Thursday, March 08, 2007

The First Fiber Forum

I just got out of the LUS fiber to the home meeting at City Hall. I've searched for a way to sound measured and reasoned but...Hell, I'm pumped!

Why? Well, attitude, information, and good suggestions just about sums it up.

The attitude
Well the attitude was everything a good little-d democrat could ask for: The people there were interested and engaged, wanted to contribute and did contribute. There was no whining about decisions that the community had already made. What was suggested was put out there with a good heart and in the hope that the suggestions might actually be helpful. Terry Huval, LUS head and event MC, was open—willing to say what was possible, what isn't possible, and what he didn't know. While there were moments of caution the feeling of candor was very comforting after watching people be cautious for so long. Just deciding to hold the meeting was evidence that the tone had shifted. We can relax and talk amongst ourselves now that the battle is over. Sniping from the outside is now largely irrelevant. A lot of folks have waited for this day.

You want to add you own ideas to the suggestion box? Write: Fiber@LUS.org

The information
There was news, and there were things that we hadn't heard repeated in so long that they felt like news again.
  • Wireless, it is baldly asserted, is coming--just when and just how to be determined. But the wireless will be hung off the fiber and will come quickly after they get comfortable with the utility network they are working on now. Wireless, in the wake of fiber is described as relatively cheap and as something the dense fiber will make "very robust."
  • We will get symmetric upload and download speeds for our dollars. (HeeYah).
  • What Huval calls peer to peer bandwidth, the digital divide report called "full insystem bandwidth" and others call "intranet speeds", sounds like it is a go. With it every customer will be able to communicate with every other customer at the full available speed of our local fiber--regardless of the service tier (5 meg, 10 meg, etc.) limits that kick in when we get outside of our own network. This lays the groundwork for a whole raft of other wonderful things. (On which more when I can get around to it. A teaser? Yes.)
  • Dual mode cell/WiFi service to go with the wireless? That would require a partnership with a carrier. They are not in negotiations yet but LUS is aware of the issue and thinks that will be a capacity they anticipate the community will want.
  • Territorial expansion--e.g. service beyond the city of Lafayette. Huval was cagey. But cagey in a way that made plain that yes, it was under discussion, that LUS had capacity outside the city, and would consider partnerships or simply leasing the expensive "head end" facilities to burbs that wanted to do it themselves. Or, of course, LUS' telecom division could simply move in and provide welcome competition for the incumbents. Clearly there's been thought about this.
  • NO contract. NO deposit if credit not a problem. NO connection charge.
  • Reiterates claim that triple play packages similar to the incumbents will be 20% less
News more operational than technical:
  • Huval reacted favorably to the idea of community working groups, along the lines of the original Digital Divide Committee to address some of the questions raised.
  • There was a strong emphasis on localism--the idea that the network should be used to bolster our uniqueness. The idea of putting more channels--or simply bandwidth--into AOC, or offering channels/bandwidth to schools, community colleges, and the university for distributed education... with open insystem bandwidth some of this would come almost effortlessly.
  • There will be more Fiber Forums...at least one, perhaps more, perhaps more focused on particular issues or services.
The suggestions
The suggestions from the floor were grand. People had a good sense of what they wanted and what might be possible. You can add your own by email at Fiber@LUS.org My undoubtedly incomplete list in raw form, so you can get a sense of the range and richness:
  • integrated video phone technology
  • high definition programming
  • symmetrical upload and download
  • DVR settop box
  • a la carte
  • inexpensive low tier
  • peer to peer bandwidth
  • community working/study groups
  • inexpensive computer integrated into set-top box
  • wireless connectivity
  • territorial expansion
  • two way video TV
  • bandwidth opportunity with retail packages (intranet bandwidth, I believe.)
  • telephone features
  • Video on demand feature
  • open access support (Localism, AOC, 15 channels)
  • Provide AOC with Bandwidth and rack space
  • Use Internet with utilities consumption, customers could monitor own usage
  • web hosting facility
  • distance learning...for schools
  • Web Portal...(suggested)
  • traffic control.."Intelligent traffic control system"
  • Cell phone/wireless phones
  • Spam protection
  • all digital simulcasting
  • one number access (unified access service)
Don't you want all that? Want to know when it'll get to you? Tough.

But....Pre-sign up will be possible at some point, and if your neighborhood has all signed up, well that might well feed into the decsion of which area to work first. Desperate? Start a petition in your neighborhood. My guess is that you could get yourself on a list by using that same Fiber@LUS.org.

I want it. NOW.

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