Saturday, January 22, 2005

DULL Petitions for Bandwidth Tax

As John blogged earlier, the DULL (Delusional United Luddites of Lafayette) have filed a random petition with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court. In the press reports, they repeat the lie that they are not opposed to the LUS fiber to the premises plan — apparently, with straight faces. I'm not going to dignify the stories by providing links to them.

Well, on the back cover page of the January 10, 2005, edition of New Orleans CityBusiness I found what they are petitioning for: the right to be ripped-off!

A bit of a review is required by way of explanation.

LUS is proposing to bring to every home and small business in Lafayette a very fat connection to the Internet. The smallest connection ever mentioned was 24 megabits per second. 100 megabits per second is just as easily done as 24 megabits. And, a gigabit of intra-city connectivity is not out of the question, nor off the table.

LUS promises to do this at a significant discount to whatever services are offered by the incumbent carriers Cox and BellSouth. LUS also promises to continue regularly adjusting prices downward on a path to deliver "more bandwidth for less" to consumers and businesses here throughout the life of the project.

Now, despite their protestations, the DULL crowd is against this. Maybe not against this trend, but they are dead set against LUS delivering these benefits to Lafayette consumers and businesses. The fact that neither Cox nor BellSouth have indicated they would deliver similar infrastructure with a similar intent (and, in fact, have flatly declared that they would not) matters not to the DULL.

So, clearly, DULL is about ideology, not facts.

No, rather than allow the benefits of massively cheaper bandwidth make their way to Lafayette consumers and businesses, the DULL would have us gasping through the bandwidth reeds that the respective boards of Cox and BellSouth determine we should have.

Which brings us to the back page of New Orleans City Business.

It is a full-page ad for Cox Business Services. The headline reads: "No One's Ever Complained That Their Internet Service Was Too Fast." That is followed by a photo of a mouse leaving skid marks on a mouse pad; followed by the subhead: "Think Faster. Think Smarter. Think Bigger."

Cox then proceeds to make a pitch for Cox Business Internet: "1.5 Mbps/384Kbps service for only $89 per month and get free installation.*" The asterisk refers readers to six-plus lines of fine print at the bottom of the ad which inform them that this is a special rate that won't last past February 28, and that free installation only comes at the cost of a three-year contract, otherwise it could run as high as $249. There is also: "Rates and bandwidth options vary and are subject to change. Services not available in all areas. Other restrictions apply."

You know the drill.

Cox Business Services in "Greater Louisiana" offers the same package as they do in New Orleans. I'm not sure if the rates are the same and they don't provide any information on rates on that page or on the PDF which you download from that page.

So, in the name of ideological purity, the DULL would impose a bandwidth tax on every business in Lafayette because THEY would prefer that businesses in Lafayette wait until Cox and/or BellSouth decides that they will spend the money to bring fiber to every home and business in the city — if ever.

That is, the DULL would deny small businesses in Lafayette access to the kind of bandwidth that Cox doesn't even offer it's largest business customers. The DULL would do this because they oppose the concept of LUS providing services for philosophical reasons. The DULL may walk the streets as business people, but their brains live in ivory towers far removed from the real world.

What is particularly insulting about their opposition to the LUS plan is that the proceeds from the DULL Bandwidth Tax would not go to the benefit of the community but would instead go directly into the coffers of Cox and BellSouth! That is, the higher bandwidth costs which businesses would continue to pay if LUS is prevented from building their network and delivering their services would be money taken from those businesses and shipped off to Atlanta.

That this is the preferred course of events for the DULL is proof positive that they do not have the interests of this community at heart and that they do not have the interests of their fellow business people at heart. All they are about is garnering attention, defending the corporate interests of BellSouth and Cox, and demonstrating just how pristine are the ivory towers in which their thought processes are locked.

9 comments:

Neal Breakfield said...

In September of 2004, Mike Stagg wrote:

"But, the decisions being made now out of public view and with no public input could inadvertently undermine the value that this initiative could bring to Lafayette. There is evidence of this, too, in those presentations. The chief piece of evidence is the fact that the business model that LUS has chosen tracks that of cable system operators. The initial revenue projections used for project evaluation purposes rise or fall on the ability of LUS to win customers for its cable television."

"The trap inherent in this business model for this LUS operation is that it is apparently leading our utility to adopt a core business strategy of the cable companies; that is the strategy of blocking access to the network by other service providers. This closed network approach will cap the potential of this community investment to unleash the capacity and potential of the individuals, institutions and businesses here to innovate and prosper."

"By restricting access to the fiber network solely to the services it decides to deliver, the potential of this network will never exceed LUS’s capacity to innovate. LUS is a solid public utility, but — like the cable and phone companies — they have no record of technological innovation. This closed network strategy runs counter to the entire history of innovation on the Internet, where fierce competition among service providers spurred innovation as a source of market and product differentiation."

I agree with Mike's position that he expounded upon SO ELOQUENTLY back in September. I wonder, as most of you probably do too, why such a sharp change in position?

Did you come to the realization that the City and LUS were going to do the project the way that they want to do it, NO MATTER WHAT YOU OR ANYONE ELSE IN THE COMMUNITY THINK? Did you then decide that a project that YOU YOURSELF concluded would be doomed to mediocrity at best and failure at worst would be better than no fiber project at all?

If anyone else out there would like to read the rest of Mike Stagg's WELL THOUGHT OUT AND EXCEPTIONALLY WELL WRITTEN ESSAY ON THE MATTER, YOU CAN FIND IT HERE:

http://www.fiber411.com/e107_plugins/mike_stagg_sept04.php

Surprisingly enough, I could no longer find it on this web site (where I had originally read it). Good thing I liked it so much I made a copy myself.

But NONE

Neal Breakfield said...

In September of 2004, Mike Stagg wrote:

"But, the decisions being made now out of public view and with no public input could inadvertently undermine the value that this initiative could bring to Lafayette. There is evidence of this, too, in those presentations. The chief piece of evidence is the fact that the business model that LUS has chosen tracks that of cable system operators. The initial revenue projections used for project evaluation purposes rise or fall on the ability of LUS to win customers for its cable television."

"The trap inherent in this business model for this LUS operation is that it is apparently leading our utility to adopt a core business strategy of the cable companies; that is the strategy of blocking access to the network by other service providers. This closed network approach will cap the potential of this community investment to unleash the capacity and potential of the individuals, institutions and businesses here to innovate and prosper."

"By restricting access to the fiber network solely to the services it decides to deliver, the potential of this network will never exceed LUS’s capacity to innovate. LUS is a solid public utility, but — like the cable and phone companies — they have no record of technological innovation. This closed network strategy runs counter to the entire history of innovation on the Internet, where fierce competition among service providers spurred innovation as a source of market and product differentiation."

I agree with Mike's position that he expounded upon SO ELOQUENTLY back in September. I wonder, as most of you probably do too, why such a sharp change in position?

Did you come to the realization that the City and LUS were going to do the project the way that they want to do it, NO MATTER WHAT YOU OR ANYONE ELSE IN THE COMMUNITY THINK? Did you then decide that a project that YOU YOURSELF concluded would be doomed to mediocrity at best and failure at worst would be better than no fiber project at all?

If anyone else out there would like to read the rest of Mike Stagg's WELL THOUGHT OUT AND EXCEPTIONALLY WELL WRITTEN ESSAY ON THE MATTER, YOU CAN FIND IT HERE:

http://www.fiber411.com/e107_plugins/custompages/mike_stagg_sept04.php

Surprisingly enough, I could no longer find it on this web site (where I had originally read it). Good thing I liked it so much I made a copy myself.

None of that matters, of course, unless we have a vote of the people. That is the only thing that matters now. Technology, feasibility, ideology... none of that matters now becaue WE THE PEOPLE have no say in our government. We vote on things all the time that almost everybody thinks are no-brainers to pass, like renewals of millages to fund schools programs, bonds to fund library construction, etc. Does anyone see any valid reason why we should not have a vote on something that changes a lot about our government and puts a lot of money at risk?

There are a myriad of other reasons why WE THE PEOPLE want a vote on the matter, but those are just to name a few. There are actually a LOT of peole out there who are in favor of the project, but put their personal opinions aside because they know that a vote it the RIGHT THING TO DO! I know because they told ME that as they signed the petition!!!!!!!

We are Fiber411 and WE are 2,500 strong and growing! And that is only because we have only had the time to directly contact a small portion of the public! We are finding that approximately 8 out of every 10 people WANT TO SIGN THE PETITION!!!

Mike, John, Doug and crew... if you guys would get out of your cubicles and meet some REAL PEOPLE instead of hanging out with strictly I.T. and government types, then you might be better in touch with the what WE the people want and what WE the people believe.

[Sorry... I do realize that you fellas don't lurk only in cubicles. A job is a prerequisite for that...]

WE THE PEOPLE WANT A VOTE ON THE MATTER AND WE ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT WHATEVER OUTCOME THAT VITAL STEP YIELDS! You are not willing to accept the will of the people because you are afraid you will not get what you want as soon as you want it.

Admit it. We only want a vote. That's it. Nothing else. And you know that we deserve it.

Like I said, we are Fiber411. We are 2,500 strong and growing every day. We are the PEOPLE!

Neal Breakfield said...

OOPS... somehow a fragment was posted before completion of the rant... sorry for the confusion.

Anonymous said...

"Admit it. We only want a vote. That's it. Nothing else."

Yes Neal, that IS all you want at fiber411. A vote... nothing more... no fiber network, no increase in local business, no Lafayette helping itself, no nothing. I find it awefully hard to believe that you're not against fiber when you petition for a tax on bandwidth in the event that the project does happen.

Neal Breakfield said...

Anonymous:

Will you please have the decency to put your name on the post? If you have neither courage nor honor enough to attach your name to your opinions, then the rest of the world will think that there must be something wrong with you, your opinions or your motives...

All you want to do is deny the right of the people because you are AFRAID that you may not get what you want when you want it.

A VOTE does not mean NO FIBER. Regular people who are in favor of the project are putting THEIR NAMES on the petition every day because they are able to put their self interests aside to realize that the scope of the project is MUCH bigger than the dollar amount... and that in a healthy democratic process, this should have been brought to a vote of the people by the council, not the other way around.

Put your fragile ego and petty selfish insecurities aside for a moment and you might realize that.

Oh, yeah... I'm blasting you a little bit because I have no respect for someone who uses hit and run tactics like you with emotional, irrational blurbs as little jabs.

While I disagree with Mike and John and many of their positions on this site, I respect them for putting their names out there like I do.

You, however will not put your name in response to this because you do not have the courage to do so in your character.

Mike Stagg said...

I don't disavow my comments made in September about what appeared then to be an LUS adoption of a corporatist, cable business model. But, as the DULL boys probably will not be able to comprehend, the facts changed — and, then, so did my opinion.

My concern about the aforementioned business model arose from the current practice of some cable companies of closing certain ports on their network gateways so that their customers cannot access certain forms of services delivered via those ports.

A case in point was Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Some cable companies closed those ports so that companies like Vonage could not deliver their services to customers over those networks. The reason they close those ports is because many cable companies (like Cox) are now getting into the voice telecommunications business and they don't want what they view to be competitors to be able to access 'their' customers.

Shortly after that post appeared, I was contacted by Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting and asked to explain my concerns, which I did.

I was assured by Dawson and by others at LUS that LUS would not close off any ports on their IP (Internet Protocol) network.

My view is that within the next five to ten years, just about all services will be delivered via Internet Protocol. So, if the LUS network's Internet connection is open, then then entire network is open.

So, Dear DULL-ards, I changed my position because my concerns were allayed. The facts changed, so my opinion changed.

Based on what I've read of the rantings emanating from DULL in the press and via the web, the notion that facts could actually change someone's mind is an alien concept to you. But, you really should try it sometime.

Neal Breakfield said...

Mike:

Look, you are missing the whole point. None of that matters right now. The vast majority of the people of this community feel that this is a big enough issue that the people should have a vote. Do you understand that? I am not trying to be sarcastic... I really want to know.

Most people feel that the council should have brought it to a vote in the first place, rather than making us go through this whole pain in the neck petition thing. I personally have talked to hundreds of people in the last few weeks... most of them say the same thing: "well, of course I think that we shold have a vote!"

The debate over technology, feasibility, and all the other stuff is meaningless because there is no use in trying to convince the people of the community to be in favor of the project because WE do not have a say in the matter right now anyway... and we will not unless we can convince (with or without the petition) the city to bring it to a vote.

You and John and apparently have access to the decision makers to express your opinions that the rest of us could never hope of having...

YES, WE ARE ALL VERY IMPRESSED THAT THE MAYOR WILL EMAIL YOU BACK RIGHT AWAY FROM HIS BLACKBERRY, but unless you are willing to share that exclusive email address with the rest of us, A PUBLIC VOTE WILL HAVE TO SUFFICE FOR NOW!

John said...

Neal,

In your first rant you go on about Mike's essay on open systems darkly suggesting that we've pulled it off because we lack character and happily offering to let folks go to your site to read it. No need for paranoia. It has never left our site. You just lost track of where it was. You can get at any time you like in our On Background section: http://lafayetteprofiber.com/OnBackground/OpenSystems.html

Nor has it every been concealed in any way. Quite the contrary --I strongly suspect that you knew to look for it because I told Bill that both Mike and I understood his concerns about open systems and that both of us had said so before, in public, on the site, and in discussions with LUS. This _before_ you launched your misguided petition drive. I told Bill at the time, roughly what Mike has told you now: that we worried about it, asked about it, and had had our fears allayed. We were willing to listen and learn.

There is an unhealthy pattern here that I urge you to recognize. You make a mistake, about a law, a procedure, or the continued existence of a document on our website and immediately what comes to mind is not that you or your compadres might be --gasp-- wrong, but that someone is doing something underhanded, secretive, or deceptive. The opponent is nefarious. That sort of paranoia is not, and has not been, justified. The truth is, you were wrong about which law applies to any petition drive on this subject, and then instead of owning up to it you blamed the city for your mistake. You accused the city of "choosing" a law that would frustrate your desires as if they could choose a law. In fact, your representatives have consistently given you good advice; you have just been too paranoid to take it. It's the same thing with our web page. You lost track of it, made a mistake about it, and instead of just asking (I would have told you exactly where to look), you just naturally assumed that something secretive and "bad." had been done. No such thing. Just you turning your incompetence into someone else's fault.

Listen and learn: Here is what you and the anti-fiber petitioners refuse to hear: LUS has consistently said that it would continue to wholesale bandwidth for new applications and services. Beyond that it has consistently said that it would not close off ports; and that it would leave IP services open. This goes far beyond what any private company would ever do and, over time, will effectively open the system. In fact Cox has never opened any of these services and refuses to promise that it won't close off ports at its discretion and is deliberately opaque about how it will handle crucial Quality Of Service issues--but you can bet that it will favor Cox. BellSouth has spent the last several years working with the federal government to allow it to remonopolize its last mile services and in the months since this has started in Lafayette has effectively achieved that end. It has driven operators like EATEL out of the market and when it builds out fiber just a little more will join Cox in having NO public obligations in that regard.

You are wrong about open systems and have been wrong from the beginning, ignoring the good advice of people who have told you the truth because you simply can't trust public officials or those, like ourselves, who place public good over private profit. Public officials have told you the truth about petition law. LUS has told you the truth about open systems. We have told the truth about material on our site and about the necessary consequences of handing the incumbents everything they have wanted to facilitate their mugging Lafayette like they've mugged other cities. I have no doubt that somewhere in all this you mean well. But what you do can have no good outcome and if you'd really listen to what is being said and treat it seriously I suspect that you'd see that.

Anonymous said...

I think what is being lost in the shuffle here is the reason why the powers that be are against a public vote. If it were as simple as educating the people to the pros and cons of the proposed system. . .I don't think that anyone would be against a vote. Although it would be a enormous waste of time and taxpayer money because the intiative would pass overwhelmingly. The feasability study that was discussed in the Advertiser and Advocate pointed this out months ago.

However, as with most things, its just not that simple. History tells us with great certainty that the bells will launch an all out war to prevent this from happening. They have already proven that they are not above spreading disinformation and will stop at nothing (not disingenutiy and not all out lies) to skew public opinion in their favor. They have and they will spend millions to protect their investment in copper. Lets not forget that these are billion dollar corporations we are talking about. A few million dollars is a mere drop in the bucket for them. They will dole out cash and bus people in to go door-to door and lie to us. They'll stop at nothing to protect their investment in an outdated technology, but more importantly, they want to prevent the message from spreading to other communities across the nation. That message tells communities that their is a better way. . .That they don't have to be enslaved by monopolies (capitalism just doesn't work without competition).

On the other hand: LUS, the council, or any of the other powers that be simply would not be able to compete with such a campaign of misinformation- one, because they don't have the finances to compete; and two, because it is illegal for them to do so. The bells have used this strategy in the past and they'll easily exceed their past expenditures in Lafayette because this is the largest market to undertake such an initiative.

Nothing in the forementioned paragraphs has, to my knowledge, been disputed by either the bells (I seem to remember Bill Oliver saying (paraphrased), "We'll stop at nothing to educate the people of Lafayette about this risky business"), Cox, or the folks at Fiber411.

If the folks at Fiber411 are genuinely looking out for the interests of the citizens of Lafayette. If they really just want to do what is right. Then they could not, in good faith, present their arguments to the people without disclosing this certainty. To do so would be like giving a synopsis of the World War II without mentioning Germany.

I challenge those at Fiber411 to do so. To truly inform the citizenry what a vote means. I suspect that the claimed enthusiasm for the petition might waiver a tad.