everyday life. LUS’ brilliance lies in incorporating that bandwidth in all net services at a very low price…in making it ubiquitous they make their cheap connections much more valuable than by merely making them fast. When one in a thousand has interoperable video phones the things are a silly curiousity…but when everyone gets access to such service they suddenly have huge utility.

100 megs of symmetrical, uniformly available, connections is really amazing and the fact that we can’t imagine all the details of how we will use them doesn’t mean that the emergence of such uses isn’t as inevitable as hurricanes in September.

Of course, the story does do some imagining of its own:

At any of the speeds offered by LUS, regular media downloads would be exceptional, multiuser video games on the Internet would flow smoothly, video conferencing would be a more pleasant experience, and interactive virtual classrooms would seem a real possibility.

Huval imagines a city where working at home becomes easier for folks who deal with the types of massive computer files that have trouble squeezing through residential Internet connections.

Video gaming is currently the driver pushing both hardware and network speed and quality forward. Lafayette will soon be the premiere place for tournaments and the local hotelier, gaming outlets, and conference centers really ought to be gearing up now.

Burgess’ exploration of possibilities ends at a review of the digital divide potential of LUS’ set-top boxes.

LUS Fiber customers will be able to access e-mail and the Internet without a computer through a basic Internet browser programmed into the TV set-top box.

A customer could plug a keyboard into the set-top box or navigate the Internet through arrow keys on the remote control and type with a virtual keyboard that pops up on the television screen.

Huval said he is aware of no other system in the United States that allows Internet access through the television.

LUS Fiber will be built out in phases, with the first phase including the area east of Evangeline Thruway and in the Johnston Street corridor from University Avenue past the Mall of Acadiana.

The set-top box solution will surely push internet access into more homes than any conceivable alternative way to connect to the internet. These features are built into current set-top boxes but are so seldom activated by private for-profit corporations that they haven’t been upgraded. Consequently they are underpowered by the measure of most advanced users. But they do allow access to those parts of the web that motivate adoption: email and simple browsing. With luck (and work) the next generation will be more capable and these devices will prove bridges to more robust access. None of that should take away from the fact that LUS is actually doing three VERY substantial things to close the digital divide: 1) lowering prices, 2) offering a much faster, more robust service for that price, and 3) offering a no-additional-price way to get on the network.

Why Lafayette?
It’s a great thing, all in all, and the doubter in us all has to ask: why here? Why does Lafayette get such great stuff? Well the short, prideful answer is that we fought for it. Where other cities backed off scared of the battle or were defeated in the fight Lafayette refused to back off and, in fact, waged an aggressive, scarring battle with the incumbent carriers. So vigorous was the fight that by the time the vote was held the incumbents had largely ceded the field. But that is only a part of the answer as to “why in Lafayette, La?” The rest has to do with the fact that this network is local and publically owned. People, regular citizens, fought for a real digital divide program. Regular, local, geek-types and businessmen insisted that a full-throttle intranet was both possible and desireable and made themselves irritating enough that the possibility was really explored—and found to be perfectly feasible after all.

The secret sauce in Lafayette is local, public ownership with responsive leadership. The sort of ownership that makes its citizen/owners believe they have a real stake and real influence. As long as those factors remain LUS has a bright future and its citizens can and should learn to expect, demand, and indeed create, more of the same.

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.)

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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: First Local Media Report

Today’s Independent carries what will undoubtedly be the first many stories on Lafayette’s new community-owned fiber-optic system. It’s contains exciting details of the sort that will lead to extensive national coverage when they are officially announced.*

Sadly, you have to wait until the latter half of the story to catch a whiff of the excitement. The Independent leads with graphics, a head and a subhead that distract from what ought to be the meat of the story. While granting that there is more than a bit of the usual media tendency to try and generate excitement with sensationalized coverage, this wound is largely self-inflicted.

The Lead
First, note the dire graphics visible in the print/pdf version. Then see the Head: “Ready for Prime Time?” And Subhead: “Lafayette Utilities System is tight-lipped about its highly anticipated fiber-to-the-home telecommunications service, due next month. Will it live up to the hype?” If you read through to the end of the story you’ll find that the clear answer is “Yes!” But you have to make it down to that part—and be knowledgeable enough to be excited by the low-key presentation you find there.

LUS has certainly been “tight-lipped” about their project. And, frankly, with good reason—there is no reason to give Cox and AT&T any additional ammunition to use against our community.**

Still, letting fear of the incumbents be the reason for not talking to the community is the wrong decision and this story in a sympathetic local newsweekly is evidence of that mistake. Eye on the Prize: The overwhelming goal of LUS right now has to be to generate as large a number of enthusiastic users as is possible. The way to do it is drive excitement, enthusiasm, talk, and local pride. You can’t do that from a hunkered-down position. There comes a point where people sensibly assume that no news is bad news. And while there has doubtless been disappointments about issues ranging from contractors, to channel contracts, to the practical availability of nifty technical features not letting those questions arise and dealing with them easily as they are solved or explained hands the incumbents the advantage of introducing issues and setting the context—something they have proven time and again they will do in unfair ways. The ancillary benefit of dealing openly and forthrightly with things like channel contracts and contractor issues is that everyone grows used to Cox et al. making silly claims and with LUS regularly showing how foolish they are. In short order people decide they don’t trust Cox’s attacks even before LUS makes its explanation. That’s the way it worked during the fiber fight and that is how the community was inoculated against the last minute nonsense put out by the incumbents and their allies that worked so well elsewhere.

The upside of talking is that your community—and subscriber base—is both excited by the new features and understands their sensible limits. You can’t achieve even one of those necessary prerequisites to widespread adoption without an ongoing conversation.

The Meat
Now on to what should be the real meat, and the real excitement, of the story. First there is a restatement of what we’ve heard before going all the way back to the early discussion of the idea before the council…claims that some doubted would survive to the product launch. We see that they have:Text Color

LUS will sell phone, cable and Internet services individually, but Huval says the better deals will come with ordering the “triple play” combination package. That service of expanded basic cable ­— more than 80 channels — local phone service, and Internet service with a download and upload speed of 10 MBps will sell for approximately $85 a month. It will also include 100 MBps speeds for peer-to-peer Internet communication (when two LUS subscribers communicate with each other)[Note: that should be Mbps]. Huval adds that on average LUS’ prices will be 20 percent less than the standard rates now offered by its competitors.

The basic claims were always essentially: More for Less. That’s being realized with a full triple play, a full suite of channels, stunningly fast internet for the cheap tier, and a price level 20% lower than the competition. The 100 megs intranet was added after the initial promises and constitutes an exciting feature that only makes sense on a community-owned network. It’s a feature that requires some explanation (talk with the public!) to really appreciate. But among other things what it will make trivial is video telephony, easy sharing of any content–up to High Def Video, and all sorts of innovative small business models. Much of that would be made yet easier by making static IP addresses standard…or at least making the addition of such trivially inexpensive.

Other promises were for advanced services and since LUS has decided to go with an all IP system (something once in doubt) that will be relatively easy. In that department we’ll apparently get caller ID on the TV screen for starters but expect a raft of nifty integration features downstream.

Most exciting, because we’ve heard so little about it, is the set top box internet capacity…and it too requires explanation to fully appreciate. LUS will be the first, absolutely the first, to make the internet available to its users without having to buy a computer and a monitor. This is a huge deal that will immediately catapult LUS into the the head of the line in terms of the digital divide. Instantly Lafayette will have a larger percentage of its households capable of using essential internet services than any place in the nation. (Long-time readers will recognize that I’ve advocated this alternative before.) Realizing the potential of email (still the killer app of the internet) and even limited internet access will require education…and, yes, talking it up. The downside, and there is always a downside, is that the browser won’t be as capable as the one in your computer:

The TV browser is limited. It will only display Web sites that are Personal Display Assistant-optimized. PDA-optimized Web sites are largely text-based with limited graphics and pictures, and LUS’ TV browser won’t allow for any online videos. Huval explains the feature wasn’t put in place to allow subscribers to go to and watch a series of videos on their TV.

“It’s a light browser,” he says. “It’s not designed to have the kind of horsepower that you would have on a PC. It’s not to say we couldn’t do [online videos], but we’re the first ones in the United States trying this, and I don’t want to be pushing our system this early in our new business.

It’s good to be getting that news out there now…the idea that this is unique and forward-looking is absolutely true. (Trust me I’ve looked. Somebody in rural Canada sorta kinda used this feature for local information from the video provider; not general internet access no matter how limited. It was very vague info and may not have been the same box that LUS is using.) It is also true that this is limited. And that those limits should not have to persist. —The feature has been buried in advanced set top boxes for a long time, probably a decade and never turned on by the incumbents that sell services. (That, discouragingly, is not all that hard to understand: they want to sell a more capable, higher-priced internet package. It is only a community-owned network that sees the rationale in providing cheap, easy access to the whole community.) Because it was never turned on the feature has atrophied and never been upgraded by the producers…just carried forward in new models. Some of the underlying capacities are used sparingly for integration into WAP cell phone stuff (now dying) and interactive little picture in picture things for various set top box guides and the like. Not much upgrade is needed if none of the buyers are allowing the users to interact with the richness of the internet. So, in effect, LUS is limited by the decisions made by competitors that didn’t share its generous motivation. Here’s to hoping that actually having one visible customer that uses the full capacity of the internet features of the box will encourage the bean counters to expand that capacity. Really, this should be a software issue. Modern IP-capable set top boxes are already full computers capable of advanced video protocols, pushing HD quality video to the screen and with the hardware built in to negotiate multiple IP protocols…it should just be a matter of putting the package together and having a network customer willing to let their customers use it. LUS will be that customer

Exciting, exciting times. We’re about to get everything we asked for.

*I expect an official announcement no later than the last city-parish council meeting of the year…that’s the last possible moment and that fits the (unfortunate) LUS pattern. An official Press Conference with all the bragging trimmings would be much preferred and would create more excitement than letting reporters and the public overhear a council power point. Still… Stay tuned.

** Recall that Cox and AT&T have consistently tried to destroy the network, and failing that weaken it, at every turn. Beginning with trying to pass a law to outlaw the idea, to achieving a very restrictive law that places unfair and anti-competitive limits on LUS (but allows Cox and AT&T to freely engage in the very same activities), to waging an expensive public relations battle to thwart the will of the community (which they lost resoundingly), to repeatedly suing the community after the loss (which failed repeatedly but achieved the purpose of delaying the launch by years) to, currently, running a website devoted solely to generating bad publicity about a competitor that doesn’t yet have the first customer (how often do you see that? Never. An anti-Panasonic site by Sony? Bad form.) No, LUS is right to think that the incumbents are out to get them and will take unfair advantage of anything that they know. That’s the clear history and to act as if it isn’t true would be irresponsible.

NADs, the Digital Divide, the iPhone and Lafayette

Food For Thought Dept.

Mike helpfully emailed a link to a Wall Street Journal article that thoughtfully rewrites a press release from Comscore, a marketing research firm which recently released a study on the influence of the iPhone on the smartphone market.

Long story short: the iPhone is a big deal and is driving some pretty basic shifts in usage patterns. This isn’t all that surprising when you realize that the iPhone is pretty much a full computer with an always-on 3G internet connection—usably fast mobile ubiquity. I recently got one to take on an extended vacation and camping trip out west and it was fantastically useful to be able to access mapping, directions, restaurant reviews—and even GPS locations while hiking far from cellular connections. I am not surprised that others find its extended all-in-one capacity both helpful and worth affording. (That trip explains the 2 week LPF hiatus for both of you that wondered.) You can do a search on the terms and find bits and pieces of Comscore’s broader analysis. (The full report is a for-pay item.)

Our Focus
But the big picture is not particularly what interests us here today. Instead we focus on the implications of these usage shifts for digital divide issues here in Lafayette.

Part of what Comscore’s data shows is that lower-income householders are 1) adopting smartphones and especially the iPhone at a rate that is growing faster than those that are more wealthy and 2) that their use of network functions like email and search are also growing faster than the wealthy as is their usage of music/mp3 functions. (As an interesting sidelight: the overall usage is actually shrinking for non-network centric uses like music listening. hmmn….)

The conclusion that the analysts reach is that folks who need to stretch the dollar are dropping telephone landlines and internet connections in favor of cellular connections when they are pressed—iPhone-like devices make it possible to gain enough of the benefits of these capacities over your cellular connection to make turning off the other services seem cost-effective. You also don’t have to pay for a separate mp3 player or computer.

The smartphone/iPhone is emerging as an all-in-one network device that is particularly attractive to those whose need to pinch pennies. It may well become the preferred NAD (network attached device) of the working stiff.

The NAD and the Digital Divide in Lafayette
Just how people attach to Lafayette’s shiny new network has been a big issue dating back to the Digital Divide Committee and the Fiber Fight. Both LUS and the city-parish council have made a strong (and specific) commitment to making sure that the benefits of the community’s network extend to all. The first and most valuable commitment to equity was to make the the network as cheap as possible and to make the cheapest levels of service much more powerful than is available from for-profit providers. LUS is clearly keeping that commitment with very low-priced, extremely high bandwidth connectivity products. But there was also a commitment to find some way to get computers into poorer people’s homes.

Closing the digital divide, digital inclusion, was never just a matter of do-gooder sensibility or even simple justice (as powerful as both are); the impulse always included a healthy dose of selfish realism: We will all advance further and faster if we advance together. A truly advanced digital community must be pervasively sophisticated. To the extent that Lafayette (and any vigorous local community) has decided to invest in a technological future for its children it cannot afford to leave any part of the community behind. No local community has the human resources to waste. No real community would tolerate it.

That was the basis for our commitment to digital inclusion. At the time it was assumed that the NAD would be a desktop computer or maybe a laptop. But the winds have shifted.

The New NADs
It now appears that the NADs used to bridge the digital divide in Lafayette will consist of some mix of 1) newer, radically inexpensive low-powered laptops (aka “net tops”, 2) wireless smartphones, and 3) the cable settop box’s rudimentary browsing and email capacities. I’ve discussed 1 and 3 pretty extensively earlier.

What’s most interesting about these 3 paths toward accessible network connectivity is not how they differ and the hard choices those differences might suggest but how they are similar and the opportunities that they offer that Lafayette is uniquely situated to grasp.

Net tops laptops, smartphones, and set top boxes are all unabashedly network-dependent devices. Without a good, fast, reliable connection to the internet they are really not very useful or valuable. With an advanced connection, however, they are transformed into powerful, amazingly cheap devices that challenge the functionality of a powerful conventional computer for most folk’s purposes. That defines the double-edged sword that inexpensive network devices represent for most people in most places: they are only as good–and as cheap–as the networks to which they connect.

The smartphone/iPhone presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for providing fair access to Lafayette’s networked future.

Smartphone Opportunities
The opportunities are pretty breath-taking: hand-held, always-on network devices like the iPhone or newer advanced Blackberries offer the possibility of leapfrogging into a future that must remain a vision in most places.

That vision is of an ubiquitous, always-accessible network that puts rich comunications—ranging from video to voice to text—and huge computational and information resources at the fingertips of users at a price point so low as to make universal use almost inevitable.

If we can line up all these elements we can be both a national and even a world leader in popular access to advanced technologies. Lafayette can be the place to explore today the consequences of sort putting massive bandwidth, new devices, network storage, and online computational resources into the hands of most people in a community. It’s a chance for our comunity to help define the future—and to make a place in that future for communities like our own.

Smartphone Challenges
The new, cheap NADs Lafayette is considering as tools to close the digital divide are all not only network-centric but network-dependent. These inexpensive devices all require two things to make them function as adequate substitutes for traditional computers: 1) an always-on, large-bandwidth connection and 2) —and this is less well understood—on line storage and computational resources dedicated to each NAD user.

We have the dense fiber backbone. And the crucial public ownership. But we need more.

1) We need, first, to make sure that we beef up the wireless network that is currently being deployed along with the fiber and offer it as an adjunct to a citizen’s network connection. We can provide wifi within our own homes by attaching it to the fiber, but on the streets and and in public places our network connectivity needs to follow us. Wifi (for other practical reasons as well as the current considerations) shouldn’t be a seperate network.

2) We need to provide substantial online storage for individuals. NAD’s are noticeably short of storage space. That’s part of what makes them light and inexpensive and hence good digital divide devices. There is no reason to have massive storage located on an always-connected device. But beyond compensating for NAD shortcomings, a central online repository will soon become a practical necessity as people move toward using multiple, differently capable devices online. It is easy to see a time in the near future when the typical user might login daily from 1) a home computer, 2) a work or school computer, 3) their personal NAD, 4) their settop box to view some net content communally or on the large screen, and 5) from a friend’s house or public space. A single, online “home” would allow everyone to use their personal “stuff” (from docs to passwords to bookmarks to online applications and beyond) from any device at any location.

3) We need to provide real network-based computational power. NADs onboard computational resources are weak. But with a robust local network there is no need for a supercomputer in your hand…just access the computational power of the supercomputers on the network. The settop box solution would be greatly enhanced by locating a linux desktop on the network. A small server farm (or a nice virtual server like the one that Abacus has) could serve out the capacity of a full computer with a full suite of powerful applications to any screen—from the settop’s TV to a NAD’s small one. The technology is currently being called “cloud computing” but it could be arrayed cheaply by any community with the will to do so.

With fiber, fiber-driven wireless, online storage, and network-based computation Lafayette could cheaply and easily meet the commitment made during the fiber fight to closing the digital divide. And it could do it in a way that would benefit every citizen no matter what their income, neighborhood, race, or level of tech savvy. Meeting above challenges would help shape Lafayette into a community with an unrivaled capacity to meet future challenges. Since everyone would benefit it would be easier to sell politically. In these hard economic times it would be a huge boon to the whole community and mark Lafayette as a progressive, self-reliant locale in which to do business.

Really this should be a no-brainer…. don’t you think?


Should you be tempted to think that this is ahead of its time or that Louisiana is behind those times:

About 25 percent of Louisiana’s 4.2 million people have a Blackberry, iPhone or similar device, which May said “is really a computer.”

That’s from an Advertiser story on the community college system reformatting online coursework to make it accessible via smart phones….since it is “really a computer” qualified students can get aid in buying a smartphone since it can be regarded as educational.

The future is just around the corner. This stuff is all in sight.

And We’re Not Amazed

Food For Thought

That’s Kevin Kelly sitting in the red chair on a darkened stage. He’s talking to an assembly of some of the world’s finest minds at a recent TED conference. He’s earned their attention by being, over the last 40+ plus years one of the most prescient thinkers on the globe. He not only sees real patterns — which is rare enough — but he has an ability to see the direction in which those patterns are moving. That’s a forbiddingly abstract talent and it’s always been hard for Kelly to make himself sound sensible when he first points to a pattern. It’s only later that his positions come to be taken-for-granted wisdom.

As you might surmise, Kevin Kelly has been a hero of mine for a long time; since the old Whole Earth Review through his work on chaos theory. His sort of integrative, obsessive, reportorial focus on what’s truly important is always worth listening to….and even if you are tempted to think that this time it might be a little over the top you should remember that he has pretty much always been right….

This time he’s on about the web. How amazing it really is. How amazing it is that we’re not just poleaxed by what we’ve got. How that’s only the beginning How the web is turning into an ever-more all-inclusive machine. And how that machine is evolving.

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Like the web you could just about take off anywhere in that talk and dip into some really fascinating and important stuff. For instance, Kelly mentions, in quick passing, photosynth. Long-term and retentive readers will vaguely recall that term; I posted on it back when I fell across the technology on the web. Take a look; I think you’ll see how it fits his thesis. Then consider: He considers that a throw-away line. There’s a lot of meat below that almost-glib surface.

Here in Lafayette we’ve got to start taking such stuff seriously. It’s now inevitable that we will be able to inhabit the leading edge of this brave new world when it appears. We’ll have bandwidth to burn in LUS’ 100 megs of intranet and the wireless network now abuilding and attached to that hard-wired backbone can provide ubiquity at speeds that will stun. (In my neighborhood mysterious black cylinders are being attached to LUS fiber on a pole on every block. As I walk past with my iPhone NAD a wifi network pops up….) But, frankly, having the hardware doesn’t give us the vision. We could use it to just give us “more” of the same—bigger bandwidth, better phones, more fun cable, all for less. And we should do that. But that is the LEAST we can do with our new network.

A network-centric future is upon us. The web will connect, for practical purposes, all points from hand-crafted links, to databases, to our relationships, to the bevy of things we make and use. What ties all that together; what makes it work; is how it is integrated. Right now we’re calling it “search” and Google is the god. But simple textural search and link-ranking (which is most of what Google does) is only the tip of the iceberg here.

What the world needs—and what Lafayette and a few other places are positioned to supply—is what will replace search. The new web needs big bandwidth and ubiquity—practically speaking a tightly integrated fiber-wireless network. The next web also needs the huge calculative power that Kelly mention but does not emphasize. Between LITE and ULL’s underutilized supercomputers we’ll have computational power to do the sorts of pattern recognition and integration that things like photosynth and other database integrative applications will need. Kelly notes that the new web will no be like the old web any more than our web is like television. The new way of making acessible all those things which the web will connect is the crux of the difference. I trust his insights there and can see the outlines of the patterns he points to.

What Lafayette, and other communities with the resources, should be doing is supporting and providing incentives for companies and individuals that want design for what only we can currently do: provide the next generation of integrative technologies—that which will replace search. Any x-prize, any portal, any support that does not take that into account will be missing the boat.

Note: Cloud Computing & Netbooks


Wired’s Gadget Lab blog notes the Dell mini Inspirion “netbook” which comes with built-in 3G wireless and free online storage. That means that this netbook, with its rather puny 16GB solid state drive (no hard drive!) can actually function as an netbook should: always on, always connected.

That’s a big step forward; notebooks like these which are fully functional computers establish a benchmark on the way to a real, network-enabled net-connected digital divide device for everyone. (Retail price: 35o-to 395 depending on operating system!)

My guess is that the dream digital divide device will prove to be a mini-laptop capable of running as a fully capable computer (from printing to running standard apps to lite gaming) that is always connected to a big broadband connection. The constant, fast connection enables cheap, shared online storage–and, if that connection is fast enough, as it can be in Lafayette–shared applications and large datasets….decreasing Total Cost of Ownership and increasing its utility.

This was just-a-note. What do you think?