Friday, November 13, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

DOJ won’t help FCC fight state laws that harm municipal broadband | Ars Technica

Not good news for supporters of municipal Broadband.

Ars Technica reports that the Department of Justice won't support the FCC's recent decision to try and preempt anti-muni laws and policies that the FCC (rightly) holds harm competition.

The FCC is right of course, such laws do suppress competition. Having a municipal competitor clearly helps bring both new technology and cheaper prices to a community. We have proved both points here in Lafayette. But the DOJ may be too aware that the federal courts have long held that there is no particular right to local control...that only states have standing and that local governments, including municipalities, are entirely subservient to state power.

This is, frankly, a defect in our democratic system that lets "big government" run rampant over the rights of self-determination that are more appropriately made at the local level. This will become an ever-bigger problem as the population continues to concentrate in large cities and state governments continue as the bastions of reactionary values. Telecommunications is just one aspect.

Other countries do a better job of this. We should too.

Monday, July 13, 2015

▶ 10th Anniversary - Reddit AMA with Terry Huval and Joey Durel

This promises to be interesting. Durel and Huval are doing an "Ask Me Anything" about LUS Fiber on Reddit 
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 14th between 1:30 and 3:00 PM.

You can attend by going to the Reddit page that will host the discussion.

The YouTube promotional video:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Net as a Public Utility | Personal Democracy Forum

Harold Feld of Public Knowledge has treated us to a classically styled speech that advocates thinking about broadband as utility. He uses Verizon's post Hurricane Sandy debacle as a jumping off point but takes the argument much further. It's a real treat to listen to someone just say what needs to be said without hesitation or reservation...

Of course, even better than national policy that understands broadband as a utility (about which Feld is right) would be actually having an actual, democratically controlled local utility. 

Like LUS Fiber. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LUS Fiber gets an A

One more step:

"LUS Fiber this week announced that Standard & Poor’s has updated its bond rating from "A" to “A+”... LUS Fiber, which is in its 6th year of operation, says in a prepared statement that the stable outlook reflects S&P’s expectation that its strong financial profile is sustainable."
From theIND.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

From Lafayette to Wilson: Municipal Fiber Deployment is About “Strengthening America” | CLIC

Mayor Durel has posted a congratulatory and supportive letter to the Mayor of Wilson, North Carolina. In it he congratulates Wilson on its recent success in overturning unfair state restrictions on competition. The FCC ruled that in Wilson's and Chattanooga, Tennessee's case that state restrictions on the expansion of broadband services beyond the municipal borders established by its electrical utility were unfair and constituted an illegal restraint of competition. This case has implications that go far beyond the particular issue immediately at stake: it asserts the federal right of preemption in the case of municipal broadband. Preemption is a widespread and time-honored principle of federal telecommunications policy—for instance phone companies have long been preempted from most local and much state intervention.  But this ruling puts almost all state laws banning and most state laws severely restricting municipal broadband at risk since they are largely explicitly about restraining the right of municipalities to compete against private providers on anything like a level playing field. Louisiana's onerous laws in the regard impose a welter of restrictions on community-owned broadband companies that would never be suggested as regulation of, much less tolerated by, private corporations. Louisiana's municipal utilities are not, for instance, allowed to loan telecomm units money...but Cox can cross subsidize its operations with multinational funds and funds from things like car sales. Similarly LUS Fiber has a limit set on how low a price it can charge the public based on how much Cox and AT&T claim in expenses but those corporations can charge as they see fit. (Yes, you read right the state ONLY regulates LUS Fiber's prices to make sure it doesn't offer you too competitive a price. Really. Read the law. You can't make this stuff up.)

Duel goes on in his letter to Wilson to assert that municipal broadband is not—or rather should not be—a partisan issue. To wit:
"As you in Wilson have, we have seen the increased politicization of the local Internet choice issue in Washington, and we regret that it has. At the local level, in our community, this is not a partisan issue and we have resisted letting it become one. Like you, we do not believe this issue is about politics or partisanship or electoral politics or the public versus the private sector. Rather, it is about strengthening America, local self-reliance and the opportunity of our citizens to live in a community with all the same opportunities – for jobs, education, health care, public safety, and much more. Wilson, like Lafayette, has built a network that ensures that your community will be second to none in these respects. Congratulations to you for taking this important step, you are obviously interested in doing the right thing for your citizens, so stay strong. And, please feel free to contact me anytime, I’ve been in your shoes."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lafayette Airport/LUS to boost WiFi to 1 gig

Kinda neat. From ABiz:

Lafayette Regional Airport and LUS Fiber have agreed to a mutual back-scratching deal that will give LUS Fiber greater marketing presence in the terminal at the airport while saving the airport money and allowing it to offer travelers one gigabyte of WiFi access.... LUS Fiber officials told commissioners that the boost in bandwidth makes Lafayette Regional the only airport in the United States to offer travelers one gig of WiFi.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

LUS Fiber could lose public school client

This morning's Advertiser carries a story with the self-explanitory title "LUS Fiber could lose public school client."  However, very little is actually explained. LUS did not submit a bid; claims they were not notified until very late and, even odder, the staff goes ahead and submits a pseudo-bid for the community telecom utility. A losing one. 

There is more going on here than meets the eye. I'd dearly like to know what. 

Regardless of oddness on the part of the local schools system staff this event clearly demonstrates problems at LUS Fiber. There is no way that the utility should have been unaware of a request for services, especially just a few months away from the end of such a major contract. That they were argues that no regular formal or informal lines of communication have been established between the community's telecomm utility and the community's school system. There should be. This event also argues quietly that the staff are not satisfied with the service they've been getting. That should not have been allowed to occur either. 

The parish-wide contract with the Lafayette Parish School System was the first concrete evidence of the value of the network to the community as a whole; it occurred before the residential system had been constructed and necessitated running fiber beyond the city and into all corners of the parish. LUS provided vastly better service the previous supplier—enough bandwidth to each and every school that they could actually allow widespread simultaneous use—
at a very competitive price. That has apparently changed as well; that is not good; LUS Fiber should always give this community resource an unmatchable deal and all the technical support the schools can possibly need or desire. It's part of what being a community-owned network should be about. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

President Obama’s speech in Cedar Falls mentions Lafayette

What's Being Said Dept.:

Obama gave his speech in Cedar Falls this evening promoting municipal broadband and the rights of communities to chart their own course regardless of what the corporate behomoths want. Lafayette got a nice shout out. Here's an excerpt from the speech...
"And what you’re showing is that here in America, you don’t have to be the biggest community to do really big things, you just have to have some vision, and you have to work together." 
"And we’re seeing that same kind of innovation and that same kind of energy and foresight in communities across the country. In Lafayette, Louisiana, companies are bringing jobs to the city in part because of their fast, next-generation broadband network. In November, the people of Yuma County, Colorado, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a community broadband network. That’s in the same election where 85 percent of folks just voted for a Republican Senate candidate. So this is not a partisan issue. It’s not a red issue or a blue issue."
True Dat. It's not a red or blue issue. It is an issue of community self-determination.

F2C: Freedom to Connect — March 2 & 3, 2015, NYC

This year's F2C: Freedom to Connect conference has been announced and Lafayette Pro Fiber wants to recommend it to any and all who pass by this site.

F2C has been a seminal conference that has consistently set the standard and anticipated the national agenda for internet issues. I (John) have attended and presented and I can attest that it is simply a lot of fun to attend in addition to reliably expanding your mind on the issues and helping build your list of amazing contacts.

This years conference sounds amazing. Take a look at the topics and the names!  Here's a precis from organizer and internet guru David Isenberg:
One of the biggest F2C sessions will be about the NSA and
the Internet with former NSA technologists Bill Binney, Tom
Drake, and Kirk Wiebe. Fritz Moser will be there too -- he's
making a movie that documents how Bill Binney's team's small,
targeted, internally-developed, privacy-protecting program
was shut down by NSA leadership in favor of a much
bigger-monied SAIC contract just weeks before the attacks of
September 11, 2001. Moser's movie documents a secret test-run
of Binney's program against the pre-9/11-NSA database by Tom
Drake in 2002 in which the program immediately found the
terrorists (and other interesting facts).

Another key F2C event: The FCC is expected to issue its Open
Internet Order on February 26. On March 2 and 3 we'll either
celebrate or organize. If the Order contains strong Title 2
protections, it will be a huge victory! If it contains last
minute loopholes, not so much. In any case, Tim Wu, Marvin
Ammori, Sarah Morris, Harold Feld, Tim Karr, Susan Crawford
and others on the forefront of Network Neutrality advocacy
(TBD) will offer insight and perspective.

A third key event: Gigabits and Cities. Chris Mitchell, from
the Institute for Local Self Reliance, will review the state
of municipal networking, especially gigabit networks, around
the world. Elliot Noss will outline Ting's FTTH partnerships
with the cities of  Charlottesville, VA and Westminster, MD.
Other municipal fiber activists -- and even Google Fiber's
leaders -- have been and will be invited.

There will also be a session on the changing norms, values
and opportunities around Big Data by investor Nick Grossman,
data scientist Hilary Mason and law professor Aaron Wright.

And there will be keynotes from Global Voices founder Rebecca
MacKinnon, software freedom advocate Eben Moglen, security
guru Bruce Schneier, AIDs activist (and first-hand observer
of Chinese privacy practices) Kate Krauss, Internet pioneer
David Reed, CIA technology entrepreneur Dan Geer, and 2014
candidate for Governor of New York Zephyr Teachout.

And more. Stay tuned. We're just gettin this thang revved up.
If you at all can, go.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

President promises action on munibroadband. Preemption in the works?

In big news for the munibroadband movement President Obama announced today that he was going
to take "executive action" to foster municipal efforts across the country.

In a folksy little video shot in the oval office Obama used an iPad to illustrate how poorly US cities were faring in download speeds against international competition. The bit featured Cedar Falls, Iowa as the surprisingly small town that stacked up well internationally when cities like San Francisco and Chicago did not. The President attributed that to the decision by "citizens to make the investment and bring competition in and make sure that internet speeds were just as fast there as anywhere else." That's a sentiment we can agree with here in Lafayette.

While Iowa got lead billing in the video (and long-time readers and fiber fighters will recall that Lafayette Coming Together's breakfast back during the fiber fight featured Cedar Falls' success story) Lafayette gets her due in the white paper, "COMMUNITY-BASED BROADBAND SOLUTIONS" that accompanied the announcement. Lafayette got her own section in the paper:
The residents of Lafayette have a long history of supporting local infrastructure initiatives. Recognizing the need to modernize its broadband infrastructure in the early 2000’s, the community voted in 2005 to approve construction of a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. After overcoming serious opposition from local broadband service providers, the publicly-owned Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) started connecting homes and businesses to its LUS Fiber network in 2009. The network seeks to provide equitable access to all of Lafayette’s citizens, and the system was rolled out across high- income and low-income neighborhoods equally. LUS Fiber now offers 100 Mbps (sic: LUS provides a 1000 meg option; that's seriously old info) speed for all subscribers. 
The rest of the text touts lower prices—from Cox and LUS, new high tech businesses, and high speed internet provided to anchor institutions like the public school system and the library network. It could have praised the 100 megs of internal bandwidth to all and availability to each and every address in the city, something private providers of high speed internet simply don't even attempt to accomplish.

But how will the President. aid municipalities? Here are the bullet points (underlined) provided in the white paper and a little interpretation:

Calling to End Laws that Harm Broadband Service Competition
The president is filing a letter urging the FCC to address "barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens." That appears to be Washington-speak for asking the FCC to use its powers under the telecomm act to preempt—override—state laws that forbid or seriously inhibit the rise of competitive municipal broadband utilities. This would not be unprecedented; the federal government has long since preempted state laws that inhibit competition under a number of different principles, including the interstate commerce clause of the constitution. Rumor has it that the FCC in particular will be asked to use unexercised power granted it in the telecomm act to preempt state laws inhibiting competition by local communities.

If the FCC acts in this way it could be truly huge, freeing enormous numbers of cities to do as they desire and, more importantly, eliminating the uncertainty that any municipality must feel when the contemplate the possibility that powerful corporations will rely on their kept state legislators to eliminate them as competition by making the conditions under which they labor practically impossible or by simply outlawing their enterprise.

This is an issue in Louisiana where the Louisiana (un)Fair Competition Act imposes unfair conditions on LUS that no private corporation would tolerate—or would be asked to tolerate. Any other company could use the resources of its successful business arms to establish the new unit. LUS cannot and had to completely fund its startup from market-level loans and was forbidden from mixing even billing and truck rolls substantially raising its costs to no good end. Similarly, and most odiously, LUS has a floor put under it prices by law...the public utilities commission regulates the maximum price of all other utilities but only LUS is forbidden to lower its price beneath that which its competitors can convince the commission is a "fair" price. Freed of such limits LUS Fiber could be of much more benefit to its citizen-owners.

Expanding the National Movement of Local Leaders for Better Broadband:
The White House plans to sponsor a Community Broadband Summit of mayors and county commissioners from around the nation based on the current Next Century Cities Coalition. Lafayette is already a member.

Announcing a New Initiative to Support Community Broadband Projects:  
The Department of Commerce is launching a new initiative, BroadbandUSA, to promote broadband deployment and adoption. Building on the Recovery Act, BroadbandUSA will offer online and in-person technical assistance to communities; host a series of regional workshops around the country; and publish guides and tools that provide communities with proven solutions to address problems in broadband infrastructure planning, financing, construction, and operations across many types of business models.

Unveiling New Grant and Loan Opportunities for Rural Providers
The Department of Agriculture will accept applications to its Community Connect broadband grant program and will reopen a revamped broadband loan program which offers financing to eligible rural carriers. In rural areas cheap money is the largest single impediment to a very capital-intensive set of projects; in many case no provider finds it profitable to provide service without such support.

Removing Regulatory Barriers and Improving Investment Incentives
The President is calling for the Federal Government to remove all unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council of over a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding up broadband deployment and promoting adoptions for our citizens. This sort of "collaborative" endeavor is fraught with turf and political issues. 

This is a very ambitious set of initiatives and advocates of municipal ownership must certainly wish that this would have been started much earlier in the President's tenure. But it is, nonetheless, a big deal. And preemption alone would do enormous amounts to free up local communities.

Lagniappe: Readers of the White Paper who follow munibroadband closely may think that some of the wording sounds very familiar. They'd be right. The White House has clearly drawn extensively on the work of Christopher Mitchell from Chris has reported extensively on Lafayette and visited here more than once. He's been invited to Cedar Falls where the president is expected to elaborate on his plans in advance of the state of the union address. Raise your glass for Christopher Mitchell!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Telemedicine in Lafayette Schools; LUS Fiber and Geoff Daily

The Advertiser runs a happy story this morning back on page 6A that tells the story of how the parish school system is implementing a new telemedicine program that will help keep students in school and help them be more productive while they are there. Well it tells most of the story anyway. And the story it doesn't tell is perhaps more important for the ambitions of Lafayette.

What's left out is probably important only to techie types and those with a causal turn of mind: it's pretty innovative really—Why in Lafayette? Telemedicine is high on the list of things that futurists have been projecting for a long time. And it is high on the list cynics make of things that aren't actually happening; not as high as jetpacks and flying cars but right on up there. It seems pretty curious that a full scale implementation across four schools in the same north Lafayette area are turning on here of all places.

One element in the mix is covered, obliquely, in the story, Lafayette General is a classic not-for-profit hospital with a classically community-oriented mission. It should not be too surprising that it is the hospital associated with trying an innovative, small, and likely to be not only low profit but to provide a model that might eventually endanger the current well-established profit center of simply visiting the doctor. You need to have someone in the mix at every level who actually cares about the community and Lafayette General provides that necessary component on the provider side. The Lafayette Parish School System has an easily understandable motive on the user side—sick kids don't learn.

But there a fair number of good-hearted nonprofit medical facilities and lots of needy school districts. Those prerequisites are not enough to explain the why Lafayette is getting the benefit so many have dreamed of. There also needs to be an awareness of the possible benefit and the technical capacity to carry it out without too much hassle.

Technical capacity:

It is easy to see where the technical capacity came from in Lafayette—From LUS Fiber and the fiber-to-the-schools project that it initiated even before the it launched its world-class fiber to the home project. LUS Fiber put 100 megs of service into every school in the parish as its first public-facing project way back in '05 and without that much bandwidth—at the affordable prices that LUS Fiber offers— there'd be no possibility of running the sort of video-heavy service that the telemedicine project represents.

You need two kinds of awareness: awareness of the need and awareness of the ability of the technological means to help ameliorate it.

Awareness of the need shouldn't be too hard to find; every teacher at every level is aware of the issue of sick students. It is a need that is especially prevalent and especially troublesome at schools that serve poorer populations. Pat Cooper, to offer the devil his due, raised that awareness with his efforts to put clinics in the schools. A telemedicine component seemed like a great way to lower the costs of such a program.

Awareness of the technology was and is harder to find and is especially hard to find in places that can influence medical centers, schools, and technologists all at the same time. Our community was lucky to have Geoff Daily in the mix at the right moment. Geoff was and is an enthusiastic supporter of our community fiber network. He has lead the charge to find innovative and truly useful projects to use the enormous pipes that LUS Fiber has provided to the community and, crucially, he was head of the Lafayette General Foundation at the right moment. The idea of telemedicine clinics had been perking around Lafayette largely through his FiberCorp efforts to promote the idea. Local employment powerhouse Stuller had implemented a trial version largely through Geoff's efforts. When Geoff went on to become head of Lafayette General Foundation he brought the idea with him. Now, soon after he has left the position, the fruits of that long history has ripened.

A Lesson:
This story has a moral: the benefits of technical innovation are often ignored and are hard to trace but the passion for technology that projects like LUS Fiber engender are valuable in all sorts of difficult to trace but very real ways. Without the fight, and the subsequent efforts to put the fiber we had won to good use this particular very nice piece of innovation would not be present in Lafayette. Ironically it is a sign of the success of that passion that nobody even notices the technical and human passions that lead to that nice plum for Lafayette; background factors are powerful determinates. But they are not particularly good copy.

Let's raise our glasses to the unseen providers: LUS Fiber and Geoff Daily's passion.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tied for First: Lafayette's LUS Fiber

LUS Fiber is ranked number one in a 10-way tie for the fastest residential internet in the world according to the Open Technology Institute's chart.


And, hey, we did it for ourselves.

(via ABiz)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: The Reality of Lafayette’s Gigabit Network | Institute for Local Self-Reliance

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) a major player on the broadband scene nationally through is MuniNetworks division has published an extensive rebuttal to Steven Titch's latest in a long line of  screeds attacking Lafayette and LUS Fiber.

MuniNetworks has produced a brutal line by line, point by point rebuttal of Titch's paper. It is really quite  amazing & I recommend it highly: Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: The Reality of Lafayette’s Gigabit Network

(If you'd like to amuse yourself you can walk through LafayetteProFiber's extensive coverage of Titch's shenanigans. I recommend starting at the bottom with the first post on Titch and reading toward the present; it makes quite a narrative.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

FCC Head Lauds Lafayette's Fight

Lafayette's battle to win the right to serve itself with the most powerful technologies has made it back into the national debate. Our fight, and the success of LUS Fiber has been cited by the head of the FCC as he drops hints as to how his regulations might eventually enable other cities to follow Lafayette's lead. The FCC has the power to forbid laws that operate to stifle competition; historically that power has been used to outlaw state laws that hurt competition. Arguably, quite arguably, it extends to forbidding laws that restrain the abilities of local towns and cities to compete with telecommunications corporations. Two cities with fiber-based telecommunications utilities have petitioned the FCC to do just that and rule-making hearings are being planned. This is a big deal.

In our arcane system of governance the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, which sounds like some inconsequential federal bureau is actually an extremely important center of power. With the similarly innocuously named FTC the two commissions are the two major levers which the federal government has for ensuring competition and the free flow information. In recent years the FCC has been, to put it kindly, ineffectual not for lack of power but for lack of will to oppose the large corporations that dominate the media landscape. That may be changing FCC chair Tom Wheeler has been edging toward both a real net neutrality position and toward using the FCC statutory power to forbid competition-killing laws in many state—including Louisiana—which effectively block local communities from competing with the few national corporations that have an oligopolistic hold on the communications industry.

Wheeler, speaking before NATOA, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, offered hints that he'd be willing to push harder on freeing local communities to do what we've done here in Lafayette. From the remarks (emphases mine):

As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks. There are currently laws in 19 states that impose restrictions of one kind of another on such local decision-making. 
We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further. 
However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project. Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty- two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years. When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get. 
Those American principles can play an important and essential role in assuring America’s future. 
Here's to hoping our experience helps influence the nation's policy toward allowing communities to find their own way forward without relying on the favors dispensed by corporations with no interest in our towns and cities beyond the profit they turn. I just wish Lafayette's name was on that petition as well beside Wilson and Chattanooga's.

"Three New Companies Move to the Silicon Bayou"

Community Broadband Networks covers the addition of yet another hi-tech company to Lafayette further validating the community's decision to invest in LUS Fiber. From Durel's official statement:

“These are exciting times for Lafayette and Acadiana,” Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said. “With the announcements of Bell Helicopter, Enquero, CGI and now Perficient, we have proven that Lafayette and Louisiana can compete for world-class companies. These companies are proof that investing in the right infrastructure pays dividends for our citizens.”
CBN comments:
In the past few months, Lafayette has drawn in three high tech companies that will create approximately 1,300 well-paying positions. In addition to the community's commitment to boost its high-tech workforce, better connectivity offered by LUS Fiber helped attract the new businesses.  

Just to be very explicit—good international corporations value communities that show the same sort of entrepreneurial spirit that they posses. And it's good business as well. Locating in the city carries along with it access to some of the cheapest hi-speed bandwidth available anywhere in the country. Lafayette carries a final even rarer quality: it offers 1 gig of intranet connectivity to every home or business location in the city at no extra cost. If an employee has the standard service from LUS they can connect to their company at a blazing 1 gig speed. Most companies maintain a wired 1 gig intranet inside their corporate offices connecting their most critical computers. In Lafayette every employee could connect to the home office with same effectiveness as if they were just down the hall. Need a satellite office  for a big job? No problem; just rent any space. Great bandwidth is a utility in Lafayette. Not something that requires complicated setup and corporate time and energy. Work at home with no penalty. Save all your files, however massive, to the company server. Work off server-based programs as easily as folks in the central office. The flexibility is something you simply can't buy elsewhere.

Nice indeed.