Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Communication lines open"

"Communication lines open" is this morning's Advertiser story on last night's Town Hall forum at the Dupuis Center in north Lafayette. The story is an accurate one--but incomplete in predictable ways. It's subhead is "Fiber forum prompts some tough questions." And this forum, in contrast to the first one, did elicit some real questions. The administration team all but begged for such as the meeting opened—and got their wish.

By my count all of the questions, save one, with a "concerned" edge got several paragraphs. But most of the questions, including several on some pretty technical issues and others that tried to get more information on pricing and speed, were from folks who, upfront, claimed to be supporters. None of those got any write-up, but those types of questions were the overwhelming majority of the questions asked. One response to a "sympathetic" questioner, for instance, made it clear that installing category 5 cabling would be the way to sustain high bandwidth inside a home. Several other questions dealt directly with the interaction of the cost of bandwidth to LUS and what it would be economic to offer a residential consumer. Not easy to report on...but if the questions of interested citizens are any index, such issues are more interesting to more people than the objections that did get reported.

Now I understand that "Citizens ask hostile questions!" is more exciting than "Citizens ask sympathetic and obtusely technical questions." But some acknowledgement that this second approach reflected the general drift of the conversation would be helpful.
The general tenor of the meeting was seen in a series of questions asked by Dee Stanley near the end of the meeting as to who was definitely opposed, who was undecided, and who was definitely in favor. No one was definitely opposed. Perhaps 6-8 people were undecided, and the vast majority were willing to say they were definitely in favor.

At one point during the long meeting I was under the impression that the administration trio was trying to wear the audience out. They seemed to want to answer every question—each of them separately—at some length—asked in a cold auditorium with pretty lousy acoustics. But as the meeting finally closed and the people got up from their chairs and walked toward the front instead of the door, it was clear that it was the audience that wasn't letting go. Terry in particular was cornered in the front of the room by questioners until the building cleared. The interest was real.

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