Cox Raises Rates…

The Independent, the Gonzales Weekly Citizen and the Baton Rouge Business Report all have up stories based on a Cox press release that announces rate increases for both cable and internet packages in South Louisiana starting December 8th. Price increases range from 2 to 3 dollars on each effected service…with 1 dollar bumps on some (unspecified) premium packages. So if you get both internet and cable from Cox you’ll be looking at at least $4 on the low end to $6 and up on higher end combos. It would be pretty easy for all those small changes to add up to a substantial surcharge of 10 dollars and more a month and it will be interesting to see a more detailed accounting of the changes.

Merry Christmas!

Details are still murky (expect pieces with some real reporting in tomorrow’s news cycle) and “Along with the channel launches, some channels will move within tiers and into new service levels.” Thats’ pretty vague and sounds like it might mean that some tiers will actually lose channels. At any rate Cox is claiming cost increases in retransmission fees (that refers to fees paid to local stations) and cable channel packages to account for the increases cable side. Nobody is saying why internet has to increase as well.

Cox’s “Ultimate Tier” —that 50/5 tier was introduced in Acadiana to compete with LUS Fiber’s 50/50 tier—is the only internet package that will not see an increase.

(Hmmn…I justed checked the Cox site for Baton Rouge and Gonzales zip codes. Baton Rouge’s announces that you can’t get the Ultimate package there. But in Gonzales, where small local provider EATEL is also providing fiber to the home, the site now shows that Cox is willing to sell the “Ulitmate” service there as well. My…doesn’t Baton Rouge wish that it had something more competitive than AT&T’s UVerse to spur a little competitive energies?)

Cox announced some service increase candy alongside the bitter medicine of a rate increase. Among them are more HD channels, and speed increases on some of the internet tiers. The intent behind announcing them together is, pretty clearly and sensibly enough, to encourage folks to think that Cox is giving you something extra for your money. But they extras don’t line up that neatly: on the cable side the lower-priced tiers and the movie packages get an increase but the higher-priced tiers are the ones that benifit from new HD channels.

Cox has been holding off on price increases in South Louisiana and especially in its Acadiana branch since LUS Fiber came onto the scene but apparently that long drought has ended. Cox is not going to continue to give all of South Louisiana a break just to keep its prices lower in Lafayette. You can look for semi-permenant “special introductory offers” to be given at a drop of the hat if you zip code is right, of course. But those things are time-limited and I doubt many people will be fooled for long.

LUS Fiber’s First Commercial Customer Goes Live

The headline is pretty much the story: “LUS Fiber’s First Commercial Customer Goes Live.” The Independent reports that Lafayette Convention and Visitors Center (LCVC) has taken a 50 meg symmetrical service for $119.50. They like it; Breaux, LCVC Director Breaux is reported as having said:

“Unbelieveable,” he says. “It’s been a major difference [in speed] and the whole group at LUS has been incredibly cooperative to get this whole thing going.” Plans are already in the works for a media event or open house demonstration of the service at LCVC. “We want everyone to come in and see how great it really is.”

The IND notes that having only a single business customer is part of LUS Fiber’s perhaps wise but surely frustrating measured roll-out strategy:

This follows LUS’ slow rollout strategy that allows it to carefully monitor and work out any service issues before expanding its clientele.

Ok, so that makes sense. Still. We want our fiber.


It’d be funny if it weren’t so overburdened with irony.

Those of us who still get a daily newspaper will have been amused by Cox’s latest attempt to “me-too” (“fiber is nothing new” cough, cough) the LUS network’s offerings. As my wife was going through our morning ritual of removing the 3/4 of the paper that is glossy ad inserts and sections we never open out slipped an 8 1/2 x 11 Cox flyer with the screaming bold headline “LUS Fiber HYPE.” The irony, of course, is that the hype and FUD is entirely being performed by Cox. Have you seen any LUS advertising “hyping” —or even promoting— LUS Fiber in the major media yet? I haven’t. And I watch. Now no doubt the day will come when LUS will hype its network. When it is offering the service to a large enough base that it makes sense to advertise in the paper or other local media. But that day has yet to arrive. My guess is that this flier is the best evidence available that LUS’ “controlled roll-out” is beginning to significantly cut into Cox’s base of subscriptions; painfully enough to buy an insert which will be distributed almost solely to people who can’t—Yet—buy LUS services. Now the motivation may be to just try and insert the headline into the “LUS fiber HYPE” into the community unconscious. If so that shows a pretty profound misunderstanding of this community. Cox has played the game of playing fast and loose with truth with Lafayette before and it’s proved embarasssing. Who can forget the disastrous story of the “local blogger T. J. Crawdad” or the infamous “push polls? Even more than embarrassing…folks got to saying tha “you can’t trust anything they say.” This flier is in that (ig)noble tradition.

The thing Cox forgets is that to be truly effective attack advertising has to be true. And it has to be about something that people care about. Otherwise you just end up looking desperate. Cox is hyping its “digital TV,” claiming to have more digital channels than LUS…and is using that hype to sell what’s on the backside of the flyer: it’s lowest triple play tier. For 89.99. For 12 Months.

“It’s a day late and a dollar short” as the old saying goes. You’re supposed to assume that the claim on the front supports the offering on the back. That you’ll get more with Cox’s cheapest “digital TV” offering.

But you won’t.

Take a gander at the slideshow below; it’s from Terry Huvals presentation at the recent (and fantastic) F2C conference. The relevant slides are numbers 31, 32, and 33 which detail the “expanded basic,” “digital basic,” and “digital basic plus” tiers for both companies.

What Cox wants you to buy, on the basis of their claims on the front of the sheet, is the product on the back of the sheet, that 89.99 (for 12 months) sale offering. If you go to Cox’s “Greater Louisiana” website & drill down you’ll get to a page that shows you get their “expanded basic” cable tier with that deal. So surf on over to slide 31 on the display below….

Terry Huval style=”margin: 0px;” width=”425″ height=”355″>

View more presentations from f2c

You’ll see that in truth LUS offers more channels in their lowest tier combo deal than Cox. If that strikes you as strange soldier on to slide 32. There you’ll notice that LUS offers more channels in the middle tier too..only at slide 33 the highest tier do you find Cox offering more channels that LUS. So the (hyped) claims on the front, while not entirely untrue at every level, do not support the product they are selling on the back. A little bait and switch, that.

And LUS’ low tier combo deal is cheaper too: Cox’s “Good” comes in at 89.99 (intro price) vs LUS’ “VIP – $84.85” (allathetime price).

(And, while we’re at it you also get 30 megs up and down with LUS but only 10 megs down and 786 k up… with video shifting to the web and more and more people doing their telephony through 3rd party VOIP that’s going to be more and more significant. I already do a healthy amount of my TV viewing over my shiny new computer-TV hookup.)

One Big Happy? Family

Cox has announced that it is combining its New Orleans operations with “Greater Louisiana” Market — Greater Louisiana is made up of the former Baton Rouge and Lafayette divisions which were combined three years ago.

The new division has half a million customers and will be Cox’s 3rd largest market.

But Cox the spokesperson is careful to note:

Ann Ruble said the move would not affect rates.

Now that might sound reassuring. But what it means at the current moment is that Baton Rouge and New Orleans should not expect to share in Lafayette’s good fortune with a cheaper, installation-cost-optional version of Cox’s only-in-Lafayette 50/5 mbps ultimate tier.

WBS: “Municipal Fiber Competition Benefits All Lafayette Citizens”

What’s Being Said Department.

Geoff Daily over at Apps-Rising has put up a post whose title says it all: “Municipal Fiber Competition Benefits All Lafayette Citizens.” Daily too thinks that Cox’s competition is good for Lafayette—and he can see it from D.C.

What this says is that municipal fiber deployment doesn’t just bring the best broadband to citizens, it also introduces competition that spurs investment by incumbent providers to upgrade their networks.

And in fact the citizens had already been reaping the rewards of its municipal fiber project before it even went live. After the fiber initiative started Cox stopped raising its rates for cable TV in Lafayette, but it kept raising them everywhere else.

Go take a peek. And while you are there you should take note of Geoff’s two sponsors; including a new one. I’ll think you’ll find it interesting.

“Cox builds Internet speed”

This morning’s Advocate weighs in with an interesting view of Cox’s new 5o mbps down/5 mbps up service. The report focuses on the reactions from most of the principals including Cox, EATel and AT&T but oddly excluding a direct reaction from LUS.

The article makes it clear that while Cox denies any direct influence, (apparently the local folks are making that mistake after all) knowing that LUS Fiber is offering a 50/50 mbps fiber-based internet service is the key to understanding why Cox would debut its new flagship service in such a small market.

The gist of the story as far as LUS vs. Cox is concerned is contained in the following paragraphs:

The introductory price of Cox’s “Ultimate” Internet service in Lafayette is $89.99 per month, plus $99.95 for the required modem and an installation fee that will vary by customer, according to information from Cox.

The company has set the standard suggested price for the service at $139.99 a month.

That price is comparable to similar offerings by Verizon and Comcast, though those companies generally provide their top-tier Internet services only in large markets.

LUS Fiber is selling its premium service of 50 Mbps download and upload for $57.95, with no additional cost for installation or equipment.

LUS Fiber customers can exchange information with others on the local fiber network at 100 Mbps.

The 50 Mbps residential Internet service options in Lafayette Parish are unique in the state.

The larger story is that competition is good: Lafayette has two 50 mbps providers, one with real symmetrical service and the rest of the state has NO such providers. The rest of the country will get this service, when Cox gets around to it, for 1 1/2 times as much, 50 bucks a month more…and it looks like the installation fee locally will “vary by customer” instead of being the 99 dollar pro install that others will uniformly pay. My guess is that, more precisely, the installation fee will vary by customer location…if you live in Lafayette and want this then tell Cox that you don’t want to pay for installation—after all the competition, LUS, isn’t charging for it. 🙂 Cox will probably be happy to put you on the hook for only the 100 dollar modem that you will have to dump when LUS gets to you. Like I said: Competition is good.

Reports from other providers flesh out the local and regional competitive picture. AT&T gets pitifully aggressively vague:

AT&T is preparing to launch its U-verse package in the Baton Rouge market with download speeds of 18 Mbps and upload speeds of 1.5 Mbps, AT&T spokeswoman Sue Sperry said.

Sperry said she could not give a specific timeline for Baton Rouge or plans for other markets…

AT&T will be a third run competitor in the city of Lafayette’s already competitive market. Since Cox is battling LUS’s full 50 meg offering with the best it can muster for the lowest price it can muster AT&T will surely be shut out of the city broadband market. It is hard to imagine that they see much upside to the costs of upgrading in-city only to remain in third place. What AT&T has on its side is wireless mobility — but both Cox and LUS have plans to minimize that strong point.

EATel in East Ascension and Livingston parish is a privately owned rural telephone company that has rolled out a FTTH project in some of the fastest growing parishes in the country.

A pocket of 30 Mbps service is offered in portions of Ascension and Livingston parishes by EATEL, a privately owned communication company that launched its own fiber-optic system in 2005.

The company charges $99.95 per month for download speeds of 30 Mbps and upload speeds of 15 Mbps, with $20 shaved off if Internet is bundled with phone and video, EATEL Sales and Marketing Director Brad Supple said.

He said EATEL’s fiber-optic system still has much capacity to offer faster service in the future.

EATel is running a very aggressive billboard campaign in its footprint. But has yet to elicit cheaper new services for its customers.

Finally, the Adovcate story makes sure its Baton Rouge readers understand the pickle they’re in:

In Baton Rouge, Cox’s top-tier Internet service provides standard download speeds of up to 15 Mbps — with boosts of up to 20 Mbps — and upload speeds of 1.5 Mbps.

What the reporter neglects to mention is that AT&T back in March of 08, while it was successfully hoodwinking the state legislature in to passing an industry-sponsored bill to set up state-wide video franchising in Louisiana took the capital city off the table as a player by cutting a separate deal to offer the capital city many of the priviledges it was insisting that other city’s not receive. At the time LPF insisted that this was a ploy and that AT&T was likely to treat Lousiana, and Baton Rouge, exactly as it had treated North Carolina where a similar successful move to infringe on the property rights of communities had lead to exactly NO new service launches by the incumbent AT&T. But the law had helped get a long, long list of cable providers off the hook to the communities whose land they use to provide cable services. AT&T has yet to launch any new services in our state and any it eventually launches in Baton Rouge will be, at best, second rate.

Competition, where you get it, is good. And in our state competition that boosts services and reduces prices has ONLY come from a municipality, a local government. State laws that gift the private duopolists with further privileges have had exactly no beneficial effect. It is never smart to feed the bully. And it’s always a good idea to do it for yourself.

Cox Gets 50 megs (Updated)

Cox announced yesterday that it is launching its first DOCSIS 3 product, a 50 meg down “ultimate” tier in, of all places, Lafayette, LA. That’s a huge feather in the cap of Lafayette and is certain to get Lafayette press across the country.

Despite the fact that yesterday was April fools this appears to be no joke even though it has yet to make it onto the official Cox page… Cox really is launching it first offering of the much ballyhooed DOCSIS 3.0 service in Lafayette. DOCSIS 3 involves “channel bonding” —taking up a mutliple “chunks” of the available bandwidth on its hybrid fiber-coax systems and its current rollout by Comcast is widely seen as a response to the FIOS fiber to the home project being marketed by Verizon in its territories.

I first heard about Cox’s launch through the Lafayette Technology Google group where the press release was posted but have since found references on Broadband Reports and the Baton Rouge Business Report, both of which add interesting details.

Here’s the lowdown as gleaned from the press release and stories….

  • Speed down: 50 megs
  • Speed up: 5 megs
  • Install cost: $99.95 for a “pro install”
  • Modem cost: $99.99 from Cox (you must buy a Cisco DPC3000)
  • Introductory/Louisiana/Lafayette Price: $89.99/month
  • Regular/not Lafayette Price: $139.99
  • Contract length: ? not specified
  • Extras: 3 IP addresses, no transfer caps “at this time,”
  • Offered in Cox’s footprint in Lafayette Parish–Broussard, Carencro, Duson,
    Lafayette, Scott and Youngsville

What’s interesting about this announcement, of course, is that it represents an attempt to challenge LUS’ just-launched service. The Business Report, however, posts that Cox national spokesperson

Ruble says the high-speed Internet was launched in Lafayette because of “loud and vocal demand.” The Lafayette Utility System has launched its own fiber-optic Internet, phone and cable service. Ruble says LUS wasn’t a factor in introducing the new service in Lafayette first.

That’s a bit of newspeak if ever I heard it. “Loud and vocal demand” probably can be fairly interpreted to mean that Cox has finally heard what Lafayette said on July 16th four years ago when the people overwhelmingly voted to get LUS to provide them with fiber to the home. If you can look at it that way I guess that LUS wasn’t a factor…..but it seems a pretty far stretch and I hope the local PR folks won’t keep up such an unlikely position. Reasonable people have to think that what Lafayette has to recommend it as the place to launch a major new initiative is that it has a unfinished FTTH project. It is not a major market by Cox’s standard…and is, in fact, the smallest market in Louisiana that Cox retained after shedding mot of its rural and small city holdings (Alex and Lake Charles got the boot).

As a response to LUS’ 50 meg offering it doesn’t come off too well. Cox only matches LUS on download speed; upload is a 10th of what LUS offers and both monthly cost and upfront costs are higher. A comparison:

  • Speed down: 50 megs
  • Speed up: 5o megs
  • Install cost: 0
  • Modem cost: 0 (what modem?)
  • Introductory/Louisiana/Lafayette Price: No special pricing
  • Regular Price: $57.95
  • Contract length: No Contract
  • Extras: 100 meg intranet, Internet on cable box, Money stays in hometown (my favorite),
  • Offered in LUS’ footprint in Lafayette Parish (the city of Lafayette currently)

On the upside is, mainly, that folks in the neighboring smaller cities can get 50 megs—and that has got to be a good thing. Theyll be able, for a price, to join the elite few in our country who have that much bandwidth. I’ve got family in Broussard and I know they’ve looked longingly at what the city is getting. Demand is great in the surrounding cities. What’s interesting is everything I’ve heard Huval say recently has lead me to believe that LUS will move into the surrounding areas as soon as they are done with Lafayette proper. All the folks in the parish have to do is ask. It seems likely that Cox making this treat available is intended make take some of the fire out of those requests.

But will folks really be happy to pay more for what the people in the city are getting for less? Especially when they will still be outside the 100 meg intranet and have to make do with 1/10 the upload? It seems risky to me: It’s one thing for fast bandwidth to be a “city” thing. It’s another thing all together to be offered a product but to find out that you will be paying more for one that isn’t of the same quality as what those in the city is getting.

Interesting times.

UPDATE: 1:25 PM, 4/2/09: The national prss release release is also available on PR Newswire. The Advertiser has a story up on the topic this morning: Upgraded Internet launched.” MarketWatch, reporting on a speech by Dallas Clement, Cox’s senior VP of strategy and development, noted that Cox was rolling out their 50 meg docsis 3 service in Lafayette:

He added that the company will be careful about rolling out the service more widely, as it would be an expensive proposition. It will rely on what it learns about consumer demand for the service in a given location before committing to a new launch.

That explaination is a little puzzeling…a slow rollout makes sense in general if you are afraid that the demand won’t be there. But if so, Lafayette seems an odd place to roll it out first: They can’t possibly assess how it works for them in most of their footprint since our situation is uniquely difficult for them. In most places the 50 meg product would blow away the competition. It doesn’t here.

UPDATE: The Independent Blog has a post on this subject as well. In it the national Cox representative takes a more realistic stand than the one she apparently took with the Baton Rouge Business Report:

While Cox says the decision was not based solely on the competion it faces here from Lafayette Utilities System, it clearly was a factor. “It has to do with competition period,” says Cox spokesperson Ann Ruble. “I think Greater Louisiana was chosen because we have competition from many different sides. This is described as a hyper-competitive market across the entire footprint, the Baton Rouge market and the Lafayette market. We put so much investment into Lafayette that it made sense for the first place to launch.”

That makes a little more sense; obviously launching your first docsis 3 product in a place where you have a competitor that is offering much greater speed than you are makes a certain specie of sense—especially if you realize that “Greater Louisiana” aka the Lafayette-Baton Rouge market is NOT getting this service. ONLY Lafayette is…Baton Rouge where there is no LUS doesn’t get ANY access, not even at the 139 dollar level. The only thing that is “hypercompetitive” about the “Greater Baton Rouge” market is the presence of two fiber-based competitors. EATel in East Ascension also offers a FTTH alternative. Maybe Cox will offer it in Ascension Parish, where EATEL is offering Fiber To The Home if EATEL puts up a 50 meg tier too. Either way, Baton Rouge is out of luck….

“LUS FIBER: Company working to expand network’s reach”

This morning’s Advertiser ran a short story on LUS Fiber derived from the presentation given last night at the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation meeting. In a change from the usual Huval-led LUS presentation Amy Broussard from LUS sales and marketing made the presentation.

As one might expect given the venue the presentation focused on economic development with LUS reporting in on buisiness costs and new economic development opportunities. Probably the headliner for the evening was the announcement of the pricing structure for LUS Fiber’s internet business offerings:

Those are $64.95 per month for 10 megabits per second; $119.95 per month for 50 megabits per second and $199.95 per month for 100 megabits per second. The speeds refer to both uploading and downloading.

Those are good prices for businesses. Note that business users were given the opportunity to pay for 100 meg connections (not on the price list for residential customers). I attended the IEEE VR event alluded to in the text of the story—where a questioner from the floor asked if residents could buy the 100 meg package if they wanted to. Nonplussed, Terry allowed that if they wanted to give LUS their money, yes he’d sell them that. (The general reaction was laughter but the questioner clearly was pleased. I’d be fascinated to know what he has in mind.)

It was surely at that IEEE Virtual Reality event that Huval found interest among gamers:

LUS Director Terry Huval recently spoke to a meeting of several international engineers, and several in the international gaming industry asked Huval about how they might be able to apply LUS’ system.

“They are interested in what LUS Fiber has to offer to their businesses,” she said.

What LUS has to offer the gaming industry is unbelieveable speeds, low latency and a whole population that has affordeable access to the fastest speeds available in this country for the lowest prices around. A large, diverse, population on a next-generation network is the PERFECT testing ground for next-generation games. It’s “an in the wild” realistic place to test. The alternative is lab testing with controlled populations or relying on the upper-crust population that can afford Verizon’s top speeds. I assume that game developers know that that population is not the one that they will be selling to eventually. I’m not at all surprised that once the advanced gamer group that attended the international meeting of the the IEEE VR grop saw what was available that they swarmed Terry with questions. Not at all surprised. (Here’s an idea: LUS should sponsor gaming tournements leagues in the city and be prepared to support international gaming competitions when, inevitably, everyone wants to come here to play.)

The IEEE Virtual Reality Conference was quite a “catch” for Lafayette and the LITE center where much advanced VR work is done. This is a feather in the cap of Carolina Cruz-Neira who worked hard to bring the international gathering to a small city without a major airport. Having participated in esoteric academic conferences myself I can imagine the resistance. It is a testament to her energy and the existence of LUS Fiber and LITE in the same small city that the conference choose to come here. The effort may well pay off handsomely if any of these contacts decide to bring the gaming industry (now larger than the movie industry) to Lafayette.

During the meeting Steve Creeden (the article mispells this “Creeton”) hinted that LUS was not adverse to bringing fiber to areas outside the city. Huval at IEEE was also fairly direct about expansion when asked. Yes, the focus for now is on getting the network up in the city—but nobody is being coy about the eventual prospects for expansion. And that, in and of itself, represents a healthy maturation. The question is clearly on the table. Folks in the outlying districts should start getting their arguments together and start looking at those stimulus funds….there’s a once-in-lifetime opportunity available to only a very few communities in the US staring you in the face.

The Fiber Availability Mailer

I know if I were out there I’d want details…so I scanned the mailer I got and am posting them below. What you see are index pics. Click on them to get the absurdly large images that I made for archival purposes.

Here’s how the experience went for me: My wife brought in the mail, looked up smiling and said: “There’s something here I think you’ll want.” One look told me she was right. (Layne’s always right.)

What I got was a slim glossy mailer taped up on three sides; right there on the front it said: “Service is now available to you.”

And on the back “LUS Fiber is here. Welcome to YOUR Future.”

I slit it open with my trusty, rusty pocket knife and it unfolded to an 81/2 by 11 brochure. The cover was pretty dramatic but what caught my eye was the phrase “Waiting was the hard part.” My sentiments exactly.

Setting aside the two black and white sheets of 12 point type found inside I found a double truck with a note from Terry Huval on the left hand page touting the technical quality and hometown services of the new network.

The right hand page laid out the advantages of the fiber network and gave five reasons to switch. Can’t say as I paid much attention at first; I knew I was going to buy into the system. But they seem pretty sensible to me as I go back over it.

I wanted to sign up as soon as possible (natch) and scanned for that number Huval has been telling us we should only call after we get the notice in the mail. And there it was: 99-Fiber. My wife and I quickly poured over the details; we’d thought about what we wanted before; we were not going with one of the packages but wanted to get the various pieces at different levels and since we wouldn’t be penalized for doing so by LUS it was easy to do without a lot of complex calculation or second guessing. We talked briefly and confirmed our choices with each other quickly. (Yes, she was ok with it if I indulged in the 50 megs symmetrical…you’ve heard smiles described as indulgent? Like that.) Here’s what we looked at. Don’t take it as current necessarily. As I understand it channels are still being added daily. But as an historical artifact…here you go:

Fiber Availability Mailer Appears!!

I’m thrilled to announce that at least one person has gotten his fiber announcement delivered through snail mail: ME!

Thrilled is not really the word. 🙂

Look for the distinctive blue (Cyan, or pretty near) that dominates.

After you cut through the tape that holds it closed it’ll unfold into a glossy brochure with two pages of inserts detailing the services and pricing offered.

At right are what mine looked like when I threw them down on the dining table to take these pics. Click on them to get a larger version.

The cover turns out to be the “newsflyer” I fell across via Google back in January…