The Council Meeting:
Williams had responsibility for an agenda item asking for information on the ongoing legal wrangling over Lafayette's fiber project. The item came up near the end of a 5 hour meeting. Williams seemed to want many of the responses in writing. Not much new...some fiber is being laid as part of an increasingly successful wholesale operation. Terry Huval said that fiber was rolling in support of that almost every day which would be a definite pick up in the pace. Of obvious concern is the question of whether the legal setback would force a raise in prices offered the public. Terry says it won't; that even with the delays interest rates, while rising, have yet to meet the amount projected in the business plan. A silver lining in the delay is that prices for fiber optic equipment has been falling as the market matures.
Terry's remark that "new things have come out that will help us" was a tantalizing hint of good things to come. In context that was apparently referring to technical advances that could be used to increase the value of Lafayette's offering. There's been several technologies come to the forefront recently that Lafayette might be interested in, Quality of Service, Internet Protocol TV, and virtual network technologies have all firmed up in various ways. --I'm hoping for an announcement of 100 megs of insystem bandwidth when making connections between Lafayette citizens. --Consumers would still buy price tiers of 5, 10, 20, whatever megs but that speed would apply to the open internet, not local connections. (The digital divide document approved by the council endorsed this possibility if it were technically feasible.) This technique, pioneered to my knowledge by large university installations and Provo, Utah, would let everyone who bought any internet service from LUS, no matter how cheap, communicate with another at blazing speeds. The development and digital divide implications of such a move would be huge. It would be a introduce a real, structural change that would drive development of big broadband testbed applications for business to business use and for the normal consumers (as opposed to targeted at the wealthiest). Our public utility ensuring that every member of the public who uses public services could communicate on an equal footing has practical and symbolic value that would be hard to overstate in this uncomfortable moment of Lafayette's history.
The Independent Story:
The independent interview of Durel covers all the bases and I recommend clicking through for general civic reasons as well as fiber ones. But the material that might interest a reader of this blog are near the bottom where the interviewer (in bold) queries the mayor-president about fiber issues. Here's that section:
On the issue of fiber, it seems you've found a way to rewrite the local ordinance to address the appellate court's decision?What strikes me most are the remarks about naivete regarding compromises to the Local Government (un)Fair Competition act and the emerging movement to repeal it. As readers will know I'd love to see it repealed and these word from our elected leader are very welcome.
We're going to tweak it. We're not going to rewrite the whole thing. We're going to address just the areas that the appellate court addressed.
Does it affect the rate you'll charge customers?
The things that are most likely to change the rates are the constant legal battles we have with BellSouth and the potential of interest rates going up. I think the equipment and stuff like that are going down in price and not going up. The bond ordinance itself is not going to affect that.
At any point in this costly legal battle did you question the wisdom of LCG's legal team, since it had a hand in the very state law the 3rd Circuit court ultimately ruled our ordinance would be violating?
No. We did it for all the right reasons. Hindsight's 20/20. We got [BellSouth] to compromise because there was a law they introduced that completely banned municipalities from doing this. We were probably a little naive in thinking these people were sincere.
You've mentioned teaming with New Orleans, which installed a wireless network after the storm, to repeal the state law; are you still considering that?
I had breakfast with the legislators last week, and I told them this was one of the things that we need to introduce. Without that state law we'd already be giving people in Lafayette service.