Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Illinois Checks In"

Peter Malone has a letter to the editor in the Independent with some advice for the people of Lafayette:
Lafayette residents should be prepared for a barrage of misinformation arriving at their homes during the two weeks leading up to the July 16 municipal fiber vote...
Peter's right, and he should know -- he lived through it when the tricities tried to build a fiber-optic network in Illinois. Peter is writing to the Independent in response to the paper's article on their travails, "
Tri-Cities Trials," which is worth a review if you missed it when it ran and want a peek into what it will be like after in Lafayette after Independence Day.

The story the Tri-Cities tell is strikingly similar to our story here in Lafayette. It starts with local electrical service, built back in the day when private companies didn't think the towns were worth bothering with; moves on to a well-run municipal fiber network that is well positioned to offer the citizens a service that, again, the private companies are not willing to provide themselves; and ends with the story of just how overwhelmng the misleading and deceptive campaign was in the final days:
Trying to tell the truth was like whistling in a windstorm.
Peter thinks the last two weeks will be decisive. And he is undoubtably right.

There is a sense among some people, even people who should really know better, that we might avoid the coming storm—that there is something we can do, perhaps by laying low, that can ward off the evil that is to come. Were that there were such a spell we could throw. But just as there is no voo-doo that can divert a hurricane from its track, there is no spell that would cause Cox and BellSouth to not visit this firestorm on Lafayette. Folks who hesitate in hopes that this is true are, however well-meaning, dangerously wrong. They are choosing not to recall the character exhibited last summer and fall by the incumbents when we saw a series of events perfectly in line with what the Tri-Cities experienced: nasty push-polls, outright lies at an "academic" broadband conference, an arrogant assertion that we didn't know what we needed and that our local folks were incompetent to provide it anyway, and an editorialist-for-hire snuck into our local paper, to name only a few. The incumbents' character hasn't changed—witness the most recent push poll which was equal parts incompetent silliness and vicious rumour-mongering -- which was then followed by a little lying about who paid for it and what it was intended to do.

No, what Peter warns of is coming. Our best bet is to recognize that basic fact and get out ahead of the storm with the message of how valuable a fiber-optic network can be for our city and make sure the city understands how deceptive and unprincipled that final barrage will be. We don't want to end up, as they did in the Tri-Cities, "whistling in a windstorm." We need to speak, and speak as loudly as we can while we can still be heard.

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