Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Budget ready for LUS project"

Blanchard over at the Advocate runs a story on the budget for LUS' new telecommunications division—the division that will be responsible for the LUS Fiber project. The budget ordinance will be introduced this coming Tuesday and, if the usual pattern holds true, voted on at the following meeting.

The budget anticipates committing 80 million of the 110.4 million of the money yielded by the bond sales. Because contracts arranged this year will go on this years budget the major part of the money will be committed even though it might not be actually "spent" for several years. Among the interesting details from the story:
It includes more than $20 million for the buildings, electronic equipment, computers and software that will be required at the “head-end,” that will serve as the technical operations center for the new network...

The budget also includes $2.9 million for set top boxes that will be in customers’ homes and $12 million for the boxes that will be placed on the outside of customers’ buildings.
Those are numbers to tuck away—they represent the major technological committments of the system, not just the major capital outlays. The money spent on headend equipment will determine the capacity of the system while the money spent at your house will determine how much of that capacity each citizen can utilize. The specs on all that will make for interesting reading. (Ok, maybe "interesting" is strong. But they will be important.)

But beyond that the story notes an interesting apparent discrepancy in the numbers: LUS has said that we can expect the first segment to be lit up about January of 09. But $5.5 million is allocated for hooking up customers in the 07-08 fiscal year, which begins in November for LUS. That's earlier than anticipated. On the other hand no money is allocated for dealing with "customer accounts" until the the o8-o9 budget. That is not early and jibes with previous estimates.

What's the deal? I don't know but based on previous estimates of the hook-up costs per household 5.5 million will hook up 8000 to 9000 customers. One explanation would be that LUS hopes to light up its first segment in January of 09—perhaps as a New Years gift to the city—and will be completing hookups as the fiber is rolls into the neighborhood and people order service. So if fiber gets to you in, say, September of 08 then they'd hook you up (and charge that year's budget) and you'd get to wait until Jan 09 to get service. (There is three months of agonizing anticipation!)

However that explanation seems a bit of simple. Hooking up 8-9000 homes by November, at least 2 months in advance of the lighting date, means that you'd have even more homes available when the segment came online. 10,000? 12? That's better than 1/5 of the total households available in the city. And since the announced plan was to segment the city into 5 zones and build each zone out sequentially that would mean that LUS was planning on pre-subscribing 100% of one segment. That's not going to happen and I don't believe that LUS thinks it will. Hooking up that many homes that early suggests that LUS will be tackling more than one segment at a time. Two? Three? All? And if they are going to work on more than 1/5 of the city at once that in turn suggests that they will be pushing hard to complete the network in less than the three and half years previously discussed.

So I'm hoping for an announcement that the construction plan has changed—and that a highly segmented build has been abandoned. That'd be a good thing in my estimation.

Caveat: My line of reasoning on this makes a certain amount of sense but I might not fully understand a document I've not seen. Or I might not understand adequately the process of network construction or how costs are distributed. But I find the numbers very suggestive of a faster build with more subscribers brought online early than we've previously been led to believe.


Anonymous said...

Will LUS offer HBO for Free?

John said...

Free HBO?

No Way Jose, nor will they offer vibrating fingers beds.

(I think you've got them confused with a motel.)