Monday, January 31, 2005

The Chamber's Silence on the LUS Project — Hoisted on their own Picard?

The Independent's cover story last week was on the leadership transition taking place at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.

But, Tyrone Picard taking the helm of the Chamber has significant implications for the ability of the organization to take a position on the LUS fiber project. The Chamber may pride itself in taking a leadership role on important issues in this community but, as an employee of Acadiana Ambulance, it will be interesting to see whether the interests of Picard's employer will trump the community interest in getting the LUS fiber project built.

What's Acadian Ambulance got to do with the LUS project? Well, Acadian Ambulance is a major customer of BellSouth's and Acadian's Richard Zuchslag is rumored to hold a substantial number of shares of BellSouth stock, and to have long pined for a seat on BellSouth's board.

Zuchslag surrounded himself with BellSouth higher-ups at his DC Mardi Gras Ball reign, according to these photographs from The Advertiser. Guess it's just a coincidence that about the only photo without a BellSouth rep in it was the one with Mayor-President Joey Durel!

Now, because Picard serves as corporate counsel for Acadian, BellSouth has, in effect, a proxy seat on the Chamber's board — even though BellSouth is no longer a member of the Lafayette Chamber.

If the Chamber couldn't bring itself to address the LUS issue when Gary McGoffin was heading the group last year, it's difficult to imagine how they'll muster the leadership to come forward on this issue this year with a staunch BellSouth ally leading the group.

The Chamber's silence on this issue is deafening.

The LUS fiber project is the single most important economic development initiative to be introduced into this community in at least 50 years (since the Oil Center) and quite possibly 100 (since LUS it self was created in the late 19th century).

Every day that Cox and BellSouth are allowed to continue their duopoly, Lafayette businesses and consumers pay more for bandwidth than their counterparts in larger cities in the service areas of either company. This is the bandwidth tax that Lafayette pays as the cost of subservience to the corporate interests in Atlanta.

The LUS project will bring direct economic benefits to EVERY business in Lafayette by driving down the cost of bandwidth. Once the LUS project is built out, businesses in Lafayette will pay less for more bandwidth than either Cox or BellSouth make available for their best customers anywhere in their respective service areas. How can this be? Well, LUS is going to make 100 megabits per second network capacity available to every business and residential customer. Neither BellSouth nor Cox can deliver that capacity now any where in Louisiana and, likely only in a handful of places in the entire operation of either company.

What this means is that the LUS fiber project will give incredible competitive advantage in the form of lower operating costs to any company that relies on the Internet to connect to suppliers and customers. In other words, it will be cheaper for any company that plans to be successful in the 21st Century (that is, depend on the flow of information between customers and suppliers) to do business in Lafayette than just about any other place in the country.

And, still the Chamber remains silent.

A few weeks ago, I found a quote from a famous American that, if you substitute "organization" for "man," applies here. Here's the quote:
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."*
Now is a time of controversy in Lafayette. The Chamber would have us believe that they are leaders in this community. Leaders take stances.

Where does the Chamber stand on the LUS fiber project?

Will the Chamber have the courage to standup for the small and medium size businesses in this community who will be prime beneficiaries of the LUS project? Or are they hoisted on their own Picard?**

* Rev. Martin Luther King
** OK, it's a pun on "Hoisted on their own Petard."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Acadian Ambulance Signs Up As BellSouth's First Long-Distance Customer

For Immediate Release:

May 28, 2002

Acadian Ambulance became BellSouth's first long-distance customer May 24 when Richard Zuschlag, President and CEO, signed a contract shortly after midnight at the Acadian Ambulance Communications Center in Lafayette. Representing BellSouth were Rex Adams, President of BellSouth Long Distance; Bill Oliver, President of BellSouth's Louisiana Operations; and Brian Singleton, Vice President of BellSouth Business.

"I wanted Acadian Ambulance to be the first customer in BellSouth's region to sign up for long-distance service," Zuschlag said, "and I am delighted that we are. I've been waiting for this opportunity for six years - ever since the Telecommunications Act, which was designed to provide greater competition in the telecommunications industry, was signed into law in 1996."