Thursday, June 16, 2005

Fiber players hold talks

The big news this morning is the announcement in the Advertiser that BellSouth and Cox are back in discussions with the city.

From the story:
Representatives of BellSouth and Cox Communications met this week with Lafayette officials to discuss possible public-private partnerships involving the proposed fiber optics project.
Part of what is missing from the article is any recollection of what the story was the last time we saw such "discussions." The behavior of the incumbents at that moment was the source of one of the ugliest blowups of the campaign to date. You'll recall that news of "discussions" of a public-private partnerships first erupted in the week or so prior to the first council vote. At that moment it was apparent that the council was about to vote the project in (it did so 9-1) and, suddenly, BellSouth and Cox were down at city hall wanting to hold discussions about a public-private partnership. Now at that time no one thought this would go to a vote and the council vote was to have decided the matter. So it was credible, in a hypocritical sort of way, that BellSouth and Cox might suddenly decide that a public-private partnership was in their best interests. They showed up at city hall after receiving assurances that the city and LUS would keep their special presentations secret. They then presented a plan that was little more than a reiteration of what the national organizations had been saying publicly (BellSouth, for instance, was and is planning to use ADSL technologies "soon"). Then the incumbents announced the meeting and went into the council meeting telling its members that they had given the city and LUS this wonderful plan and that they really wondered why it hadn't been shared with the council. Durel and Huval were outraged at this behavior and following this was when you saw some of the harshest language of the fight. Both men felt like their trust had been abused. Durel at that time laid down the law saying they wouldn't talk to BellSouth and Cox again unless they were willing to hand them a written plan. They felt that they had been played, that the offer was never serious, that it had turned out to be no real plan at all, and that the purpose was always to use their trust to make them look bad before the council at the crucial moment of the final vote.

Now we see the incumbents coming coming back to the table just a few weeks before an election that is looking more and more like a clear win for LUS. The local opposition hasn't moved beyond the few naysayers at the fiber411 site and the incumbents have no doubt had a good, sobering look at the poll numbers. So we are back at the point of having the incumbents offer unspecified "plans" for a public-private "partnership." I hope the pattern is clear to people. They'll try and do the same thing with the public that they tried to do with the council: use their insubstantial plan as a way of trying to gain an advantage, make the claim that the LUS and the city are somehow not telling you the whole truth and use that as the newly legitimated basis to try and run out the same nonsense that Williams tried to sell the Concerned Citizens. Here's the Bill Oliver (president BellSouth Louisiana) quote:

Oliver said Wednesday that the discussions were about the fiber infrastructure and how BellSouth could work with the city by providing some pieces or services. The discussions focused on Internet speeds, the digital divide and wireless technology as a part of the solution.

"We sat down and tried to discuss what I believe would be an opportunity for the administration to fulfill its obligation to the citizens of Lafayette to provide an infrastructure that would cross the digital divide, that would provide services to the citizens of Lafayette, to provide the opportunity to have the city of Lafayette leap forward maybe to one of the premier positions in the United States" for technology, Oliver said.

BellSouth has been trialing some not really pre WiMax solutions in Florida and a few other places. Maybe they're gonna offer some sort of solution for subsidized wireless for the poor. If in turn they get to own the wireless solution. No doubt Cox will have some sort of similar self-serving plan to offer. BellSouth has a lot more to gain by piggybacking our our solution that does Cox because BellSouth's technical infrastructure is so inferior in terms of next generation solutions. They don't have any plans to come near to the raw capacity Cox already has and certainly no plans that will equal to the capacity that LUS will boast.

Nothing should distract us from the fact that we want to own our own infrastructure. None of the hardware that is essential to our people should be encumbered by outsiders. If they want to offer services, great. I'm even for cutting them a real deal. But ownership should remain in our hands. No compromise.

This long battle has been sold from the beginning and its support derives from it being a local solution that will free us from outside control and thereby allow us to control our own destiny. Anything less would be a betrayal and very dangerous before the referendum. The city and LUS know that and I don't anticipate much coming from this before the election. Lafayette holds all the cards now and any real negotiations will wait till after a successful referendum when their position will have been solidified. What we are seeing now is, necessarily, public relations work. The situation is too fluid for honest negotiations as long as the referendum has not been resolved.

This should all be real interesting.


Raymond Camden said...

You mentioned recent polls - do you have any links for them?

John said...

Nope, No links. They've all been proprietary as far as I know. (There is, unfortunately, no news in this. It's standard practice.)