Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fiber Plans:Deployment, Tiers, Pricing, Digital Divide and More

LUS Fiber is here. Welcome to your future. That was the message as LUS director Terry Huval stood before the City-Parish Council and laid out the near-term deployment plan and the basic products that will be offered by the new community-owned network. Joey Durel, in his introduction, took visible pride in the system, saying that they had under-promised and over-delivered—something which he's a bit paradoxically claimed was his startegy from the start. If that was the plan; they've met their goal. The network's first offering of services is more than I'd have said possible or likely when we were first thinking about it. —But not more than I and others fought for as ideas about the community's network matured. (One of the huge advantages of owning your own network is that you can make suggestions, fight for them and sometimes help open the door to new directions. Local, public ownership, frankly, is an innovation as important as any technology to LUS' success.) It's a world-class network that we're building. We've every reason to be proud.

I'm goining to hit the highlights here but if you want to see the goods for yourself visit the LCG Auditorium channel at ustream.tv and watch the archived video there.

As always, the LUS presentation was tightly and logically structured: Huval broke the power point into news about the rollout & construction, pricing, unique features, and customer service.

Rollout & Construction
First and foremost, the January date for lighting up the first customers is holding. Just who, when, and how many remains vague but the system will launch with paying customers next month.

Fiber will rollout first at the two ends of the "phase 1" area building out from fiber huts—"hubs"— located on the grounds of the power substations at each end of the build area. The first customers will apparently be signed up in the area around the Acadiana Mall at the southwest end of the build area and those in the Northeastern segment served by the "PEC" substation will also start seeing availability. (See my Google map, or LUS's version to get an ideaof the geography involved.)



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When fiber becomes available on your street every address will get a nifty piece of mail announcing: "LUS Fiber is here. Welcome to your future" reversed out of a light blue background. Watch closely for that distinctive piece of mail. And then call.

Pricing & Tiers
The big announcement today was was the service plans and prices. The short story is that more-for-20%-less promise is being kept. And in some situations it MUCH more.

Here's a list of the pricing bundles. In some ways it's misleading to call it a bundle since bundle's usually mean some complicated formula for discounting the price of the services if you buy an approved bundle. LUS' packages won't work like that. There will be no penalty for mixing and matching service levels like there are in the incumbent's bundles. All the service are offered for a single straightforward discounted price. Clean and simple and easy to understand. And no attempts to entice you into spending more for service levels you don't really want in order to get a price break for something you do want. (Why? Hint: you're being treated with the respect accorded an owner.) So you could order the top tier internet and the cheapest Video and Phone, or NO video and phone, without penalty.

VIP (Video, Internet, & Phone, get it?)
Video: expanded basic: more than 80 channels $39.95
Internet: 10 Mbps Up and down. $28. 95
Phone with services: 15.95
VIP Silver
Video: over 250 channels incld High Def $63.31
Internet: 30 Mbps Up and down. $44. 95
Phone with a long list of services & 5 cents a minute long distance: 28.95
VIP Gold
Video: over 250 channels incld High Def plus Premium Movie suits $98.09
Internet: 50 Mbps Up and down. $57.95 (wow)
Phone with a long list of services & unlimited long distance: 43.95
More for less. —Now some will try to point to the cheapo bundles that Cox is already offering (and for whose existence you can thank the threat of competition) but those aren't "real" prices, lock you into a set of services for a year or more that you might not want, isn't customizeable, and is a LOT less product. How much for an internet tier to compare with LUS' 30 or 50 meg tiers? There really is no similar product from Cox or AT&T. For value the LUS prices can't be beat considering the number of channels or speed of the offering. But there is no truly cheap, low end offering. Cox offers a 768 kbps thing they call "high speed internet" for goodness sakes. That's cheaper than LUS' 13 times faster 10 meg low tier...but not, I think, much of a value. Of course, LUS really low price for internet is access free...and probably works at at least 768 Kbps—see below.

Unique Features: Digital Divide & 100 Mbps Intranet
These are the bragging points—and pretty impressive they are too...taken together I think they are truly unique to Lafayette.

LUS' response to the Digital Divide question is to enable the internet capacities of their digital set top box. Using a limited browser a user will be able to read email and do basic web surfing on their TV. And Lafayette is going to do it For Free. There is not surer way to get folks online than to package it into their cable service. Once the rollout is complete Lafayette will inevitably become the most connected city in the nation. Technically, at least. Now helping folks use that capacity fruitfully is a whole 'nother matter. And properly something the community shold pitch into to do. (Any takers?)

The 100 Mbps intranet has been discussed on these pages for a long time. Suffice it to say that any regular customer will have access to blinding 100 meg speed over the internal community intranet. Want to download the 6 hours of one of those interminable contensious council meeting? In HD? No problem. It will come down in a flash. Video telephony. Shuttling those huge files will become trivially easy—if only inside our net. That will encourage businesses and tech-oriented citizens to locate inside the city...which might do more to encorage "smart growth" than any suggestion I have heard to date.

Customer Service
There'll be two customer service centers down the road. The customer service people—both in the buildings and on the streets—will be your neighbors.

And....
Finally, I'd have to say that LUS didn't talk about one of the greatest features of our network: the money you spend on LUS, the money that gets you more for less, will stay here in Lafayette and won't be shipped off to some high rise in San Antonio or Atlanta.

Frankly, it's all we asked for initally and more...it's fiber to the home with its near-infinite expandability. It's cheap. It will be offered to every last person and business in the area. We will own it and can do with it what we like — and both the 100 mbps intranet and the digital divide initiative are the products of local folks pushing for them and evidence that community ownership can make a huge difference right off the bat. Sure there's more that I can hope for and fight for now. But on this day to have all the hopes that we held back in 04 realized is enough...It's amazing. A dream realized.

1 comment:

Pma said...

I can't wait for the day that Palo Alto has a similar announcement. We've been working for 10 years to do what LUS is rolling out in 2009. It's simple, fast, a bargain, and an investment for the whole community. Great summary, John.