Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NPR Download: Feufollet

NPR today provided the nation with a look a the hot young band Feufollet with an Acadiana swamp story that gratifyingly contrasted with the recent news out of the red hills of Bogalusa.

Feufollet is the revered band of "youngsters" that that started playing the festival circuit together at ages like 8 or 12 and have matured into one of the most respected bands in the region. The story nicely captures both their respect for tradition and their willingness to expand the boundaries.

This is the sort of tale that displays NPR is best at: a bright, sharp, fond look at a bit of lived culture. It's also an example of the quality multiple media that you can only find on the net. A user can check out the story page, which contains an edited textural version of the radio story. There you can find links to listen to the full story, and you can listen to 3 full songs from the band that illustrate some of the points made in the story. And, if you are so moved, travel to the artists pages and buy some songs. This is what is meant by "rich media."

One of the advantages of a community-owned fiber-optic network is that we could make it dead-easy to do this sort of thing for ourselves and not wait around for occasional good publicity from the national media. Every ISP (Internet Service Provider) that you care to name puts up a server and gives its subscribers storage space on the network. Sometimes this is mainly a server to handle the email accounts that are given to subscribers and some online storage to keep the email. They do it because it brings in users by boosting the value of being on their network—and because, frankly, it costs next to nothing to offer it. Cox, AT&T and every other provider understands that providing services that add value to the network and are cheap when spread out over the subscriber base is a huge win for them. It's so cheap that organizations like Google and Yahoo provide free email, massive storage, and even free applications over the web.

There is no reason that a community-owned network couldn't do a much better and more thorough job of providing on-network services. After all providing service is not an incidental part of the job of making money (like it is for Google or Cox) but is the core reason that a utility like LUS exists. We can, and should, offer every community member a place on the network and the tools to work with. With 100 megs of internal bandwidth serving real applications—and even a full virtual desktop—would be easy. And it would differentiate Lafayette's service and make its competitive advantage clear. No one would consider using an ISP that didn't offer email. If you got hassle-free web space and the tools to use them from Lafayette's network I'd bet good money that it would soon become a must-have part of having a network connection locally.

If LUS didn't want to offer that directly (and I can see a few valid reasons why it might not) then pass the responsibility over to a funded nonprofit built on the PEG model—like Acadiana Open Channel—give it bandwidth and funding and make it an independent, nonpartisan, open resource for the whole community.

We talk here in Lafayette, based on Richard Florida's work on the creative class, about how necessary it is to pushing Lafayette ahead to build a community around the synergies of Talent, Technology and Tolerance. We've even made some strides toward that goal. The Feufollet article suggests that we could go much further toward harnassing the creativity and talent of the local community if we made the technology to present it to the world (and each other) much more available.

Hell, it would even be good business—and a development project to boot.

(A hat tip to the Independent's blog where I found this tidbit.)

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