Thursday, September 04, 2014

"DTA adds Wi-Fi for Fall 2014 - IND Media"

LUS Fiber is offering free wifi in the big downtown venues! It will come online for the fall concert series but will really come into its own when the Festival Internaional takes the stage. It would be great to have it spread over the downtown area by the time of festival.

LUS Fiber has had a cache of unused wifi nodes for awhile now. Great to see them being used in a way that will differentiate LUS Fiber from its competitors—this is what a community-owned network should be doing. (I'll also hazard a hope that these publicly available nodes can be used as a basis for a more larger scale wifi network...the telecoms and the cable companies have started to do this and we are much better positioned to do a good job of this than their patchy networks ever will.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

What he said....'bout Net Neutrality as a Public Utility Value

Harold Feld of Piublic Knowledge and "Tales of the Sausage Factory" posts a reflection on of a very interesting big data analysis of the 1.1 million comments so far made on the FCC's request that the public weigh in on potential net neutrality regulations.

Feld incisively points to the unprecedented degree to which Americans are engaged with this issue, the personal way they tie this to fundamental civic values, and the sheer amount of individual thought put into this matter. The money quote:
More broadly, when we look at these sentiments, we see a lot of support for the idea of broadband as a public utility – by which I mean a basic service so essential to participation in modern society that we do not simply leave it to the kindness of kings, the benevolence of corporate barons, or the indifference of the unfettered market. We don’t speak of access to consumer goods or most services as essential to the American Dream and tied into values of fundamental fairness. We reserve that kind of language for a very small number of services like water, electricity and other very basic and fundamental things. That people now add “broadband access” to this short list of services that should reflect our values is quite telling.
When we say that access to the net should be a "utility" it isn't, not by any means, a reference to simply a preferred economic model. It is about equitable access for all, access that is not controlled by some consortia of big guys.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

LUS Fiber adds children's French channel

KATC reports that LUS Fiber has added a new french language channel aimed at young children, TiVi5MONDE Kids—at channel 105 in the "Digital Plus" tier.
The inclusion of a children's channel in French is an acknowledgment of the francophone region's Cajun and Creole heritage. Terry Huval, himself a noted Cajun fiddle player, notes in the press release:
"It's important to encourage youth to embrace our French heritage...This is why LUS Fiber sought out to be one of the first cable companies to host this channel."
Beyond just the nod to the region's french heritage in a community where about 13% of the population tell census takers that they speak French in the home, the new channel will also have a special relationship with the parish's public school system. Lafayette has two French immersion schools in its "Schools of Choice" program—at Evangeline and Myrtle Place Elementary—where instruction is primarily in French.
LUS Fiber officials say that, along with the family-friendly programming, TiVi5MONDE Kids will offer free lesson plans to teachers. Included within the agreement struck by LUS Fiber, TiVi5MONDE Kids will train local teachers how to incorporate the network and free online tools into their classroom education plans...
However, programming will not solely be targeted to French Immersion students, but teachers and parents as well, LUS Fiber explains in a release. The release says that channel will act as an exciting tool to compliment traditional foreign language education covering the basic linguistic skills - reading, writing, speaking and listening. 
French programming has also been a issue in the ongoing competition between Cox and LUS Fiber both before LUS Fiber launched and after. While LUS Fiber was still building Cox got called in on the carpet by the Council to "explain" yanking the weather channel and French programming from the basic tier during the period when Lafayette was merged into the greater Louisiana. Later it attempted to make an advertising pitch about its having TV5—without noting that it was packaged into the high-priced tier while LUS Fiber kept in on the basis channel setup.

Which brings up a discomfiting point: LUS no longer carries TV5 on the inexpensive, no frills, no box it too has moved TV5 to the higher, box-required tier. Even more: TiVi5 Monde Kids is on an upper, yet more expensive tier. That's not good for the young families the channel would most benefit. That's part of a drift towards doing everything as if LUS were a standard cable company. It's a disappointment. Sure Cox has, in the interim treated the natives even worse, having moved TV5 to its most expensive "regular" channel tier with a buncha sports channels Tante Sue is not likely to care about. Still if there is any place where we should be able to buck the pattern and act in favor of community, ethnicity, and history it should be here. It's worrisome that it's not. LUS seems to have lost track of the idea that it needs to differentiate itself from "business as usual" coporatism.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

"LUS Fiber inks SEC"

Hey, LUS Fiber has signed up for the new SEC channel. This is actually a big deal; getting the local sports networks is huge deal to a good portion of the subscriber base. A portion that is willing to pay for privilege, incidentally.

LUS Director Huval underlines this point when he says:
"I would like to personally thank the individuals who took the time to let us know how important it was that we carry this channel. We take customer feedback seriously and appreciate the opportunity to better serve the City of Lafayette.”
Even purist tech geeks and gigabit hipsters oughta care: local sports networks are crucial to the survival of smaller independent systems like LUS Fiber and all too often the big guys (AKA: Cox) manage to influence local sports networks to make life difficult for the small guys.

But LUS' LSU sports fiends will be able to get their fix through the hometown network. As a three time graduate of LSU that spent his freshman year in the grungy dorms beneath Tiger Stadium I might even pony up myself.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa

It's my fault; the whole big thing is my fault.

This blog has been offline for several months; mostly because I got my signals seriously crossed on some minor technical issues between Google's blogger, my web space provider, and my domain name holder. And, yeah, family issues and other civic commitments that seemed to be more pressing at any moment kept me too distracted to see how easy the fix was. It shouldn't have gone on so long.

I apologize.

But I'm back. Lafayette Pro Fiber is back and I've been faithfully plopping story ideas into the hopper as they've come up in my news stream. Those that seem to still be relevant will see new life on these pages.

Watch this space. (Again)

Abjectly yours, John

Update 8/7/14: Ok, the blog went down again and getting it back up seems to have revealed the basic issue...I am no longer so abject: the apparent reason that I've had trouble getting the blog up was that Google scans for disparities in its record of you DNS number (the actual, numerical, address) and if it doesn't match takes down your blog. My webspace provider had forced a move to a new server and so that address had changed. Google gives NO notice to your registered account email, no flag on your control board, no hint in any instructions (and I read several conflicting versions of how to do all this in Google's internally incoherent "help" files) that verification, which takes place implicitly when you first register you personal domain, is ever an issue.  The same settings which worked yesterday suddenly don't work any longer with not only no warning but with no hint that Google has done anything. Since the only changes that happened recently were at the web provider the evidence pointed to them even though the blog stayed up for at least a week after that change. I only found the issue by futzing with settings I knew were right that were buried several levels off this blog's particular account. I successfully changed those correct settings. And only then did I get a follow-up flag that verification had failed. Had I not kept that window open, but closed it immediately upon success I don't believe I'd have ever seen flag. That flag lead to a link, which in turn lead to another link which in turn described an arcane procedure of messing with the TXT field of the domain name provider and goosing Google to force another verification. I did so and after anxious waiting the blog came back...again.

Yes, I'm profoundly irritated.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Fighting Telecom Giants"—Lafayette cited as a Kumbaya example

What They're Saying Dept.

There's been a wave of new interest in municipally owned telecoms since the Comcast—the largest cableco— made a bid to take over TimeWarner Cable—the second largest cable company. Together they'd own 62% of America's households. Now in another, better, time there'd be no question but that approving such a move would be sanctioning a monopoly and it wouldn't be allowed to take place. But we don't live in that better time. We live in a time where Comcast can blithely claim that it really doesn't matter if they merge because they don't compete anyway. And they don't. But that is the most cockamamie reason I can imagine to ensure that the combined company is utterly unchallengeable by anyone.

Currently Comcast by most estimates pays from 1/3 to 1/2 what a struggling startup would pay for television channels, You know, like LUS Fiber, Allowing these companies to combine would make the situation even worse.

Still, Lafayette regularly gets cited as the city that succeeded. Jim Baller, interviewed by Bob Garfield in an NPR report says:

BOB GARFIELD:  You were talking about what these municipal services can mean for the integrity of a community. Do you have one “Kumbaya” example that you can give me?
JAMES BALLER:  Sure. Lafayette, Louisiana is one of the most conservative cities in the country. It has a mayor, Joey Durel. He saw the benefits of fiber network and asked private companies to provide the service. They refused several times. It ultimately went forward with a referendum and ran into opposition from BellSouth and Cox Communications. During the referendum campaign, both the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties worked shoulder to shoulder in support of the project, and at the end of the day, the project was supported by a landslide vote. It’s drawn thousands of jobs into the community. It's operating financially successfully. And it has, among other things, attracted an entirely new industry, the film industry. Secretariatwas filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana, in large part because of the existence of their fiber network.
BOB GARFIELD:  There’s a tear streaming down my cheek.
BOB GARFIELD:  Free marketeers and municipal broadbanders living together in harmony.
JAMES BALLER:  Right. As Joey says, “They each held their noses but decided that on this one exceptional project they had a common interest.”

Monday, December 30, 2013

NYTimes finds Lafayette among American Cities with World-Class Broadband. But...

What's Being Said Dept.

Wherein Lafayette gets favorable press:
The New York Times, in a story unfavorably comparing US broadband to world standards, spares a paragraph to laud Lafayette and other muni-built challengers to the turgid American broadband scene.
Some American cities have such superfast broadband that if they were ranked against foreign countries, several, like Bristol, Va., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La., would rank in the top 10.
Those three cities built municipal fiber-optic networks, and those networks can operate just as fast as the swiftest connections in Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo.
The big But:
But...and there is a but:
But those speeds can come at a very high price. In Chattanooga, Internet service of 1 gigabit a second costs a consumer $70. But in Lafayette, the same speed costs nearly $1,000 a month. In Seoul, it’s about $31 — a result of government subsidies to encourage Internet use.
Here's the thing. Having world-class broadband is a good thing. But, really, a 1000 dollars for a residential gig is just plain, flat too much. Why? Because no one uses a gig continuously except a large scale commercial concern. Such (rare) businesses need a full gig continuously. They need to have that gig plus quality assurance at a scale that the best-effort residential network cannot provide. For a dedicated commercial line with a full gig and quality assurance a 1000 bucks would be a great price. But that is not what is being offered for 70 dollars in Chattanooga nor in in the Kansas Cities for the same 70 dollars or, for that matter, the 31 subsidized dollars in Seoul. LUS Fiber is also offering a residential, best effort gig. But it is offering it at 1000 dollars and and that's not reasonable. Chattanooga, and Google both demonstrate that you can do a best-effor gig for less, much less.

These other guys are able to sell a gig for only 70 bucks because, frankly, real users never, ever use anything like that much capacity for anything but the smallest fraction of a moment. A gig user will typically put no more strain on the network's paid-for capacity than a 100 or a 50 meg user. That's why Chattanooga doesn't see a reason to charge 10 multiples of a 100 meg capacity and Google don't see a reason to offer anything but a simple 1 gig to all.

Given all that LUS Fiber should follow suite and charge the going 70 dollars for a gig. Just to maintain bragging rights if nothing else. And if we aren't going to do so LUS Fiber should tell Lafayette just exactly why we are not. Now there is good reason to think that declining to sell a gig of network "speed" at a reasonable price is fundamentally the honest thing to do. (But selling that gig at
so high a price that it is not a remotely rational purchase is a bad way of evading telling people just why you don't want to sell them a gig of "speed.")

Why the mania for selling a gig to residents is pretty much dishonest:
To be frank, LUS Fiber might be telling itself that it cannot provide a gig "speed (see below)*" reliably—and that it won't participate in pretending that it can. It is certainly true that they cannot. And it's true of Google and especially Chattanooga as well. That's because most sites cannot serve out data in a gig stream and anyway aren't serving data in large enough chunks that a gig of capacity would benefit an end-user. Google can locate its enormous caches inside its own network and for those hits it can provide surprising speed. But even mighty Google cannot make a server faster or make the fragments of an internet page large enough to benefit from a true gig. What a gig residential connection typically buys a residential consumer is something effectively south of a 100 megs anytime they want it. That will feel instantaneous in most uses. And that is the glorious grail of transport: perceptual instantaneous response—which at higher speeds becomes more a matter the number of requests for information and the length of time each round-trip request takes.

The bottom line is that the speed we experience, which is the speed we care about, is outside of any ISP's control. Folks who are selling a gig of capacity as if it were a decent proxy for speed are being, at best, disingenuous.

*speed: Ok, lets at least try to understand what speed really is and why nobody can guarantee "a gig" of speed. A gig is basically a capacity measure. It's the size of the pipe; what amount of data it will transmit when things are optimal. When we talk about speed we are usually trying (poorly) to talk about responsiveness. If we have to wait "too long" our speed is slow. If we can live with the wait we are usually willing to say our speed is "ok." If we don't have to wait at all we say "that's fast!" So you can see that when capacity is the largest limiting factor, when the pipe is always full, it is reasonable to focus on capacity and getting more of it—lack of capacity is keeping you waiting. 

But capacity hasn't been the limiting factor for most of us in a long time, if it ever was. Capacity matters most when when we want to download something big and use it right away. That's pretty much exclusively videos/movies these days. Because capacity is limited we've learned how to stream big video files; streaming lets us start watching when just the first little bits have been downloaded. A stream is deliberately designed to not saturate the connection if at all possible, to not use the full capacity available. Examples are YouTube and Netflix. Netflix's Super HD 1080p service at its best setting only uses 7Mb/s. Only. 7. megs. For the most extreme activity most of us will engage in in any month. Capacity is not the bottleneck any more. Thinking a gig of capacity will enhance most of our experience is illusory. 

No, most of the problem with getting to perceptually instantaneous responses lies with aggregate response times, not capacity. And experienced response times are, chiefly, a product of the number of round trip requests for information that a web page/app makes of a multitude of servers across the web and round trip time for each request (aka latency). Many of these request for information must be made serially, that is they have to wait for a response to the first request before making a, second better, informed request. So if the current average is something like each page addressing 16 different domains, and the average domain getting something like 39 request from just one of its domains its gets pretty clear that the aggregate round trip time for the requests gets large fast—even before you consider the serial nature of a large fraction of those requests. Very quickly network latency and the design of the requests of the web page/app become, together, the limiting factor. That's where we are today. [For a less simplified version of the larger problem see Bandwidth IS NOT Speed]

Unfortunately no ISP, not LUS Fiber, not Google, not Chattanooga has much to do with overall responsiveness (latency X requests). Now its generally true that all-fiber networks have nicely lower in-network latency. But it can't control latency beyond its network borders. Further, no ISP has anything at all to do with common web design practices regarding requests. All of that means they can't really make claims about "speed." But marketing demands differentiators and capacity is something that ISPs can actually offer. Hence the ads about bandwidth. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

So much for "You don't need fiber."

According to CED Cox is launching its first residential Fiber To The Home project in Mission Viejo California. So much for Cox's refrain during the fiber fight that nobody needed fiber; that having fiber in Lafayette was like having a luxury car without having a decent garage within which to put it.

On the other hand perhaps Cox is not so hypocritical about this as it might at first glance appear. After all Mission Viejo is a large, upscale planned community — Lafayette residents will think "River Ranch" — that will certainly be a rich source of income for years to come. The lowest priced town homes start at 400,000 dollars.

My guess is that Cox thinks that Mission Viejo does have decent garages, and therefore deserves fiber.

That's just not the way we think down here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fiber optic networks developing in Shreveport, Caddo

A suggestive story is emerging from Shreveport. Caddo parish is eyeing an move to extending its own internal network, what is know as a "government network" to almost all its services using fiber. It projects a substantial savings over its current pattern of using leased lines.

Now that's not exactly top of the page news for a blog with Lafayette-centric interests but what is striking is that Shreveport is explicitly using Lafayette and LUS Fiber as a model. At each turn in the story it refers back to Lafayette's successful experience. In fact the center third of the story is about LUS Fiber:
Lafayette, which operates a municpal telephone, TV and Internet service utilizing fiber optic cables, began using the technology in a similar fashion. 
Terry Huval, director of LUS Fiber, a subsidiary of Lafayette Utilities System, the city-owned power company, said Lafayette began using fiber optic lines in the late 1990s to update connectivity between its electric substations. 
After lines were operational, the local business community began to ask whether the fiber lines could provide other uses, he said. The City did a study and found one option was to lease the fiber line or get into the cable, telephone and Internet business. 
Instead, officials decided to connect other governmental entities, such as the school board and courthouse to their network, and sell some lines on a wholesale basis to companies providing broadband connected services as a “last mile solution,” Huval said. 
But as residents and businesses continued to clamor for municipal telecom services, city officials re-thought leveraging the asset to bring in the next generation of commerce.
“If you look at 1896 when the electricity was brought in (to Lafayette), it was the new highway of commerce for the future,” Huval said. “It was what railroads were before then and were rivers before then.” 
Officials felt the fiber optic system could open that next opportunity, and in 2004 the city moved forward with plans to create LUS Fiber, he said.
“We had some serious challenges, including a legal battle that went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Dee Stanley, Lafayette’s chief administrative officer, referring to lawsuits filed by local telecom competitors. 
But in February 2009, roughly a year after construction started, the service reached its first customers. 
Stanley said the Internet access has been a game changer in the community, with many businesses hungry for that bandwidth. Medical and engineering fields require enormous amounts of bandwidth to move data, as well as digital media.

One of the so-far unrealized hopes for Lafayette's ground-breaking fiber network was that it would serve to inspire other Louisiana communities to do the same. There has been abortive interest shown in Alexandria and a few of the smaller communities—and talk in still-recovering New Orleans—but to date no other community has buckled down to following Lafayette's lead.

Geaux Shreveport. :-)

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Digital Divide Redux"

From the New York Times
The New York Times today runs an update story on what we used to call the digital divide. For those who've followed closely the news is not new but if you've been away from the story for awhile the trend is heartening: close to 86% of the nation has a regular connection to the internet and all but the last 2% or so have some potential access to broadband. These sort of figures, out of statistical necessity mean that the various gaps—racial, income, rural, and age—that have concerned net activists have closed but still remain some of the most significant predictors of who has not made the jump. But while the gaps may have closed the widespread use of the web and the movement toward web-only access for information about things like government services and job applications has worsened the consequences for those that remain without a reliable connection.

Growth is flattening out and with availability largely eliminated and utility continuing to rise the issue has become one of how to get the remaining users online. Some people still don't see the usefulness of the net in their lives or simply don't know how to effectively use it while others simply find it very difficult to afford. That suggest the two basic ways to get more people online that this story highlights: 1) community-based training and 2) lower prices. Unsurprisingly both tactics have been tried and both work.

Lafayette is one of the few places where the community can address both these issues themselves—if we choose to. Not long ago our utility eliminated the 44 dollar minimum that had made it too expensive for some to get started. But that example demonstrates how we can do more. We own our own telecommunications utility and we can lower prices for entry-level access and provide training and help getting online ourselves; we do not need the help of any outside corporation or agency.

All that remains is to decide to act.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"LUS Fiber officials expect to meet financial targets"

The yearly round of Lafayette City-Parish budget meetings is in swing and Thursday afternoon's event featured LUS utilities and its separate fiber division. It's an index of just how uncontroversial LUS Fiber now is that the only concerned citizens in the crowd were there with the pages from the electrical utility's budget and  the one and only "blue card" public speaker was concerned about fuel efficiency and residential power conservation. The Lafayette Advertiser didn't bother to report anything at all. In fact, the only local media outlet to notice the occasion was KLFY who, rightly, focused on the real news of the night: that LUS was considering shutting down the old Doc Bonin electricity plant and investing a new combined cycle gas generating plant.

The Baton Rouge Advocate on the other hand, sent reporter Richard Burgess, who has had the Fiber beat for years and was around during the fireworks of the fiber referendum. Burgess highlights the latest milestones in long climb toward full profitability:
LUS is now making enough to cover debt payments and is expected to bring in enough money next year to begin setting aside cash to re-invest in the fiber-optic system as it ages, according to projections from the City-Parish Department of Finance and Management.
By 2015, LUS Fiber is projected to make its first payment into city’s general fund of $1.5 million, followed by a $2 million payment in 2016 and a $2.5 million payment in 2017, according to the budget projections.
All in all its good news: both the continued march toward self-sustainability and the lack of a contingent of devoted naysayers unable to credit any good news. Granted that Mr. Theriot still found it necessary to assume the worst about any item that seemed in the least ambiguous but no other councilman exhibited even a hint of malign distrust and even Mr Theriot seemed able to hear sensible explanations when they were uttered. Maybe they are all actually growing into the role. Maybe we all are. One can hope.

Monday, June 17, 2013

WiFi Meters: Deafening Silence

The folks from the gas company, Atmos Energy, came around last week and installed a fancy new gas meter. They did a quick efficient job and restarted our one pilot light for us when all was done. Looks just like the old one except for a bulging plastic enclosed meter-reading device that houses both analog dials and a wireless connection.

Now normally that'd not be cause for comment. So what, big deal; right? Agreed...but: It was a huge deal when LUS installed a their new electric meters. Wide media coverage; months of debate and citizen complaint at City-Parish Council meetings—you'd think something more than a meter upgrade that was frankly billed as way to save some money on meter readers and increase the accuracy of readings was at stake. The tin-foil hat gubberment conspiracy crowd turned out in force as did those who claimed to be frantic about the supposed effects of WiFi "radiation." 

All of that was foolishness, of course. But I'm not going to try and argue that point by point here. 

I've waited weeks now for the reaction and the silence is deafening. The single point I want to make is this: Where in the world are all the people who were sure there was something nefarious, evil, and dangerous about wifi meters now? Why aren't they up in arms about Atmos energy who—with no warning, no public comment and not the least evidence of that they take seriously any health or privacy concerns—being pilloried by the righteous, right-wing few? 

UntitledA lot of folks thought that all those complaints were not honest—that they were directed against LUS simply because LUS was not some sacred private provider but a service provided by our own community. 

There's a word for the silence: Hypocrisy. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Antie's Ethical Antics: Corruption revisited

Un-freaking-believable. The swagger of Ed Antie defies imagination; from the lead paragraphs in the Advocate story:
The insider who some say was most responsible for canceling an $80.6 million federal grant to build high-speed Internet capabilities in rural Louisiana has asked the Ethics Board for clearance to rejoin the Board of Regents. 
“Ed Antie is the guy that killed high-speed Internet for 400,000 poor people in Louisiana. The Board of Regents wanted it. He did more to damage that than any one person in Louisiana,” said Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish and one of five elected members on the state Public Service Commission.
First, as the article makes crystal clear there is no possibility that the Jindal administration will touch Antie with a 10 foot pole anymore—no matter how much money he and his pals amass for their side in the political arena. So this is all about Antie insisting he should feel pride when others clearly understand that shame would be the appropriate emotion.

Some Background
Lafayette Pro Fiber covered this back in '11 when the story originally broke;  that report tells more of the sordid tale.

To recall the outline: The Louisiana Board of Regents had applied for, and won, a grant to supply the state's poorest parishes in the delta region of northeast Louisiana with a backbone fiber-optic network. That area is radically underserved, and what connectivity does exist is in the hands of a few men who, lacking the resources, or perhaps simply the will, to expand the fragmented networks usefully are milking lines laid down during the dot com boom for monopoly-level profits but not reinvesting in substantial expansion in the impoverished region.

It is critical to understand two things that this new network would have done. First, it made portions of the insider leases that formed LONI, the state's academic network connecting the state's universities through the area, redundant. But—even worse— the new capacity would have been open to lease and extension by anyone since it was paid for by public money that mandated open networks. That meant actual competition could emerge throughout a region for the services monopolized by a few players who used their ownership of the decaying physical network to remain virtually sole providers in their small areas. Under the new setup any entrepreneur who thought he or she could do a better job than the old boy networks could connect to the shiny new network and compete at rates somewhat nearer the national norm.

At the behest of Antie and his friends in the telecomm business the Jindal administration intervened in the project and simply changed the deal unilaterally. Their new idea (surprise) entailed cutting out all that nonsense about a new, single, pervasive, open network in favor of  a version that took the money but spent it leasing the old fragments and creating a network that would explicitly not be open. A closed network obviously violated the letter of the law. In addition, the grant rewrite violated the spirit: the stimulus grant was intended to build new capacity and create immediate construction jobs. The astonished Feds had no choice but to cancel the grant.

Mission accomplished: "400,000 poor people in Louisiana" would not get access to a modern high-speed network. But the old boy network would continue undisturbed.

Antie's Role
Antie's sin was being blindingly obvious. The man from Carencro turned into an embarrassment. He was among the six Board of Regents' members who, it was revealed, had paid into the Jindal campaign immediately after receiving their appointment. The usual order for this specie of corruption is for the applicant for a public position to have paid into the campaign before getting the job and, preferably, before their candidate has won the position. Post-paid is, well, unseemly. It looks disturbingly like you paid for a seat.

The way the Regents work is that you get appointed and start the job but you then have to be approved by the Senate. That's usually a rubber stamp deal. Senators don't argue with the Governor over his appointees. At least not in Louisiana. At least not usually. But this time was different. Antie had spent his early days as an appointee politicking the board and the administration by phone and (most traceably) by email demanding that the state do something about the no good, terrible, very bad federal grant to bring broadband to impoverished Louisiana. It wasn't the idea that taking money from those communities was ok if it would hurt in any way someone's private profits—as the subsequent history of the grant proved. It was being so damnably blatant about pandering to his self-interest that led Antie to the woodshed.

Antie's Board of Regent's Photo
The senators came prepared to Antie's hearing. They knew about the internal emails and they knew about his ownership interest in leases to the state's LONI network. They grilled him. An observer of the Louisiana scene at that time would have to have understood that Jindal et al. had already cut Antie loose. The senators had surely secured at least tacit agreement from Jindal to cut this man down to size. But then he lied to the senators. That sealed his fate. Louisiana Voice reproduced his testimony (follow the link and search "Things got ugly early.") What you'll find is testimony that was certainly intentionally misleading and one which the senators obviously took as simply a lie.  First he denied that he had any contracts with the Regents. Then, when asked, he admitted that he did have an ownership interest in Sun America (understating that interest) and claimed he didn't know anything about their contract with the state, claiming the holding company he owned that owned part of it was "dormant." The heart of the exchange:
“First you said you had no contractual relationship with the state and now we find that your company has a $531,000 contract with the Board of Regents,” Murray said. “You said you didn’t know, but you said you approached Gray Sexton for advice on your apparent conflict.
“In terms of ethics, you may be breaking the law,” Murray said.
Sen. Lynda Jackson (D-Shreveport) observed that Antie claimed that Central Telephone was dormant. “Yet, when you check corporate records with the Secretary of State’s web page, it shows that Central Telephone is in good standing, which means it has filed annual reports,” she said. “Its last report was November of 2010 and it shows that you are the registered agent.”
It is simply incredible that Antie still doesn't appear to understand that what he did was wrong. Even in Louisiana open self-dealing is considered bad form. It's actually technically illegal! And there are still those among us who think it is actually wrong—shamefully wrong.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"You Don't Have to Wait for Google to Build it"

Just ran across this nifty month-old article that ran in the Huffington Post; in it Durel makes a strong argument that you don't have to wait for Google for a community to reap similar (or better) benefits. I suspect this article prefigures a presentation Durel is scheduled to give at the FTTH conference in Dallas on the 29th of this month. Since his panel immediately follows Google Fiber head honcho Milo Medlin's keynote address it may be a pretty pointed message for a crowd coming off being wowed by Google's ability to "give" towns a modern network. Durel represents the DIY option.

And when you do it yourself your community controls it.