Snippets from the story—
Tim Supple on the plan:
"I am 100 percent for fiber. My problem is this business plan," Supple said. "This business plan will lose money; it will not make money. ... What I have discovered in my research is the city is not telling the truth."Mike Stagg on the plan:
"It's already working," he said.Supple on closed systems:
Because of the threat of competition from LUS, Cox Communications has not increased cable TV rates since LUS first proposed the fiber buildout in April 2004, Stagg said. The previous year, they raised rates four times, he said. SGI from Silicon Valley moved to Lafayette because of its fiber, and two other Silicon Valley companies are considering a move, he said.
Supple argued that the LUS business plan calls for a closed system in which LUS will not allow competing private companies to offer telephone and cable TV on its fiber. LUS should provide the fiber and lease it to private companies to provide services such as TV and telephone, he said.Kaliste Saloom (in the audience):
Kaliste Saloom III, who supports the fiber project, asked if BellSouth and Cox would allow competitors to use their fiber optics lines if they laid the fiber.Though it didn't make it into the article Tim Supple credited Mike Stagg with raising the issue of open systems for him in a paper he wrote on this site. Mike's response was that he considered the LUS system basically open since LUS was not going to close off ports--competition could come in over IP on the open ports and people would be free, for instance, to get their phone service from someone like Vonage using VOIP.
"No," Supple said. "That's probably right."
From the article, on open systems:
LUS plans to exclusively offer cable and telephone service on its fiber. If someone else wants to lease space to sell home security or health monitoring, they can do so, said LUS Director Terry Huval. LUS will continue to offer wholesale Internet service through private providers to larger business customers, he said.(If you read the article you might think that Terry Huval attended; he didn't. My guess is that Claire called him for reactions.)
"It has to be structured in a way that it pays for itself," Stagg argued. "LUS can't cross-subsidize their service like BellSouth and Cox can."
That's a pretty good summary of the major points that were raised, but from the point of view of this attendee it misses much of the flavor of the event.
In broadest overview, it seemed to me that the room went from feeling pretty much neutral on the subject to feeling very much pro-fiber by the end. A debate is a particular kind of social gathering and folks who attend generally come with the idea that they want to hear both sides. So no doubt folks were leaning one way or another but it certainly didn't show at first. As the debate and questioning went on, however, the tone swung decisively toward fiber. Early questions from the floor seemed fairly neutral and were addressed to both participants. As it wore on, the questions became more pointed and more often addressed to Tim. It's hard to say just when and how the feeling changed but one event certainly marked the pro-fiber shift. As I recall, Saloom was questioning Tim, rather closely, about the conditions under which he might vote for the fiber referendum. It was a lawyerly sort of questioning designed to discover what, if anything, might induce him to vote for fiber. At one point Tim responded abruptly to a question about LUS's system being open with a remark to the effect that what had just been suggested was more of those LCG "untruths." The room responded to the remark with a low disapproving murmur.."euwh." There was a touch of humor about that murmur and I expect that some meant it to lighten the mood; but it marked a public solidification of the group -- against that sort of accusation. It wasn't the first time that Tim had implied that you couldn't trust the local government to do as they said they would. Tim remarked shortly thereafter that he didn't come there to be beaten up on and that remark pretty much served notice that it was over for his cause.
He got questions from the back of the room, including one about competition that made it plain that the questioner regarded LUS' competition with Cox and BellSouth as good competition and was having trouble understanding why Tim did not. But one final remark came from Dale Bourgeois, councilman from District 2 in the northern part of the parish. He said he didn't want to ask a question but to make a statement and that was that he didn't appreciate a remark Tim had made earlier that the north side would never see the fiber. Bourgeois had clearly been stewing on it for awhile and sat with arms crossed; speaking directly to Tim, Bourgeois said that it was his job and that this would happen. When no response was forthcoming after a pointed pause, he repeated his remarks and ceded the floor.
Shortly thereafter the group thanked the participants and moved on to a lively discussion of the frontage roads and development in north Lafayette more generally. Most folks stayed, but Tim and a few others left as the discussion shifted.
Post Scriptum: This was actually a very eventful meeting from the point of view of this community. Not only was there the debate discussed above; the meeting devoted equal time to consideration of the frontage road issue and other road works in the northern half of the parish. That, arguably, is an equally important issue. Interestingly, the Advertiser does not report on that discussion at all. Equally interestingly, the Advocate, in its coverage of the meeting, focuses entirely on the frontage road and associated development question. Neither story carries mention of Keith Thibodaux's report on high tech enterprises like LITE in Lafayette and the development potential of that for the community as a whole. I doubt the coverage much reflects the relative view of the importance of the issues for the papers or the reporters involved. Rather, constraints on how many stories can run, reporters looking for background material, and what makes it to the editors' desks first play a larger role. But that, too, is interesting to understand about the way the news works...