You Know You’re In Lafayette When?

You know you’re in Lafayette when the story on local music legend D. L. Menard contains the following color quote:

Menard doesn’t remember the Grammy-nomination night as a big night, though later it hit him. “It was (producer and musician) Terry Huval who told me. He found out on the Internet.”

Oh, producer and musician Mr. Huval found it on the internet did he? (There’s important things and then there are really important things.)

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?

Catch Up: Lafayette Gets It…in two senses

In my catchup from being in B.R. series …Lafayette Gets It…in two senses

First off, just like those big cites Lafayette now not only has traffic, hey Lafayette has Google traffic tracking! Aren’t we big time. (Well actually, only the Interstates’ traffic get tracked so far as I can tell by tinkering around with it, but still it marks some sort of coming-of-age.) From the map page click tracking and play around with the time-of-day and week projections. [Hat tip to Adam Melancon.]

Lafayette gets it: Tipitina’s music co-op has got to win some sort of prize for being the perfect blend of tech and music for Lafayette. (To bad N.O. came up with the idea first.) The co-op is putting on some free lessons today; it’s making me wish I wasn’t in Baton Rouge.:

Wed, August 26th, TONY DAIGLE teaches BEGINNING PRO TOOLS 5:30-7:00pm then thursday BRAM JOHNSON teaches BEGINNING ILLUSTRATOR 6:00-7:00pm

Fun: Black Fiber & Black SUVs

Here’s a link that’s mostly just for smiles: The One Fiber Optic Cable No One on the Dig for Tysons Rail Wants to Hit.

You may have heard of “dark” fiber—that’s the miles of fiber that run across the country that has never been lit; fiber that has never been used. So it’s common to talk about “dark” fiber and “lit” fiber and its differing costs and availability.

But you’ve likely never heard of “black” fiber. That’s because you’re not supposed to have heard anything about it. Apparently that’s the trade term for the ultra-secure fiber that the government intelligence agencies use. So it’s a special kind of problem when it gets cut. That problem is apparently particularly intense around the D.C and Northern Virgina areas where the various agencies have their headquarters…

Here’s a fun snippet:

This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of Tysons Corner [VA] a few years ago hit a fiber optic cable no one knew was there.

This part doesn’t: Within moments, three black sport-utility vehicles drove up, a half-dozen men in suits jumped out and one said, “You just hit our line.”

Whose line, you may ask? The guys in suits didn’t say…. But Georgelas assumed that he was dealing with the federal government and that the cable in question was “black” wire — a secure communications line used for some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence-gathering operations.

“The construction manager was shocked,” Georgelas recalled. “He had never seen a line get cut and people show up within seconds. Usually you’ve got to figure out whose line it is. To garner that kind of response that quickly was amazing.”

…he figured that the government was involved when an AT&T crew arrived the same day to fix the line, rather than waiting days.

Spooks, apparently, care about their fiber…and get good service. 🙂

How My Internet Connection Spent New Year’s Eve — Or, Please Hurry LUS!!!

I recently shot some video for some friends of mine in a band when they played at the Blue Moon Saloon. It’s going to be released as a DVD in the next month or so.

The band members are scattered across the South but I wanted to let them see the near final cut of the video. I saved it as a Quicktime movie in a small (480 x 270 pixels) widescreen format and it came in at a grand total of 1.69 gigabytes. Too big to send via conventional email.

I tried Pando (a service a friend in New Orleans and I had used to exchange video) but that service has a 1 gig file size limit.

Googling around, I found which has a 2 gig file size limit. Ah, we’re good to go.

So, I signed up, linked to the file and began sending it.

There is a handy/scary network speedometer on the upload page. I finally got that baby up to 104 kbps via my Cox Internet connection. But what was really scary was the “Time Remaining” figure: four hours and fifty-plus minutes!

Well, it was what it was, so I went to read a couple of things on my laptop while the iMac, Cox and Filemail did their thing.

A couple of hours later, I returned to the iMac only to find an error message!

Not knowing the source of the error, I decided to try to FTP the file to a domain that I own. FTP is supposed to be pretty fast (faster than email, any way). But, looking at the progress dial on Fetch, it was clear that this process would take about five hours at the connection speed I was able to achieve.

Sure enough, five hours later, the file was on the website. I linked to it and it began to play.

Still, knowing that video over the Internet is network speed sensitive, I went back to Filemail to see if I could successfully send the file so that the band members could download it onto their respective desktops and get a better playback experience.

I figured out that the original problem had been that my hard drive had ‘gone to sleep’ in the initial transfer process — and who wouldn’t after three or four hours? 😉

So, I resent my system preferences to keep the hard-drive ‘awake’ no matter how long the transfer took.

Sent the file again and — again — delivery time was going to be about five hours.

This time, the process was completed without a glitch.

But, using that great Cox fiber to the neighborhood network with the asymmetrical upload and download speeds, I spent at least 12 hours of time moving a 1.69 gigabyte file to a mail service and/or a website for viewing.

I am happy to see that LUS has announced their pricing on packages and I’m thrilled about the network speeds. But, they can’t get here soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

I’m tired of the giant sucking sound Cox’s network is making in my wallet and with their underperforming network.

Cute High Tech Alligator

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

The alligators love cheese curls and ice cream…

ONLY in Lafayette.

Now, there rest of the story:

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

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

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

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

Like I said, Only in Lafayette.

Nutria Rats…and Fiber

Ok, so it’s NOT Nutria…but Beaver is the as good as it gets in Arkansas.

A beaver took a nibble out of a fiber optic cable northeast of Hope and knocked out telephones and other services to part of southwest Arkansas. Rain washed away soil that had covered the line about 10 miles from Hope and the beaver bit through it early Wednesday.

Apparently having aerial fiber doesn’t necessarily save your precious fiber from the attack of the monstrous animals. According to the mas knowledgeable Dirk van der Woude, crows attack fiber in Tokyo and people are worried about rats getting into fiber in ductwork.

Beware the critters!

Humor: Cox, Eatel, & LUS

Kevin Blanchard does his usual exemplary job of capturing the little ironies and quirks that make following the news so interesting.

In this morning’s story on yesterday’s big TechSouth Governor’s award luncheon he covers the highlights of the event. If you’d like to find out more about the technology behind LITE and how BP uses in oil exploration the story is a great starting point. Our own Ramesh Kolluru comes in for well-deserved praise as well.

But if, like me, you’re starved for a little knowing smile skip down to the end and read the bit about EATEL winning its Governor’s award for best “Technology Company of the Year.”

And just so you don’t have to even click for your smile:

Gonzales-based EATEL was presented the Technology Company of the Year for its phone, cable and high-speed Internet service delivered over an entirely fiber-optic network.

EATEL President Robert Burgess thanked Cox Communications — a major sponsor of TechSouth — for its “formidable” competition.

“Because of (Cox’s) size, capability and market strength they force us to be at the top of our game every day,” Burgess said.

That competition has “helped” EATEL succeed, Burgess said.

Burgess than made a joking reference to Lafayette Utilities System’s fiber-optic based telecommunications service, expected to start up early next year — also in competition with Cox — saying he’s sure LUS would appreciate some help.

“We’ve had more than enough assistance,” Burgess said, drawing laughter from the audience, which included LUS and Cox officials.

“Please, any attention you give to us, please give it to (LUS),” Burgess said.

What Kevin does not have to say out loud is that lead sponsor Cox (with its name on every piece of promotion and occupying the suite of booths spanning the entrance to the affair) has recently been locked in an unusually public and expensive battle with EATEL. Cox is offering a super special that amounts to a 12 month 50% discount on its triple play package (with HBO!) but is only advertising it in the small area south of Baton Rouge where local telco EATEL is eating market share with the same FTTH technology for which they were receiving the technology award.

That’s rich.

EATEL, as faithful readers of this blog will know, responded by taking out a series of full-page ads in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser which promoted, in vivid red and black, the deal in Lafayette as well. Louisiana law forces Cox to make the deal available throughout its service area but does not force it to promote it as evenly. So EATEL stepped up to “help” Cox out. So, on EATEL’s account the two companies are engaged in an exchange of “favors.” (That’s rich, too.) After an initial confusion among Cox’s operators, who initially denied the price reduction was available in Lafayette, the company trimmed its sails and made the best of a bad matter by allowing Lafayette residents in on the deal. Lafayette is a much larger market than East Ascension parish and extending the deal to Lafayette surely makes the attempt quash little EATEL with long-term price specials MUCH more expensive.

(Wanna know how you can get in on the deal? As a little fillup you’ll be using a unified technology whose protocols will be similar to LUS’ even if the capacity of LUS underlying infrastructure is vastly larger. After you get used to an all-IP household you can flip over to LUS’ faster, locally-owned version. The Cox deal does not require a contract but is guaranteed for 12 months.)

/irk on/
As a little added fillip: Cox is sensitive on this matter—I wandered by the Cox booth at TechSouth (they give great floor prizes) and one of their booth guys struck up a conversation trying to encourage me to try Cox. I told him I already had cable and internet from them. He switched to urging me to try their VOIP. I couldn’t resist at that point. I told him I was considering the “half-off” deal advertised in paper. 😉 He paled a little (though that might be my imagination) and said it was a good deal. As it is. But he then overreached by claiming that Cox had always intended to offer it to everyone. That it was only being “test-marketed” over there. Now that is just plain silly—and insulting. It was no accident that it was being offered in the only place in this market that Cox currently faces a local, FTTH-based competition. By all accounts EATEL is gaing substantial market share. I tried to point that out and that offering that large a reduction for 12 months had to be a bit more than a casual promotion. He countered by saying that Cox had done it elsewhere. I scoffed. He said he’d been working for Cox in Northern Virginia where they did the same. I doubt he expected anyone in little ole Lafayette to smile and point out that this proved my point about fiber competition—that is where Verizon’s Fios FTTH network is going head to head with cablecos and is producing some of the highest speeds in the country. It’s fiber taking market share, I said, that caused the long-term “specials” in both places. He wouldn’t back off the company talking point that it was all just normal marketing and that it was just a coincidence that his company offered a 50% reduction in the one small place where they had fiber competition—and, oh yes, where they compete with fiber in Virginia. By the end I actually was insulted…Cox is, as EATEL says, a formidable competitor. They are shaping up to be the Verizon of cablecos—willing to really invest in the future of their network even at the cost of today’s profits. That’s both impressive and worthy. But their Achilles heal is their contempt for their communities, their customers, and even for individuals who walk up and talk to a representative at a trade fair. They need to learn how to be honest with folks. It’ll go much further than hype, FUD and self-serving dishonesty.
/irk off/

Post Scriptum:
Blanchard is setting down his pen soon to go back to school and change professions. I, for one, will miss him and gently intelligent toss-off articles like this one.

AT&T to Deploy FTTH

This is a slightly edited version of the story from Benoit Felten’s inestimateable fiberevolution blog; it is worth reproducing in full. Don’t stop before you get to the phrase “a little known city in South Louisiana that has shown a lot of interest Fiber To The Home.” Say what?

You’ve probably read the news already, it’s all over the place, but in a surprise move, AT&T the largest telecom company in the US has announced a 6-year FTTH deployment plan with the aim to cover 95 to 99% of its customer base by 2014.

This is all the more surprising because, so far, AT&T appeared very reluctant to move into that space. I [Felten] was lucky enough to be able to speak with a top executive at AT&T which I am unfortunately not allowed to name. Here’s a short transcript of the interview. There may be inaccuracies due to my difficulty in understanding Texas accents. I have also edited strong language to avoid shocking any readers:

Benoit: X, this is a surprising move. AT&T had previously announced that they were waiting for the regulatory environment artound FTTH to be clarified before they would invest. What made you change your mind ?
X: Well, first of all, everybody’s doing it, right? We’re looking like a right bunch of sh*theads, with the US falling behind and all those Frenchies and [Japanese].
Benoit: Surely that’s not enough to convince the investors though…
X: F*ck the investors! The tyranny of investors is over. We have an old, and frankly decrepit access network, it needs upgrading, we might as well do it with a future proof technology, right? The investors will be grateful someday, until then..F*ck ’em.
Benoit: Uh, That is very bold indeed. So, in your business model, how long does it take to pay back?
X: Well, depending on the hypothesis, between 3 and 25 years. But who cares ? If we go bust the government will buy us out, just like they did with Bear Stearns!
Benoit: Which network architecture will you be deploying?
X: Well, they’re all going for PON these days, so we have had long and intense internal debate, but ultimately we chose to deploy Point to Point Ethernet.
Benoit: Why ?
X: The name sounds cooler. “PON” sounds naff, like an 80s video game. PtoP sounds modern, more 2.0, you know! And besides if we want to please the geeks this is what they are all mumbling about over their granola.
Benoit: Last question, which areas will be the first to see this deployment happen and when?
Mr. X: Well, after a lot of collective soul searching, we’ve decided to focus our early deployment efforts on a little known city in South Louisiana that has shown a lot of interest Fiber To The Home. I really can’t say any more at this stage.
Benoit: X, thank you very much!

I will be posting updates as more about this groundbreaking announcement unfolds.

I don’t know what this means……but it sure sounds suspicious.