Friday, April 29, 2005

"Debate follows the money"

Claire Taylor of the Advertiser reports on yesterday morning's debate between Mike Stagg and Tim Supple at the Rebuild Lafayette North meeting in the old city hall. Mike is a member of Lafayette Coming Together (and co-host of this blog) and Tim Supple is with Fiber 411. I attended to cheer on the side of light and (in my humble opinion) right.

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.

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 on closed systems:
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.

"No," Supple said. "That's probably right."
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.

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.

"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."
(If you read the article you might think that Terry Huval attended; he didn't. My guess is that Claire called him for reactions.)

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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...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for treating me kindly in your blog. You know, I didn't pick up any anomosity from the people sitting at the table. They asked questions and were resepectful and listend. The spectators on the other hand.., People keep asking me what would get me to vote for the bonds. The bond resolution we are to vote for authorizes LUS to borrow $125,000,00, but does not have to be used for FTTH. Is there anything that would cause you to vote against the bonds? Anything?
Tim Supple

John said...

Hi Tim,

I'm glad you're not offended and appreciate your stopping by to say so. My wife and I talked about how hard an experience that had to be for you. It bothered her a lot. I had the same thought after the Zia's luncheon.

The pattern I see, for what it is worth, has been the same whenever we've talked. What keeps you from going where so many others go easily seems to be almost purely a primal distrust of our government. Even a conviction that if what they say sounds like what you want to hear that this must be a lie.

I am really not trying to be accusatory...that's just where we got to during that first talk in the Albertson's parking lot and each time since.

For most of your fellow citizens that doesn't factor completely. (Or for me as you know) So they can't quite understand why you can't take that last step...They think you're just an inch from the last step. You are for fiber and recognize it as the ultimate transport--in the abstract. You recognize that Bell South and Cox aren't the good guys. You seem to understand that folks want to determine their own future and not leave it in the hands of others. And, like Bill in this regard, can be brought privately to recognize that BellSouth and Cox are effective monopolies in their core business, at least currently...So they think that with just a little work you could be brought over to the light. :-)

I honestly think folks mean it well when they push for some final reason they could convince you on. So they push, looking for one more thing, the last thing that would bring you across. My guess is that the last thing is trust and that they can’t give you that.

I hope I’ve not got offensively personal...I could be wrong about all this.

I’m actually sympathetic on some level. Here’s some honestly sympathetic advice: I think that where it went sour for you at Centre Internationale was where you came out with the conviction that “untruth” was the explanation one time too many. The people you are implying are being dishonest are guys that people in the room know, or even _are._ You have to recognize that it won’t go over well. I honestly think you’re wrong about that and so did the folks there. They don’t think Joey, Terry, and the council are anything like perfect. You know that too.People can think they are wrong. But the people in that room don’t think these folks are deceiving them. And won’t accept it as a reason to vote against fiber.

Yours, John

Anonymous said...

I do not take offense. I feel your comments are genuine. Much of what you have said is accurate and I agree with. And I agree that people want to controll their future and it should not be left in the hands of others. Which is why I pushed so hard for the vote.

Joey is now saying that he wanted the vote all along, whereas he personally told me there was not going to be a vote and told the press and the public I was pawn and agent for Bell South. A week ago a city council member came up to me and told me that they, (the council)intended to have the vote all along. He told me that he thought someone was suppose to take me aside and tell me their secret. Now this is the same city council member who told me he "knew" I was being paid by Bell South and would not support the vote. If you were me, would you trust them? But you have a common goal with this government, so you do not have to defend yourself from it's attacks or lies.

Everyone called the lawsuit freviolous and without merit, the government told them that it was. I did my own research, I paid legal fees of some $12,000 of my own money, I felt it was the law and so did the Judge. If you were me, would you trust their judgement?

Even you started off by calling me a sock puppet, traitor to Lafayete and etc. I feel that you and I are past that now. At least I hope so. I truly believe that you have nothing but the best interest of Lafayette at heart. I hope you feel the same about me.

We really are not so far apart on this issue. I can see how it will add to Lafayette. It's this buisness plan that I believe is a lie. Again I have done my own research and spent my own money. I cannot find any municipalites that genereate sufficient profits to repay infrasturture cost, which is the conclusion of the feasiblity study. If you can, please send me their financial statements. Bristol, Tacoma, Jackson, and etc. will not. Even the Free Press will not send me what they have. Yesterday I recieved Bristol from an anonomous source.

In the end, I believe this plan will not generate a profit, will limit competition rather than encourage it and will result in required constant government subsidy. It's what I have found everywhere I have looked. The money will come from higher utlity cost which will fall disppropotionatley on the poor and middle class. The transfer of money, however you do it, from the citizens to the government is a tax. If the people want FTTH then let them know that they must pay for it. If that not the truth as you see it, then you don't need to tell them anything. Should I?

I thank you and your wife for your sympathy. I hope the next government never causes me to feel it necessary to extend it to you or yours.

Tim Supple

John said...

Tim,

I am sorry that you’re unable to see the wisdom of taking good advice; even if you do decline with some grace. What was, by all accounts --even yours--an embarrassing showing at Rebuild Lafayette North was the result of a combination of saying things that the attendees did not find credible about municipalities, calling people that the community trusts liars, and having no positive agenda to offer Lafayette.

The path of wisdom here would be, first, to stop calling people liars when they disagree with you. That would cut back considerably on the hostility that is beginning to coalesce around you (and has long since coalesced around the 411 site where such unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable ugliness is daily fare). You have been, in the past, the most effective proponent of your cause because you appeared reasonable if, well, a little selectively blind. You are forfeiting that marginal credibility by revealing the less rational underpinnings of your position.

Much of the material in your latest remarks (above) are new charges that go in that same direction of calling opponents liars and repeating charges that are simply incredible about municipalities. Other charges are statements that repeat an ideological position without regard to the actual common-sense understanding of the world we live in.

A walk-through might be instructive: In the second paragraph you call the mayor and an unspecified councilman liars on the basis of personal communications. I can only say that nothing like this has been my experience and repeat my conviction that taking this tack does not serve you.

In the third paragraph you refer to a $12000 investment in suing Lafayette. At the time, as I recollect, Fiber 411 denied spending any money there and plead poverty. That was credible since you joined the suit late; lending standing for additional argument but bearing, I presume, none of the larger costs. This change of stance confuses me and I suspect will confuse others. I confess to still being surprised at the decision and still differing strongly with the politically motivated decision to drop the appeal. I think everyone, except perhaps you, was surprised...the disarray on both sides in the ensuing days was clear to any observer. Loss and appeal was all either side was prepared for.

Fourth paragraph: As purported change in attitude; you’ll be disappointed to hear that my position has changed less than you think. My guess is that you misinterpreted my earlier comments. When I said that you should be judged by what you do rather than what you say I was saying that your intents matter less (and should matter less) than the actual consequences of your actions. Your actions clearly serve the direct interest of BellSouth and Cox. Your intent may be different. Or not. But in the final analysis my judgment will be based on the results of your actions. And I thought and think your actions are not in the best interest of Lafayette. My sympathy with your largely self-generated travails has little to do with that.

Fifth paragraph: Calling the business plan a lie flies in the face of reason and experience. You have access--through posts on this blog if nowhere else--to the reasons why the few and flimsy articles that make these outrageous claims about universal municipal failure are not to be trusted. (Re personal phone calls: You never provided the name of these people in Tacoma you claim to have contacted and promised me after the Zia’s meeting.) Believing this sort of stuff relies on believing in a vast conspiracy ranging from Joey to Terry to most of the local officials and councilmen, the writers of the feasibility study, the bond agents, and last but not least several generations of a similar conspiracy to conceal the truth from citizens in random towns and cities all over this country. It’s not credible, it’s not sensible, and continuing to repeat such stuff and call anything that contradicts it a lie not only does you no good but damages whatever credibility you have. The truth which not even the telco-funded “studies” bother to deny is that these public ventures are almost without exception something the citizens of the municipalities value highly--as our citizens rightly value LUS. Are all these people fools?

Sixth paragraph: Part of what happened at Rebuild Lafayette North was insisting that LUS would not bring competition to BellSouth and Cox. Of course it will. And denying it and the authoritative studies by the GAO and the FCC that demonstrate how much prices drop when competition enters just makes you seem inflexibly doctrinaire. LUS will be more open than BellSouth and Cox from day one and promises, openly, to not close IP ports which will carry the services of the future. You know and will admit that the private providers you favor holding the coming monopoly will never open their proprietary systems. The ONLY way to ever have a totally open fiber optic system in Lafayette is for LUS to build it and then for people who believe in the idea to argue it before the people. They will have to do so knowing that the stronger business plan and the one both BellSouth and Cox use is closed. You know this to be true yet persist in opposing the only real possibility for getting fiber optics in the next decade or an open system ever. People do hear the contradictions that emerge as you speak. You claim any transfer of money is a tax. The rawly ideological nature of such a position is unmistakable. A fee for service is simply not a tax. Sorry. You don’t have to buy cable from LUS. Stay with Cox. People know this is not a tax. Again, your insisting on this serves to further undercut your credibility.

I recognize I’ve gone on at too great length but somewhere I do give some credit for your possible good intent . Calling everyone a liar isn’t going to work because it isn’t true. You need to look for a better way out of your morass.

GumboFilé said...

Tim,

I'm going to have to agree with John on this one. Calling your opposition a liar is only acceptable if your name is Terry Huval or Joey Durel.

John said...

David Hays,

Or, apparently, David Hays.

You'll notice David, that I've been careful throughout this string to label the problem calling people liars when that claim is simply not credible. I've tried, as best I can to stay away from the issue of whether or not anyone is a liar in actuality knowing that Tim an I disagree.

But my advice to Tim does not apply when folks actually are lying and it can be credibly demonstrated that this is so.

There is a difference. It is not all the same.