Sunday, September 19, 2004

More Boldness

Before I even get started on this post let me directly declare, for reasons that will become clear shortly, my own position on LUS providing a fiber optic network clearly: I am a full-throated supporter of LUS building Lafayette's fiber optic network. I support the idea before I see a detailed plan because I think it obvious that a true, high-capacity broadband network would hugely benefit Lafayette and that this essential and unique piece of infrastructure should be owned by the people of Lafayette—chiefly because that is the only way to assure that it will be operated in their interests. I reserve the right to dissent from various details (and fully expect to so dissent) while continuing to be a full-throated supporter of the basic idea and LUS.

On to the substance..........

Doug, speaking only for himself, at LUSFTTH has written a response to my "A Very Bold and Needed Step" posting where I called for more boldness among the business and tech community in visibly supporting LUS. I am happy to "chat" about this; In fact I have been hoping for a wider discussion of fiber issues, and a especially a wider discussion among supporters of the "idea" of an LUS fiber initiative. (If not of every detail suggested by LUS.) We've reached a point where open conversation about real issues would benefit all—LUS and the public at large; we are in the final two month run and really can't wait any longer to start talking if we are to have a conversation at all.

I'd love to see others join in and urge readers to "catch up" on the conversation by taking a look at my post and Doug's response.

A brief recap for those who prefer the Cliff Notes: I talked about an incident after the recent INDExpo breakfast during which I was uncomfortable discussing the tepid support of the Chamber, LEDA, and Zydetech for LUS' idea. I closed by asking for a little more boldness from our business leadership. Doug responds (or so I say, check this for yourself) by defending LEDA and the Chamber's actions as ones which legitimated the concept of broadband, got the facts out, and established that their "membership was not adamantly opposed to the exploration of LUS doing a feasibility study" among other points.

My post only vaguely alluded to old positions; I was looking to the future and was worried about the visibility of business and technology leaders during the two month window we are now in leading up to the formal presentation to the City-Parish Council of a plan for their vote. It was a plea for business and tech leaders who have not already done so to put aside caution and short-term self-protection in support of the larger interests of the community—and their own longer-term interests as well.

I want to return to a focus on what to do in the future. Here is what seems to me both possible and valuable:

More business leaders (and not only business leaders) need to step forward together and visibly and forcefully endorse the idea—and only the idea—of LUS building a fiber to the home and business network. That is all; no approval is required of a particular plan that isn't yet created. The endorsement would be simple: Lafayette needs and LUS should build a fiber optic network to its homes and businesses. The chorus the community need to hear is simple: Go LUS!

We are at a crossroads right now. The next two months will be crucial in shaping the future of Lafayette. The incumbent's tactics haven't left us with the luxury of dotting every i and crossing every t before we take a firm position. We won't have time to nail down details before the plan hits the council. We must act now or forfeit our ability to act at all.

Honestly, waiting for some detailed "plan" of pointedly unspecified quality is both unnessary and unusual. We regularly endorse ideas--for a new park to serve an expanding area, building a new high school, or extending Ambassador Caffery long before the details are or even can be known. Widespread support is considered necessary before we go to the work and expense of detailed plans. Business support is necessary in this instance because a united front on this issue would go far to put to rest the incumbent's drumbeat that there is something wrong with a public utility even thinking about providing communications services. Waiting for a plan is a red herring. It distracts attention from the fact that the actual decision that has been made is to do nothing visible until it is safer and more comfortable. But what the community needs now is for its leadership to be bold.

I suggest that only two things need to be widely agreed upon to allow folks to be bold in support of the idea:
1) That the benefits of a fiber optic network far outweigh the benefits of any alternative. (Not building it or the practical technological alternatives.)
2) That it would be best if LUS built and controlled Lafayette's fiber network on behalf of the community'
If we can agree on these simple points then boldness in support of the idea of LUS providing a fiber optic network would not be imprudent. It would be only sensible. What would be imprudent would be to not watchdog the development and implementation of the eventual plan. And, frankly, it would be much easier to be a prudent watchdog if you were clearly understood to be a supporter of the basic idea. Real watchdogs, after all, are members of the households they defend.

Let's look to the future, let's talk about these issues.

Comments, everyone?

To be both concrete and bold myself let me ask the first question: Doug, acknowledging upfront that you've been a clear and effective advocate of broadband, what about the rest of point one: Do you agree that fiber optics is clearly superior to any practical alternative? Let's get the ball rolling.

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