“Municipal fiber needs more FDR localism, fewer state bans”

Christopher Mitchell, the best researcher/commentator on municipal fiber in this country bar none (IMHO) has an outstanding essay up on Ars Technica today that you ought to read.


It holds Lafayette up as the premier example of a city that has done the right thing by its citizens. I have to say that I agree. But more than that: this essay lays out as coldly and directly as I have seen it done the rock-solid case for municipal broadband. It doesn’t pull punches, and it doesn’t bother to engage in histrionics.

I cand do no better than to excerpt the case he lays out and emphasize the parts that delight a Lafayette partisan but really, you’d be better served to read it yourself and not bother with my abridgement…it’s not long and it’s well-crafted.

The “broadband market” in much of the US happily provides snail-speed connections at inflated prices when compared to many of our peer nations….Recognizing the disconnect between the best interests of distant shareholders and the best interest of their community, cities across the US have built their own networks, taking a page from the thousands of small cities that built their own electricity networks a century ago when private utilities ignored them…

Lafayette, Louisiana is a good example. The city begged its incumbents to beef up local broadband networks and was rebuffed. This Cajun country community decided to build its own next-generation network. The incumbents argued that the households and businesses of Lafayette had all the broadband they needed and sued to stop the city. This year, after years of litigation, the victorious city began connecting customers to LUS Fiber.

LUS Fiber may offer the best broadband value in the country, offering a true 10Mbps symmetrical connection for $29/month. Those wanting the 50Mbps symmetrical connection have to pony up just $58/month—about what I pay to my cable provider in Saint Paul for “up to” 16/2 speeds.

Lafayette and Monticello were lucky because they had the power to build a digital network. Many communities do not…. Eighteen states impose some barriers to community broadband….Though Monticello and Lafayette have succeeded in spite of barriers, many other communities are unable to persevere, and watch their younger generation leave for modern opportunities elsewhere…

…communities have fought this fight before—when electricity was only available to the urban and affluent. Profit-maximizing companies not only refused to build the grid to low-profit areas but argued those areas should not be permitted to wire themselves. Fortunately, FDR saw things differently:

I therefore lay down the following principle: That where a community—a city or county or a district—is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of Government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up, after a fair referendum to its voters has been had, its own governmentally owned and operated service.

We need FDR to remind us that we are discussing the basic right of a community to invest in its future. Communities must not be held hostage by an absentee company that knows it can overcharge and under-invest without consequence.

Wireless is nice for mobility, but does not threaten the wired monopoly or duopoly. These networks—particularly full fiber-optic networks—are natural monopolies. There is no natural “market” any more than one could imagine a competitive market in streets or metro airports. This is infrastructure—the foundation for many other markets…

Industry-funded think tanks have produced many reports claiming publicly owned networks are failures. Their methodology is suspect—equating long-term investments in next-generation networks with lost money….The truth is that publicly owned networks do quite well. Communities typically borrow from outside investors to build the network and pay off the loans over a 15-20 year period with revenues from phone, television, and broadband services…

State barriers to publicly owned broadband networks may benefit monopolistic cable and telephone companies but can cripple communities within those states. Of course, such policies also give a competitive edge to cities in other states who have moved ahead.

Actually,” says Lafayette’s Republican Mayor, Joey Durel, “I often say with tongue firmly planted in cheek that I hope that the other 49 states do outlaw what we are doing. Then I will ask them to send their technology companies to Lafayette where we will welcome them with open arms and a big pot of gumbo.

Cold weather is gumbo weather and we can sit down over a bowl and watch TV with our grandchildren, and later help with their homework over a medium that we own. It’s been a good week for self-reliance in Lafayette regardless of the icy weather and Mitchell’s essay is nice reminder of how good we have it.

PS: Check out Christopher’s blog: muninetworks.org, and for some background on the topic of municipal restrictions his recent post.

Local Government Fair Competition Act Dead…in North Carolina

Following a state-wide outcry North Carolina’s version of the lobbyist-written “Local Government Fair Competition Act” died today according to a local report. (Previous LPF coverage: 1, 2, 3)

Opposition from the likes of North Carolina’s Leauge of Municipalities, Google, Educause, Intel, Tropos, and user groups finally killed the embarrassing telecom-sponsored bill in the state that prides itself on having successfully courted high-tech in its widely admired “research triangle.” The victory didin’t come easy and the incumbent corporations enjoyed several successes before being derailed in the House finance committee. Louisiana’s legislature, regular readers will recall, passed such a law and it has proved the bane of Lafayette’s effort to build the network the citizens voted for every since by spawning seemingly endless lawsuits. In North Carolina legislators were helped to see the light by the disaster produced by the previous year’s telecom -sponsored–a state-wide video franchise law. That made it a little harder to treat the earnest entreties of the incumbents as credible. (In Louisiana the ongoing mess produced by the Lousisiana Local Government Fair Competition Act was no doubt instrumental in inducing our governor to veto our state-wide video law when that giveaway was proposed here. You can fool some of the people…)

Congratulations are due to an aroused North Carolina citizenry. Only one thing trumps the money the incumbent corporations have to spread around at election time: the votes they had hoped to buy with it.

Louisiana needs to repeal it’s own version of this odious (un)Fair Competition law. It puts stunningly unfair restraints on competition, restricts the people’s rights to act in their own behalf, and has the now demonstrable effect of leaving local governments mired in legal battles that serve only to delay the expressed will of the people. It robbed the citizens of New Orleans of their municipal wifi system after the storm and came close to derailing Lafayette’s project. It is not likely that any other municipality in the state will have the resources or the will to pursue serving their citizenry in this way until this law is repealed.

North Carolina shows the way.

Google, Intel, others oppose “No Competition” act

We’ve been following the contretemps on Wilson, NC where the local folks seem to have their act pretty well together. There is substantial local opposition to their states version of our “Fair Competition Act.”

The local paper reports that they’ve been joined in their indignation by wireless giants Alcatel-Lucent and Tropos (who will be supplying Lafayette’s wireless equipment). They joined Google and Intel in complaining about the ways that such state interference suppresses the growth of competition and private partnerships with companies like theirs.

“HB 1587 threatens to undermine the establishment of such partnerships, particularly in rural and high-cost urban areas of North Carolina in which the state’s incumbent providers are either serving poorly or not at all,” read the letter signed by Google’s state policy counsel, John Burchett.

Intel’s letter called erecting barriers to public-sector Internet networks a mistake.

The two companies were joined by Alcatel-Lucent, a networking company in Raleigh, and Tropos Networks, a California-based company that provides wireless networks to cities and towns including Philadelphia and Wrightsville Beach.

Not that local officials need much help in clarifying the purpose of the bill:

Andy Romanet, general counsel with the N.C. League of Municipalities, said … “It would make it virtually impossible to do one of these projects,” … “I call it the ‘No Competition’ act.”

Mark Chilton, mayor of Carrboro, one of the first towns in the nation with free wireless Internet, said the bill would hurt expansion of that system, and would prevent rural and poorer citizens from getting online.

“It’s clear that this is just an industry ploy that everyone and everywhere should have to pay somebody on Wall Street to get on the Internet,” Chilton said.

Its nice to know that there the historical suspicion that what is good for Wall Street’s large corporations is not necessarily good for Main Street has not been entirely lost..at least not in North Carolina.

Lagniappe: Jim Baller, whose newsletter on breaking telecom news is indispensable, posts links to all the letters filed in opposition to the attempt to foist a “Fair Competition Act” on North Carolina on his municipal broadband reference page.

Cox Talks to the Trade Press

Back in February, in a story I missed then, Cox’s Baton Rouge unit was treated to a profile story in Multichannel News, a leading industry trade magazine. (Baton Rouge Beefs Up To Meet Demand Surge). It’s a very interesting story in which Cox Baton Rouge–then recently merged with Lafayette’s Acadiana unit to form the new “Greater Louisiana” marketing unit–tells its own story to its colleagues in a sympathetic forum. It is revealing of how Cox wants its knowledgeable industry friends to regard it.

One thing that leaps out is that it doesn’t try to blow as much smoke about its network and discusses network upgrades fairly frankly. For instance, it notes that the local unit was participating in the Cox-wide program of expanding bandwidth from 750 Megaherz to 860 Mhz. Hopefully that will improve its Video On Demand capacity in my neighborhood. (1, 2) But the story also reveals that Cox has not, contrary to its vauge assertions and local rebranding efforts, been not building out fiber in Lafayette, apparently not even in its fiber backbone–but has in Baton Rouge. According to the story in the last year:

In response to the market’s growth, the system last year added about 130 miles of new coaxial cable and 65 miles of fiber in Baton Rouge, and 61 miles of coaxial cable in the Lafayette cluster.

Even sixty one miles of new copper is nothing to sneeze at but the copper coax portion of a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) architecture is mostly in the last mile–and one is lead to presume that this new coax is predominantly in new subdivisions in our “cluster.” But this does confirm that the local rebranding of Cox’s network as a “fiber” network is truly misleading…nothing is altering Cox’s committment to HFC and its disavowal of FTTH. (I’d be happy to be shown otherwise.)

However the article chiefly focuses on Katrina’s consequences and the merger of the Baton Rouge and Lafayette markets. Both lead to a much larger market with Cox adding more than 5000 customers post-Katrina. That brings its combined total to 291,551. A very respectable combined market. The story also makes it clear that the Acadiana unit was absorbed into the Baton Rouge one and not simply combined. (That was certainly the experience here where the distinctive local elements like lower pricing, and a French and weather channel on basic cable were “aligned” to the Baton Rouge pattern.)

The integration of the Lafayette system, which is about 50 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, has involved a number of initiatives. For example, Cox Greater Louisiana has aligned the channel lineups — and retail pricing — across the Baton Rouge and the Lafayette clusters.

More broadly, Cox has tried to more fully absorb and acculturate the Lafayette cluster, so that it conforms to the company’s corporate strategy: That its cable systems offer state-of-the-art technology, be perceived as doing so and be very involved in their communities.

The bit about being “very involved” with their communities was directly tied to LUS–presented as simply a “municipal overbuilder:”

There was a need to forge closer ties with the community in Lafayette, where Cox faces competition from a municipal overbuilder, Lafayette Utilities System, Vines said.

The overbuilder “was pushing that it was bringing fiber to the home, but there was really not a sense that Cox was doing that as well,” Vines said.

“Louisiana is very parochial,” she said. “It’s a very relationship-oriented state. So as we were integrating the Lafayette system we had to introduce ourselves, reintroduce Cox Communications … to make sure [customers] understood we had fiber and they didn’t necessarily have to go with our competitor.”

No mention, of course, that Cox fought a bitter, losing battle, much of it covered in the magazine, to prevent this “overbuilder” from building a competitive network. In truth, most of the need to repair its relationship in Lafayette was NOT due to our “parochial” nature but to Cox’s many blunders during the fiber fight—the first and most serious of those blunders being to oppose the clearly stated desires of the community for a fiber network. Vines is blowing a bit of smoke in implying to her fellows that their fiber was similar to LUS’. It isn’t of course; fiber “in” the network is universal–both AT&T and Cox have fiber cores–and so will LUS. What makes a network a fiber network in the usual usage is that it takes fiber all the way to the home. That is what Lafayette fought for and the people here understand (correctly) that that is what “fiber network” means. Changing the description of your network from HFC to “fiber” in order to pretend that it is the same as what LUS will be offering is a continuation of the deceptive tactics Cox used during the fiber fight. If Cox really wants to repair its relationship with Lafayette ceasing its attempts to mislead us would make a better start than helping pay for Chamber diners or being a sponsor of Festival Internationale.

There are other interesting bits of insight scattered through the article. Take a look for yourself if you are a connoisseur of all things telecom in Lafayette.

One final bit of fun: The story reveals that Jaqui Vines, the new head of the “Greater Louisiana” section is a Ray Nagin protege. Yes, the same Ray Nagin that is mayor of New Orleans and was General Manager of Cox New Orleans. He hired her away from Time-Warner during his tenure in the New Orleans’ Cox system. It’s a small world down here. Sometimes it is a bit “parochial” down here in the sense that personal relationships do count…at least who Jaqui Vines knew proved helpful.

North Carolina Revisited

It looks like they are on top of it in Wilson, NC. The local Wilson newspaper has come out with a strong editorial condemning the North Carolina version of the “Local Government Fair Competition Act” Yes, that’s exactly the same misleading name given Louisiana’s BellSouth-authored version. Creative and original, these guys are not. (Previous LPF coverage of Wilson: 1, 2)

And the similarity is more than skin deep as is demonstrated by the following points from the Wilson editorial:

While some of the provisions can be justified, others are transparently intended to discourage cities or counties from creating competing networks, such as the fiber-optic network the city of Wilson is already installing.

Yep, they understand the basic purpose of this sort of legislation. And the essay covers other oddities we will recognize:

The bill… would for the first time require the N.C. Utilities Commission to regulate a municipal function. None of the usual municipal utilities — water, sewer, electricity or natural gas — is regulated by the Utilities Commission, which was established to protect consumers against monopolistic corporate giants. Because consumers are also voters and can change leadership at the next election, municipal utilities have been considered self-regulating.

In Louisiana the PSC is forbidden by the constitution to regulate municipalities. So we get around it by requiring that they do all the work of regulation but hand the legally indefensible segment over to the (drumroll, dramatic cymbal clash) the legislative auditor. (Hunh? Loud raspberry.) More similarities:

The bill also requires a public referendum on any financing for the system. Because these networks are expensive (Wilson’s estimated cost is $28 million), financing will be a necessity. While the bill requires a referendum, like a general obligation bond, it does not allow municipalities to repay the bond in the manner of a general obligation bond. In fact, it might make it impossible to repay the bond.

The bill forbids securing or repaying the bonds with anything other than revenues generated by the enterprise. It forbids paying any costs related to the bonds from “the local government’s general fund or public enterprise funds.” Because those are the only kinds of funds a municipality has, the bill essentially forbids making bond payments. And because it requires these networks to pay the equivalent of corporate and other taxes to the general fund, it requires the enterprise to subsidize the city.

Ok, this part sounds like the original version of he Louisiana bill in which BellSouth (now AT&T) set up the neat Catch-22 of 1) requiring an elaborate study 2) requiring that the study be paid for from revenue derived from the new utility. So in in order to plan to get the new utility up and running you had to already have the new utility up and running. Yossarian would understand perfectly. (And so should the people of North Carolina.)

The editors of the Wilson Times understand; they close their editorial with:

If this bill passes, cable monopolies will be unstoppable.

Lagniappe: Apparently the city council there is pretty enlightened as well; they’ve passed a unanimous resolution opposing the proposed law.

More on the Bonds

The Advocate covers the Fiber To The Home bond presentations in New York this morning. Sounds good! Apparently the visit went well and Durel and Huval returned feeling good about Lafayette’s prospects for a favorable bond rating.

Some of the recent local contretemps were frankly discussed:

Last week, attorneys for the plaintiff in that lawsuit, Elizabeth Naquin, suggested that Lafayette might be subject to further legal action should it proceed in the manner it’s planning to issue and pay back the bonds.

Durel said he thought the timing of that suggestion was an attempt to spook the bond markets into a higher rate.

Ottinger said Lafayette officials discussed with the bond market representatives the possibility — or lack thereof — of another lawsuit stalling the project.

The Louisiana Constitution prohibits further challenges to the ordinance that authorized the bonds to be issued, Ottinger said.

Good. Being upfront about the opposition is the way to go in most cases and I’m sure honesty served them well here. The bond guys have done their homework and asked the next obvious question:

The bond market representatives also wanted to know if LUS was prepared should the existing telecommunications companies in the area start practicing “predatory pricing,” in an effort to undercut the new LUS venture, Durel said.

That is, indeed, the next issue; and that for which the people of Lafayette should prepare. The incumbents tried this in Bristol and it didn’t work. I suspect that the folks in Louisiana will recognize the ploy as easily as did those in Virginia.

It’s all good so far:

“The bond rating agencies and the bond insurers were impressed with the depth of information and analysis we had as well as our passion, and the community’s support, for the project,” Huval said. “We received favorable comments about LUS’ proven track record in managing the deployment of large projects.”

Let’s get on with it!

Lafayette, LA to Wilson, NC: Fight It!

Does this sound familiar?:

Wilson, NC is getting hit with aLocal Government Fair Competition Act” written up by their local incumbents (AT&T and Comcast) that intends to keep the city from expanding its current, successful fiber optic ring to provide its citizens with a little competition to the current phone and cable monopolies and the internet duopoly.

Sounds mighty familiar. That is exactly the title of the bill that has cost the people of Lafayette millions of dollars and which has delayed Lafayette’s fiber-optic project by 3 years. Without this law Lafayette’s citizens would be using their network now; instead we are just starting after a long obstructionist battle waged by the incumbents–all of which was enabled by the “Local Government Fair Competiton Act.”

Lafayette, Louisiana to Wilson, North Carolina: FIGHT IT. No half-a-loaf compromises, no handshakes, no backing off when offered a “grandfathering” clause.

People of Wilson: You cannot expect your opposition to honor any commitment it makes in conferences. They didn’t in Louisiana and you shouldn’t expect it in North Carolina. Without such a law you are free to make your own decisions and take responsibility for them. Such a law gives the incumbents the opening they need to sue you based on a law they have drafted. The incumbents will not hesitate to return to the legislature in the very next year to further “fix” the bill to disadvantage localities. They will use the law to pursue lawsuits that they cannot win. They will use lawsuits to simply delay project and they will use lawsuits to try and pursue interpretations of the law other than those they agreed to in conference. (Things got to such a pass here that even the legislator that skirted the rules to sponsor the bill later complained that the incumbents were suing over things that had been settled in favor of the municipality during compromise discussions!) You DO NOT need the “bigger, smarter guys at the statehouse” to protect you from yourselves. DO NOT buy the line that this sort law “protects the local taxpayer” or that it “levels the playing field.” It intends to shift your control of local resources away from local citizen-owners and to a compliant state house; you can protect yourself quite well without their dubious help, I am sure. It intends to establish rules that would cripple your local utility’s ability to compete; rules that the incumbents would rage against should anyone dare suggest applying such to them.

From the Wilson Daily Times Article:

City of Wilson officials and the North Carolina League of Municipalities are seeking to kill a bill that would place what they say are undue restraints on municipalities establishing “communications services.” Wilson officials expected some legislative opposition when they started planning to provide broadband services to the city.

The bill, called the Local Government Fair Competition Act, places several obstacles in the way of local governments seeking to provide services such as broadband Internet, telephone and cable television. The bill is sponsored by state Reps. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg, Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, and Julia Howard, R-Davie. Lawmakers representing Wilson County have not sponsored the bill.

Some of its provisions include requiring two public hearings where the city’s business plan would be available, including cost analysis and four-year projections. Also, a special election would be held to allow citizens to decide if the city should establish any communications service. Such a service would also have to be self-supporting and could not be subsidized by the city’s electric fund.

“There is no good reason for this bill,” said Ellis Hankins, director of the N.C. League of Municipalities.


City attorney Jim Cauley said the House bill was written and supported by the telecommunications industry and is “clearly designed to protect their pocketbooks at the expense of the public good.”

“In the interest of corporate protectionism, it will create such a barrier to the construction of municipal broadband infrastructure that many citizens will not have access to high-speed fiber-optic services in the foreseeable future, thereby making our economic development efforts that much more difficult,” Cauley said.

I hope the people of North Carolina will learn from Lafayette’s experience and kill this ugly example of “corporate protectionism.”

Old Tricks: Pushy Poll

Somebody is up to old tricks. Cox or BS/AT&T or both are back at the polling game; trying to find ways to push the buttons of local citizens.

Lafayette has had experience with push polls–we saw two ugly ones during the fiber fight; one early on and one in the run up to the referendum which was recorded by a local and made the two incumbents who had collaborated on it a national laughingstock when it was made available on the internet and was widely linked to in broadband forums. The later “poll” contained both the ridiculous–a claim that TV would be rationed to alternate days since lawn-watering is limited in the summer months–and the irresponsible–claiming that only the southern (white) side of the city would get the service.

User Hoov in a comment on the Advertiser site revealed that he’s got a “push poll” call over the weekend. I talked with Hoov and he says that the call last weekend opened with 12 or 15 questions about standard, marketing sorts of things–his service, his satisfaction, etc. But then, abruptly, the tenor of the quesitons changed and the next 7 or 8 questions were probes intended to lead him to to be uneasy about government involvement with his telephone, internet, or cable connection. One question went something like this: “Are you comfortable with the government having access to your internet service?”

He said that the questions were clearly intended to scare.

Hoov, like other Lafayette citizens in the past, pushed back, making it clear that these weren’t fears that he had and that he didn’t think they were reasonable. A question about who the survey was far elicited only the initials of the company the young woman questioners was working for.

I’d be very interested in hearing from other readers who have been called for this survey. (It may be that this is exploratory; in that case only a relatively few will have been called. In a full-fledged push poll all or a large percentage of the population is called in an attempt to plant the misinformation widely.)

Did you get such a call?

Cox’s Me too, Me too, ME TOO! “Fiber” Network

Cox has been at it again. It’s gotten downright embarrassing. You’d think they’d learn.

Cox does NOT have a fiber network.

And they’re not going to build one. They have hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) network and that hasn’t changed and is not going to change. But if you listened to Cox representatives you’d think they’d suddenly changed to an entirely new architecture. We know just exactly when that happened: Just about the time Cox realized they’d lost the battle to prevent Lafayette from approving a fiber to the home network they started calling their own network “fiber.” This is a bizarre and blatently deceptive “rebranding.” They spent months telling us we didn’t need and didn’t want a real fiber to the home network and when they realize they lost the battle to convince us fiber wasn’t valuable they decided that suddenly–presto! change-o!– their network was a fiber network. This silliness was launched two years ago at the Southwest Louisiana Chamber of Commerce banquet when Cox handed out little “sparklers” tipped with plastic fibers lit with LEDs. Since then they’ve rebranded their Baton Rouge/Acadiana website to include prominent use of the use of “fiber network” and done their darndest to get it used in local media. It all looks pretty childishly desperate from the outside…and a little amusing.

But sometimes it just isn’t funny, and after yesterday’s TechSouth Governor’s technology award ceremony the buzz among people exiting the luncheon wasn’t about the award winners as the recipients had every right to expect. It was about Karmen Blanco’s weird claim that Cox had invested big money in their “Fiber Network” and that it hadn’t “cost the taxpayers a cent.” Everyone there knew that both of those remarks were lies. Lying to the general public is dishonest. Lying to the sorts of folks who attend TechSouth is nothing short of stupid. They know better and they notice. Predictably, they talk about it. For the record: Lafayette’s network won’t be paid for by taxpayers either: it will be paid for by those who use it and the loan to build it is coming from the national bond market. And Cox doesn’t have a fiber network, never has, never will. The people attending a state-sponsored technology awards banquet knew that and the fact that Karmen Blanco was the Governor’s daughter and a Lafayette native only made the deceit more embarrassing.

I hadn’t attended the luncheon, instead using the time to leisurely wander the exposition floor while the crowds were eating. My first inkling that something weird had happened was when the crowd exiting the luncheon stopped on their way out to cluster around the LUS booth…and started grabbing up the freebies. That seemed a little odd–everyone had swag and LUS’ weren’t particularly remarkable: a pen and a little battery-driven, LED lit fan that spelled out a promotional message on the rotating blades.

It wasn’t until after I’d heard the story of Karmen Blanco’s speech from two different groups in the stream of exiting attendees that I put it all together.

That little LED fan that the crowd was snatching up was the perfect response to Karmen’s childish “Me to, Me too, ME TOO” claims about Cox’s network. The message on the spinning blades was the perfect retort to Cox. It said:

LUS Fiber,
All the way,
All the way,
All the way,
To the home.

Sometimes the world provides you with the perfect rejoinder. The fan was perfect. And the crowd snatched it up.

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.