The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has issued a new position paper, Public vs. Private Sector Investmen (PDF), that joins its earlier Broadband Position Statement (Word doc) to flesh out previously unknown category of public position statements: The "We are gratified to announce that we do not condemn that which we should endorse."
It comes in 5 clauses marked by roman numerals for which, even though they are not in Latin, translation into standard English may prove useful and efficient:
1. Private is good.
2. Public support of private companies is good provided that the benefit is of the sort that can be measured, that outside people think its worthwhile, and the company can make good money.
3. It's ok to give money to private companies and it is ok for public entities to partner with private ones.
4. If private companies won't do it then the people can do it for themselves.
Between this document and the Broadband document the good news is that the Chamber is taking the stalwart position that it will not actively and as a matter of principle oppose Lafayette's Fiber For the Future Initiative.
What it does not exemplify is community spirit, rational self-interest, or leadership.
Community Spirit: Building a true broadband network is the development opportunity of a lifetime--or several. There is no single investment in ourselves more likely to propel Lafayette and her people from game players in the middle of the pack to clear and proud leaders. A cheap, high-quality telecom sector can serve to equalize opportunity between this community's haves and have nots. It's sad that community spirit alone is not enough to move the chamber.
Rational Self-interest: The people in the community that are most likely to benefit first and most directly are local business (new and not yet formed) that will get cheap bandwidth on our version of information super highway that will equal the resources available to the worlds largest corporations at a tiny fraction of the cost. It is our businesses (as opposed to Atlanta's) that are bearing the brunt of what MIke correctly calls the "Incumbent Bandwidth Tax:" that additional cost that locals pay for being in Lafayette that their competitors, headquartered in places where big broadband is available less expensively, do not pay. It's sad that the "leadership" cannot see what the benefit of cheap fiber to every corner of this town could mean for local businesses.
Leadership: I do not believe that many, no most, of the chamber membership doesn't get this--or couldn't be easily lead to see what is so clear and so much a part of their business life. The failure is at the leadership level where there appears to be an unwillingness to risk power and position in pursuit of what is right for the community in the face of the few, who ideologically or through personal ties and ambitions, are committed to the cause of corporations that do not care about Lafayette or her people. The problem here is that while folks may believe that they are preserving power and position for later use the truth is that influence unexercised atrophies. Use it or lose it. Exercise makes not only muscles stronger. The chamber may emerge from this without offending any fraction of it membership only to discover that the community no longer believes it can count on the chamber for leadership that puts the community first. Leadership is a precious commodity in any community; it is sad to see it squandered on mere personal self-interest.
All that said, there is a part of me that is gratified for anything I can get from this quarter and the assurance that LUS and the City will not be blindsided by Picard's Chamber is substantial comfort.
And that is the saddest comment of all.