Friday, March 18, 2005

Fiber good, retail bad?

Today's Advocate has an article which at first blush seems similar to yesterday's Advertiser story in that it lays out the sequence of events that have to happen on the way to a referendum. It's spiced up with a constructed debate between Tim Supple of fiber411 and Terry Huval of LUS on wholesale vs. retail models.

But what's really interesting in this Blanchard article is the concession that Tim Supple makes for fiber411 on the question of whether or not a fiber network is desirable at all. He says it is. He's right, of course. But the admission is still surprising—and noteworthy.

The arguments against fiber as a technology (by fiber411 and their allies) have to date been based on nothing more than suppositions, fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the technology of fiber-optic transport. Suppositions about "possible" new technologies, inducing unsubstantiated fears of "maybe" changes in basic transport technology, intoning that all technolgical change is uncertain, and suggesting doubt about the value of fiber have been the basic, even if clearly basically mistaken, tactic of the opposition.

The truth is that everyone with a dollar to bet is banking it on fiber-optic technologies--both the incumbents who are so against Lafayette building its own fiber-optic system are in the midst of slowly replacing their ageing infrastructures with fiber. The Federal Communications Commission has been so desperate to find ways to convince the carriers to build fiber to the home that they've been willing to trade what managed competition there was for a few years in the hopes of finally inducing the Bells to build their long-promised fiber to the home. (Let us all take a moment to mourn the loss of ATT and EATEL's money-saving service in Lafayette.) Tim is right to concede the basic point: Lafayette needs a fiber to the home system.

Getting rid of the the whole Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) tactic in relationship to the technology of fiber would be an enormous step forward in the public debate. It hints that someone in the debate might actually be willing to lay down weapons they know to be dishonest.

And that is the best sign about the battle to come that I've seen in a long time.

The story goes on to oppose too briefly the judgments of Supple and Huval as stand-ins for the pros and cons of wholesale and retail business models. It's a start, but the basic issue is critical enough to deserve a much fuller treatment. I'll try to toss in my two cents worth later today if I can manage the time.

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