Saturday, August 07, 2004

A little distance and a little preview

Kevin Blanchard writes an opinion piece for the Advocate that allows us to back off the strum und drag of the recent fiber news.

His piece is a structured series of questions that focus not on the ideological clash that has dominated the news but on the gritty political, regulatory, and economic intersections that shape and constrain the way the issue will develop. It reminds its reader of the fundamental issues and at the same time gives us a nice little preview of what the reporter is working on.

(To see why I might think commending a style of “opinion reporting” is worthwhile please take a look at the painful contrast presented by what the Advertiser’s Decker did with the Chamber’s mealy-mouthed, take no discernable position on anything that could actually lead to realizing a vision “position paper” concerning broadband. Decker says “The page-and-a-half policy is running over with vision." He isn't being ironic. He is missing the point.)

Here’s the parts of the Advocat story I found most interesting,:

At the intersection of Regulation and Economics:
"How will LUS be affected by regulations being hammered out by the Public Service Commission? …Will the PSC set those minimum rates so high as to make LUS' business plan less workable… How much can Cox and BellSouth lower prices to compete with eventual LUS service, without triggering anti-trust laws or the ire of the PSC or the Federal Communications Commission?"
Damn good questions, each and every one. Maybe we ought to start tracking contributions to the PSC members’ reelection funds?

At the intersection of Politics & Economics:
"How does New Orleans fit into the equation?"
Blanchard suggests that Nagin’s visit to Lafayette earlier this summer might not have been just about some sort of general “cooperation” between cities but might have also been an opening for asking for Lafayette’s help in driving telecommunication services down I-10’s dark fiber to New Orleans. Apparently a plan stalled by arcane New Orleans politics to put fiber in the downtown sewers is involved. (No, I am not making that up. How could I?) A far-fetched connection? I think so, but then it is Louisiana

And I've always wondered what BellSouth and Cox were afraid of that warrants the thermonuclear level of response we've seen. A regional Lousiana fiber network linking cities a la Utah's Utopia project might be part of it. And wouldn't New Orleans be the biggest possible plum...

At the intersection of (city) Politics & (city-parish) Politics
What would happen if the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority -- made of up five city-parish councilmen who mainly represent the city -- approves the LUS plan, but the council rejects it?
Apparently the charter gives control of LUS to the LPUA but any bonds would rely on the authority of the City-Parish. Who controls? Who knows. And I called New Orleans’ political problems arcane.

Well worth the read, go get it. I’m gonna look forward to the stories coming down the line.

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