The Advocate and the Advertiser both run the expected story on tonight's council vote, both outlining the procedures, and pointing to a yes vote. The Advertiser has a bit more, revealing Councilman Williams' threat to vote no unless some sort of explicit provision to provide remedies for the digital divide issues that concern him are included.
I hope that is all grandstanding. I've done some work in this area and LUS is correct when they say that the most intractable part of the digital divide problem is availability and the price of access. What LUS has promised in a rock-solid way to do in terms of universal service (everyone will have access) and price (a substantial cut in prices) will accomplish in one stroke what has led to the failure of many otherwise well-designed projects to narrow the digital divide. Voting against this would mean the councilman would also be voting against cheaper cable access for his folks. It doesn't make sense. I'd have been happier seeing some sort of language in the feasibility study and it not being there was a real political mistake on the part of LUS; it was one of the things I went looking far as well and was disappointed not to find after the early promises. Of course, the shape of our feasibility study was a result of LUS adopting a defensive posture about putting anything substantial that was not required in the feasibility study. That seemed unwise to me at the time, and I said so. This fracas is one result of that decision. Still, it is my sense that LUS can be trusted on this. They have shown initiative about getting outfront with innovative ways to provide price relief for poorer families on the electricity front—a point Huval pointedly made in an exchange with Williams last Tuesday, and which Williams conceded—and it would seem that this would buy LUS some credibility on this issue.
On the other hand, I'd like to see LUS give Williams something to take home since they've promised, and I believe intend, to address this issue. The problem is that it is hard to see just what the mechanism would be—this is supposed to be an up or down vote on accepting a feasibility plan that has already been deposited and this process is fairly tightly regulated by state law.
I just hate to see a game of chicken being played with this issue. It is far too important.