Friday, November 12, 2004

Iowa's State-wide Fiber (And We Don't Mean Hay)

It's beginning to look like a movement, cher!

A major fiber initiative has been launched in Iowa. Backed by a list of some of the biggest names in Iowa--a telecom millionaire, former governors, university presidents and other notables-Opportunityiowa.org has launched an aggressive campaign to run fiber to 25% of the households in that very rural state.

Not only is the idea of such a large rollout aggressive, the attack launched on the incumbents is likely to give the idea of a preemptive attack a good name: check out their video promoting municipal utilities. It lays out a rock solid case for public ownership that is not compromised by any mealy-mouthed concern for the feelings of monopolists. The tag line: "A fiber line to your home and business can only be built by the community." The video's uncompromising position is that such essential infrastructure should be owned by the community.

This campaign bears the clear signs of being modeled on a similar state-wide network being built in Utah. Like Utah's, Iowa's network will conn
ect local municipal utilities that build the fiber network in their town. The basic concept, again echoing Utah's, is for the fiber to form an "open" network which any provider could use to provide services. Individual towns, however, may choose to provide their own services.

The essential issue in Iowa, as it is in Lafayette, is local control of natural monopoly infrastructure. Just a few months ago this was an unusual position to take; today it seems that it is emerging as common sense.

Both USAToday and TelephonyOnline have good stories on this event if you want to dig a little deeper.

Something-to-Consider: Within a single week Lafayette will have won its battle for fiber and Iowa will have launched a no-holds barred initiative that aims straight at the heart of monopoly power and advocates local control of essential telecom services. Look for this virus to become epidemic once local and state governments recognize that Utah, Iowa, and places like (gasp!) Lafayette, Louisiana are both winning against monopoly power, and gaining a huge competitive advantage over other locales in the race for information age jobs.

Post Script:
Can suggestions to use Lafayette's muscular fiber build as the heart of a Louisiana fiber network similar to Iowa's and Utah's be far behind? I have had a continuing fantasy about that and even posted a brief reflection on that idea in an old blog entry saying:
"I've always wondered what BellSouth and Cox were afraid of that warrants the thermonuclear level of response we've seen. A regional Louisiana fiber network linking cities a la Utah's Utopia project might be part of it."

I still think it is a good idea. If our state's leaders can gather up the courage that Iowa's show Louisiana could make itself over into the tech mecca of South.

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