Williams said his support will hinge in part on whether LUS still intends on hooking up each residence in the city of Lafayette and whether it intends on following through on the idea of providing low-cost to free computers for lower-income residents. ...No doubt the performance I saw last night and blogged below is in at least some significant part a product of the conflict reported in this article and needs to be interpreted in that context. Mayor Durel was making the journey to the Martin Luther King community center to testify in public and before Williams constituents that he was still in favor of the idea of pushing computers into the community and that the price savings that constitute the immediate benefit to Williams district would be substantial. He discussed a few more details of his plan for 'free' computers last night and cited a higher discount, 25 to 45%, than the official feasibility study mentions.
"Now we just need to make sure that the risks involved warrant this," Williams said.
Williams said he also is concerned whether the plan would be fair to Lafayette businesses that already provide similar services -- such as Cox and BellSouth.
Its hard not to see Williams' raising the issue as much beyond a political ploy to push commitments to digital divide issues out into the public consciousness. I can't credit that Williams' could possibly vote against LUS on this—his constituents are too clearly major beneficiaries—and I can't credit that all involved don't recognize this. But LUS and the city-parish have to desire unanimity on this and Williams is using that to push for a clearer commitment to getting a computer in the home who'd have a hard time affording one.
The other stuff is window dressing: universal service is a solid commitment to which LUS has never wavered and given its' utility worldview never will; the nod to the "local" business of Cox and BellSouth is transparent a smokescreen—if Williams isn't outraged by the antics of these outsiders he hasn't been paying attention.
I can't say that I like the window dressing stuff...it's never a good idea to mislead the public into believing that areas of agreement are insecure just to engage in a little arm twisting...but I do like the idea of bringing parts of the LUS plan that are not visible into the light of public discussion. And the digital divide issues are one of the elements that we really ought to be talking about and getting public input.
This is certainly an area in which public discussion and buy-in are crucial. Let's talk about how to best make sure that new public services benefit us all.