Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Lafayette Steps Up and Steps Forward

At 11:07 on November the 16th Lafayette entered a new era. The first vote enabling LUS to move forward with a fiber to the home system passed with but one dissenting vote.

Ok, maybe 11:07 wasn't the exact moment when that happened. Maybe there was a long series of obscure votes on various resolutions and ordinances by confusingly constituted bodies that voted twice on all the crucial stuff just to make sure that all the bases were covered. Maybe that is what really happened. But I like the symbolism involved with the 11:07 time. Lucky numbers, you know.

The night stretched on, and on, and on. We saw all the presentations we saw last Tuesday again. Apparently Act 736 requires it. Then we saw some of the same people asking the same (or ones that were indistinguishable from the same) questions we heard last week. And we saw a repetition of opponents getting up and praising LUS and praising fiber but not like the idea of putting the two together. Some things did change a little: last time only one incumbent came; this time no incumbent bothered to register an objection. We got a few opponents saying out loud what I inferred last week: that what they really feared was LUS' success. If LUS was successful they feared that the competition would run Cox and BellSouth out of town; or, unaccountably they feared that such success would just be, somehow, wrong. That the opponents were reduced to praise of LUS and fear of its success is an amazing indication of just how weak the opposition has become. The opposition has ended not with the fireworks I would have once expected but with a whimper.

The biggest change from last Tuesday was the almost unanimous support from the community: A large crowd waited into the night, five and a half hours, to watch the historic proceedings and a fair number—25 by one count—were there to speak before the council. They were, mostly, impassioned and were, mostly, whole-heartedly for the fiber initiative. The few who spoke in opposition remarked on just how rare they were. At least one came to the podium clearly having intended to blast the project but admitted to having learned things that gave him pause during the hours he waited to speak.

The surprise of the night was the reappearance of Mayor Billings from Provo who flew in this afternoon, came to the council meeting, complimented our food, passionately plead our cause, was called to the podium repeatedly to answer questions from the council members, and sat through the whole thing. He saddles up and flies out again early in the morning. He had to miss that good Louisiana dinner he had more than earned. The man deserves a medal. I hope someone will at least serve him breakfast.

But the council vote made the whole thing worthwhile. Delicious. It really does usher in a new age.

Now we just have to decide what we want that age to be.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate that one guy's passion, but enough is enough after a while. His questions that take a novel being read just to ask. And his incessant touting of weaker wireless networks is humorous, at best.

John said...


I have to agree with your assessment. It became obvious that the audience had gotten to the point of real irritation with him. It was worst among the tech-savvy folks who knew that "doing research" in no way translated into "understanding." Your example of wireless was but one among many. He seemed to believe that a thing became a fact by its mention somewhere on the internet or by its coming out of the mouth of an officer of Intel. Folks familiar with this field know that this is at least the second go around on wireless (remember "fixed broadband?") and that comments by executives in large corporations—especially Intel and Microsoft—should be treated as press releases. The naivete of his belief in WiMax hype is stunning. Again, folks who remember the tech bubble will have learned to recognize the signs of hype.

Still, as dismissive as the crowd became we need to recognize that some of the board was actually listening. That was evidenced when a member asked for clarification on the Marietta question. Since that was one thing that the incumbents had lied about I would have thought the board would have already been inoculated against it by LUS and their own research. But apparently not as Baller had to explain why 1) Marieta was a political rather than economic failure and 2) was not a fiber to the home project anyway.

Just for the record: I do not think the full problem was that this guy was inexperienced because he was a builder. I spent a decade of my life as a carpenter and was president of a small construction company at one time. Part of the way I learned to recognize hype was by listening to the the Duo-Fast guy blather on about the glue that connected nail gun packets and learning how to separate the wheat from the chaff about such things. No, this guy wasn't merely inexperienced. He was seeking confirmation of his own prejudices. And he easily found that. You always can. What he needs to learn is how to let the evidence dissuade you. Speaking from the viewpoint of the teacher I became after that stint in construction I can tell you that that is the most difficult educational task of anyone's lifetime. And he has yet to achieve it.

Anonymous said...

I also found it humorous that no incumbents showed. They had apparantly surrendered to the vote outcome... now the main question that remains is what stall tactics will they resort to?

John said...


'Bout stall tactics--i don't know for sure. Anyone out there have ideas?

Here are few that I have heard bandied about. 1) I've heard Cox is planning to bring lawyers to the bond hearing in Baton Rouge. LUS will have the resources of bonding lawyers for the corporations that want to sell the bonds for LUS and I bet those guys are practiced at making sure their bread and butter business gets moved on. But also they'll have the resources of Baller and Herbst if the challange turns on state or federal telecom law. And I think there are none better. 2) BellSouth may try to gum up the works at the Louisiana Public Service Commission on matters having to do with rule-writing for the regulatory regime that Act 736 requires.

Speculation? That's what the comments are for. :-)

Anonymous said...

The day definitely is upon us, and I couldn't be happier. I have to question the motives of some of the dissenters, even though they claimed to have no ties to any of the incumbents.

Neal Breakfield, self proclaimed techno geek. Given that, why in the world would he dissent about this plan without some ulterior motive? Just to oppose government? Is he one of the conspiracy theorists that believes government is always out to get him?

Shelby Williams, also a geek that I attended ULL with. He's worried about how much the feasibility study costs and "asking the tough questions," while the council tells him explicitly that they are laughing at him. Yet he's not even considering the benefits that Lafayette will reap from this plan, which is suprising for someone in the tech field.

Bill LeBlanc, claims he has no ties to any incumbent. Then why the endless, silly support for cheaper, but much inferior wireless? He seemed to forget that it's insecure, signal drops off after some distance, and interference from multiple networks is possible. Even after Mr. Dawson specifically told him those facts, he seemed to still try to tout it. Perhaps he's just amazed at the way in which wireless works, period?