Tuesday, July 19, 2005

WBS: Ars Technica discussion

What's Being Said (WBS) Dept.

The Ars Technica crowd weighs in with a pretty amazing string on Lafayette's victory.

Ars Technica is one of the most brilliant places on the net. As both a community (which works hard not to take itself too seriously) and as a repository of hard to beat technical information it is invaluable. It's the place to go when you want to read a 20 page dissertation on the fine points of the latest Macintosh operating system. Or if you want to understand how (and why you should care whether) multi-threading interacts with mulitple cores...

So its fun to see what this crowd thinks about Lafayette's venture and the idea of municipal broadband in general. This isn't like most online discussions: the ratio of wheat to chaff is high.

I'd recommend reading the thread entire; — it is real a discussion and an education in how good this sort of online forum can be. Here are some appetizers and one piece of steak:

The appetizers:
The People are doin' it for themselves.

The only reason that the standardized Internet does exist is because it was not set up as a business. Had the internet been set up as a business there would have been a plethora of standards with no interoperability until a monopoly was formed to standardize things e.g. AT&T before the break-up.

To hell with this mish-mash of regional monopolies; if the government is willing to step forward and provide a service on which these clowns want to keep dragging their feet, so be it. If that gives the private companies the kick in the ass needed to come in and try to do it better, so much the better.
The meat-actual, intelligent analysis (I wanna meet this guy):
First, let me say that it does the heart good to see your hometown on the Ars front page.

Second let me say that BellSouth and Cox Cable were absolute pigs during this entire affair. The proposal was for our public utility, which is truly public in that it is a unit of the city, to take out bonds to finance this. BS and Cox astroturfed a good part of the opposition, and even went so far as to get a bill introduced in our state legislature to stop this when it became clear that most of the folks rallying to their cause were the usual cranks and folks who believe that only the private sector can do anything.

(We did, in the mean time, see a whole lot of television ads featuring local employees smiling and telling us how much it meant to them to help out the rest of us, their neighbors. Uh huh.)

BS and Cox did, however, manage to cause enough of a ruckus that our mayor, a business-oriented Republican, and the city council decided it was simply the best case to have a special election -- and how I wish, having lost, it was now BS and Cox who had to pay for that election.

I should point out that there are a lot of factors that aren't going to appear in most stories that helped get this FTTP proposal off the ground:

One, the head of our utilities division has a spotless reputation as does the division itself -- their line repair happens faster than ANY private utility I've ever known. (He's also a great musician by the way, a member of the Cajun band Jambalaya.)

Two, the city has enjoyed a remarkable level of urban planning, something especially unusual in the south. And planning that occurred twenty years ago recently has paid off in terms of a revived downtown, which means a lot of folks have seen what having vision can mean.

Lafayette in general does pursue the so-called American median: fiscally conservative and socially liberal. This FTTP plan played to both sides of that spirit.
Hear, Hear, Well Said!

2 comments:

Joe said...

This is a bit off topic, but I hope I can get your input. Once LUS wires Lafayette, won't Cox and BS be forced to petition the utility to use these lines in order to effectively compete with LUS? This certainly will be an important revenue stream. Also, will LUS be able to "rent" bandwith to other providers, such as Comcast or even Verizon, which will also provide revenue and competition? Fianlly, what are your thoughts on the effect of FTTH initiatives on the coming on "video on demand" to the home? I realize these scenarios are difficult to divine at this point, but I would like to hear what you think the (distant?) future holds for Lafayette fiber.

John said...

Hi Joe,

Your questions are good ones. (I hate it when I sound like Dee Stanley, sorry.)

"Once LUS wires Lafayette, won't Cox and BS be forced to petition the utility to use these lines in order to effectively compete with LUS?"

Aswr: They'd both be wise to do so right now. But they won't. They are locked into a monopoly model and LUS won't give them an exclusive contract. (I assume.) As to necessity; its necessary for BellSouth right now. Cox has a lot more room to make rational decisions and tradeoffs that could keep them, short run, in the running.

"Also, will LUS be able to "rent" bandwith to other providers, such as Comcast or even Verizon, which will also provide revenue and competition?"

Answer: they could but, ironically, laws and regulatory structures being rammed through by corporations like Comcast and Verizon, are shaping up to assure that they will never have to.

While the idea that other majors might come in and compete makes good sense a little poking around demonstrates that the majors DO NOT Poach on each others territory. It's the unwritten law of regional monopolies. And why only 2% of all US household have access to two cable providers. iProvo is a case in point. None of the major will enter the market despite a very advanced network. ONly a small company spawned in another fiber build was willing to provide services. No cable competition is available there, not because Provo isn't willing to sell but because monopolies don't poach--and they don't compete.

"what are your thoughts on the effect of FTTH initiatives on the coming on "video on demand" to the home?"

Answer: they will enable them. With a really good system (not all fiber is the same) it will be easy to destroy the cable, and indeed the network model of having fixed length programs at fixed times. Real video on demand would make that unnecessary. And, once it was unnecessary it would be impossible to tolerate.

The future? What _we_ make it. And having this tech here first and largest means that our people will have the first crack at creating the specific shape of that future. I've taken to using the following quote at the bottom of my emails lately: The best way to predict the future is to invent it. (Alan Kay)

Kay is right. Now, by winning, we've taken on that responsibility.