Friday, February 23, 2007

"LUS wins fiber-optic fight"

"Lafayette Utilities System is free to begin its much-debated and long-delayed plan to bring low-cost phone, cable and high-speed Internet to homes and businesses in the city, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday."
That is the way the Advocate story this morning opens up. Its coverage focuses on decision itself, the history of the lawsuit, and the distinctions the Court made in overturing the 3rd Circuit. On the Appeals Court mistake:

The 3rd Circuit should have ruled that the cross-subsidization prohibitions in the Fair Competition Act should be viewed separately from other provisions that allow governments to pledge those resources to secure bonds, according to the ruling.

The Legislature meant the cross-subsidization rules to apply only after LUS had started providing services, the court ruled.

How to pay off the bonds is dealt with in a separate section of the law and one portion of the law allows for LUS to help pay for its system with loans, as long as those loans are paid back with “market-rate” interest, the court ruled.

“The opinion fully embraces all of the arguments which we have advanced from day one,” City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger said in a news release.

On the path forward:

LUS has been preparing for months for this day, Huval said. It will be meeting with its financial and bond experts today to lay the groundwork for proceeding, Huval said.

The delays have been frustrating, but they’ve not hurt the nuts and bolts of the project first laid out in a 2004 feasibility study, Huval said.

The cost of technology has decreased significantly since then and interest rates are lower than what was initially projected, Huval said.

On the technology decision; the first of the points which need to be settled to begin concrete planning:
LUS will also start finalizing its decisions on exactly what specific type of technology it will use for the project, so that it can hire an engineer to lay out the system in preparation for construction, Huval said.
That's an interesting suggestion, and one that is due some community and not merely technical consideration. The technology used will have a strong influence on both the entreprenual and digital divide potential of the system we build. It will shape what we do with it by making some tasks easy and some harder.

We've seen in various interviews with public oficials a lot of (well-deserved) praise for this community and its resilience and steadiness during the fiber fight. The people of Lafayette refused to be panicked by threats; they didn't allow themselves to be cowed by the power of their opponents or mislead by the confident nonsense they spouted. They've earned the right to be talked to plainly about the positives and negatives of say PON architectures--and proved they can be counted on to grasp the essentials.

We are, at this moment, beyond the defensive stage of this project. It will be hard to shift gears (least of all for me!) but now is the moment for openness, inclusion, and conversation.

Let's get on with it: time's a wasting.

No comments: