Thursday, January 31, 2008

Self-Reliant Lafayette

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) recently released "Municipal Broadband: Demystifying Wireless and Fiber-Optic Options" that should be on the bedside table of decision-makers and community activists in any locale that hopes to control its own communications future.

The author is writing against the backdrop of St. Paul, Minnesota having recently pondered and decided to pursue building a fiber-optic network. The study makes the general case that proved a convincing argument in that twin city. It is no accident that such a useful general study grew out of the specific needs of a real community.

In my judgment Christopher Mitchell gets it exactly right: the big take-away is that communities can, and should, control their own communications destiny; no one else will do it for you:
Private network owners simply have different motivations from public network owners. Private companies are legally required to maximize profit for their shareholders. Public entities have a different mission; they are focused on maximizing social and economic benefit to the community. This distinction seems to have been lost in much of the discussion around municipal broadband systems.
That's as simple and direct a statement of the obvious as any long-term advocate of public ownership could hope for.

That, happily, is not the only thing Mitchell is right about:
As St. Paul found, fiber-optic wires form the communications foundation of the future. Fiber networks last for the long term while offering un-matched speeds and capacity.
And:
Fiber networks should not be considered an alternative to wireless networks. As noted previously, each solves different problems. Fiber networks can actually lower the cost of building a wireless network. Once the fiber network is completed, wireless nodes can be easily connected, offering considerably faster speeds than those without ubiquitous wired backhaul.
Wrapping it all up:
Fortunately, we already know the solution: wireless solves the mobility problem; fiber solves the speed and capacity problems; and public ownership offers a network built to benefit the community.
Those are the crucial points upon which an intelligent, well thought-out report is built. Having got the basics right Mitchell also demonstrates the ability to write well--explaining the critical differences between the technologies as well as he does the basic points of ownership and function. If you want to really understand the differences between wired and wireless architectures, and between cable, DSL, and Fiber delivery systems in terms that make it clear what those differences mean for the communities that use them, this is an almost uniquely useful text.

This well-done report should advance thinking in the area by making it nigh on impossible to ignore the basic case for public ownership—that only public ownership will lead to the public's interest being consistently served. It should, as well, clarify the proper role of fiber and wireless in building an advanced infrastructure for your community. As has been argued here repeatedly, fiber and wireless are both necessary but a robust fiber network is the foundation for a truly useful wireless network.

Small print; two caveats:

First: The question of the possible monopoly nature of wireline networks is not dealt with. Most discussion, and this one, implicitly assume that competition between different wireline networks can be stable in the long run and so the issue of WHO owns the network is one that is not, perhaps, pressing. --If the local provider proves unreliable or abusive it is assumed that we could provide competition later. I am not at all confident of that assumption, strongly suspect that wireline, and especially wireline fiber, is a natural monopoly and am fearful that there is but a small window for communities to gain control of their own future and avoid being subject to a monopoly run from a distant metropole with no real regard for local communities. Sounding the tocsin now is, I fear, necessary.

Secondly: I, for one, would like to see more discussion of the role of open and closed networks. ILSR comes down pretty simply on the side of open networks--while noting that its favorite example, the one of Burlington, Vt, is ambigous on this issue. Burlington endorses an open network theoretically but sells its own products at retail and has yet to actually have other firms selling retail service over its fiber. (Other than, of course, pure IP plays like Vonage telephony, which can ride any network.) This issue has been chewed over pretty thoroughly on this site and we've come to a pretty nuanced view—one which recognizes the value of real competition but doubts that public networks can survive if forced to compete at a structural disadvantage with private, vertically integrated incumbents. Examples of clearly successful municipal communications networks competing against established incumbents are easy to come by. Give people fast, low latency public fiber at a cheap price and we'll all abandon the retail, broadcast, POTS telephone provider fairly quickly--that is what's seen as the inevitable "IP migration." Voice service, is already moving in that direction quickly. Video will follow in any community as soon as there is a provider that will offer enough speed cheaply to move in that direction. But that is not in the interests of the established incumbents. And, as Mitchell correctly points out, only publicly owned enterprises would find it in the interests of their owners (the public) to allow or even encourage this migration. A fast, public fiber network like Lafayette's is the only visible realistic alternative short of a sea change at the Federal level.


But my quibbles are minor—asking any one study to address so many topics is surely unreasonable. Especially when what is before us is so astonishingly well done.

Highly Recommended


PS...an theIND blog post notes this is as a study which praises Lafayette and the choices we've made. True, we get two nicely favorable mentions. But they are only mentions. Wait until we're up and running.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's the Same All Over: Chatanooga

Some news isn't so much new as is a reaffirmation. To wit: "Murder on 33rd St." "Administration refuses to release records" That not new...but it is newsworthy to occasionally reaffirm that the problem hasn't gone away.

"Incumbents sue to scare community and lenders." That's not new either.

It is the same all over.

Tennessee cable is trying their best to prevent Chatanooga's power utility from providing its citizens with a cheaper, better, fiber-optic alternative to the cable company. The tools:
  1. An incumbent-favoring law which gives the local monopoly cable providers a tool to challenge the financing of the community's network
  2. A lawsuit taking advantage of their law; probably baseless but ceratinly something that muddies the water.
  3. Bluster and bombast by the incumbent providers aimed not stopping any illegal activity but at driving up the financing cost to the community to offer an alternative.

We saw exactly this same pattern in Lafayette.

The delicious irony: the subprime mortgage crisis is in the process of driving down the interest rate. Monney is cheap and this makes the incumbents crazy since it makes it much easier for a competitor to succeed. So they try to scare them off. But Chatanooga, if they're smart, won't allow that to happen. The delay will cause them to sell their bonds in a moment when money is as cheap as it has been in a long time. The cable companies are about to hand the people of Chatanooga the best present they could ever get: cheap money. And all because they're so intent on raising the cost.

Poetic justice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Good for the Goose...Cox Sued

Recalling the old proverb, "What's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander:"

In a development that is sure to bring a wry smile to those of us who witnessed the legal tactics used to delay the start of Lafayette's fiber to the home project, Cable Digital News notes that Cox has now been sued over a service it wants to offer.

The gist is that Verizon is claiming that Cox's VOIP phone network infringes on its patents. Verizon has already won a high-profile case against net independent phone provider Vonage over its use of the same patent-protected technology.

Another proverb: "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Construction Begins....

Men in the field, boots on the ground:


The first installation crews are out in Lafayette neighborhoods today. The neighborhood southeast of Acadiana Mall off Robley drive is decorated with the color coded paint lines and little flags that mark the location of underground utilities. On Remington Drive, toward the back of that neighborhood, you'll find the contractors' trucks and the initial holes in the ground that positively locate the current utilities and will serve as install points for the fiber and supporting electronics.

Soon, folks, soon...

Click for a larger view of the pics... (And thanks to the anonymous commenter for the tip...anyone spotted more locations? I'd love to see some fiber strung from poles too,)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Advertiser Editorial Heralds Fiber

This mornings' Advertiser heralds the imminent startup of Lafayette's fiber-optic network with an editorial that promotes the economic benefits of technological leadership:
We believe LUS Fiber will mean more good-paying jobs and a better quality of life for the people of Lafayette. The availability of advanced, affordable telecommunications services to assure the ultimate efficiency in the transfer of information will be a priority of businesses looking for places to locate or expand operations.

...We have no doubt that LUS can stay abreast of technology. Lafayette has experts in all phases of telecommunications technology. There is a rich field from which to draw.

The plan is seen by national publications such as USA Today as a visionary, pioneering step toward a place of leadership in the global economy.

While generating revenue is essential to paying off the bonds and keeping up with constantly changing technology, revenue is not the basic goal. Competition will result in better rates, but as desirable as that is, it is still not the focal point of the Durel administration’s vision. The vision is one of technological leadership that will result in powerful economic growth.
That's what the Durel administration and, by implication, the Advertiser find most valuable about the project. And there is no doubt that the promise of clean, high-tech growth responds to realistic anxieties coming from the great oil bust of the '80s that seriously undermined the city's natural sunny confidence.

But to my mind the real benefit is more basic and has even broader consequences: Lafayette can now control its own future in one additional and increasingly important area: Communications. This generation of citizens has made the gift of an extra few degrees of freedom and responsibility to the future. It is what we do with that Freedom and Responsibility that should now occupy us.

Weeklies Cover LUS Groundbreaking

The Times of Acadiana covered the recent groundbreaking in its "The Buzz" section and the Independent lent the project some virtual ink in their blog.

The Times has a useful description of the the way the video portion of the service will work:
The headend building is the origination point for all the video programming and will also house the telephone and Internet equipment. A satellite dish farm and tower-mounted antenna array will gather the video signals. All three services -- TV, telephone, Internet -- will be converted to light and distributed to customers across approximately 877 miles of fiber optic cable.
The Ind's take is encapsulated in the post's title: "LUS fiber project starts next week."

Anybody see trucks rolling? Or some of those doorhangers? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, January 14, 2008

WBS: "Milestone Reached in Lafayette Fiber Deployment - LUS FTTH is on track"

Whats Being Said Department

Broadband Reports, which has followed the fiber battle in Lafayette exetensively, continues to track the story. It now covers the announcement of the groundbreaking last Thursday. The site is probably the largest discussion forum devoted to broadband issues in the nation and its always interesting to see what folks have to say in the comments. In this one we are treated to a repise of the debate as to whether or not Lafayette is "in the woods." Oh well; it's fun to read anyway. One guy does seem to have a handle on how arduous the planning for a fiber network has to be.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fiber Worth Moving For?

FiOS, Verizon's fiber to the home project, is so good that people are willing to move to get it. At least that is what some geeks that Ars Technica talked to think.
In this month's issue of Consumer Reports, the magazine took a look at ISPs and declared Verizon's fiber optic FiOS service to be best of breed. Not only that, but the FiOS television service trumped all comers, including DirecTV, AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner. Top honors also went to FiOS phone service, which beat every other telco and cable company for reader satisfaction. The fact that FiOS gets such high marks may be the reason that some people have even moved to get it.

Andru Edwards of Gear Live tells Ars that he's one of those willing to relocate for the promise of fiber optic goodness. "I moved 10 minutes north of Seattle specifically for FiOS service..."
That's top in reader satisfaction in three separate categories: Video, Phone, and Internet services...That's pretty amazing. Now that's NOT for Verizon's regular service, please note. That's for the FiOS (Fiber-Optic Service) that Verizon offers in a various places across the country.

Surely Verizon, with a big investment in expensive infrastructure, is going to try and put their best foot forward. But to impress users as the best you have to actually have to have an outstanding product to sell them.

Apparently fiber to the home has let Verizon offer an outstanding product. And I am completely confident that LUS will offer an even better version.

So, will people move to Lafayette to get an even better version of fiber?

There has been speculation that individuals might move to Lafayette to get our product. I admit that I've thought that a bit unlikely even though Durel has said he's heard of people coming home because of it. But then on top of the interesting story cited above I saw this bit tagged on to the recent LUS groundbreaking story in the Advertiser's online forum from a reader who lists his or her location as "Las Vegas, NV (migrating to Lafayette in '08)":
May be the best thing ever to happen to Lafayette. We were scouting future possible locations in Louisiana for a move from Las Vegas. As soon as we saw the FTTH initiative announced, we knew that Lafayette would be our destination.

Congratulations to Lafayette specifically and I'm sure that Louisiana will benefit too.
And former Councilman Menard might not have said he plans to move...but he has said he'd like to be annexed.

Hmmn. Maybe there's something to all those rumors. That's one way to keep the housing market healthy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

LUS Groundbreaking in the Media

The media covered yesterday's groundbreaking in force. The Advocate, the Advertiser, and KLFY all have online stories you can check into.

The Advocate's story is the most extensive. In addition to covering the statements by public officials it also explored recently let contracts:

Chain Electric out of Hattiesburg, Miss., has been awarded the approximate $11 million contract to install underground lines — in areas where utility lines are already buried.

Where utility lines are already on poles, the lines will be run by an Indiana company, ElectriCom Inc., as part of a $4 million contract.

But the reporter tripped up a bit when trying to summarize the recent contracts as Blanchard acknowledged when I dropped him a quick question. But the Advocate quickly corrected it online. I've edited this post to account for that, striking the parts that no longer apply. The following bit that appeared in printed edition isn't correct:
LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in under budget. The same goes for the head-end building construction, as well as the large contract with Alcatel-Lucent, which is providing all the large electronics including the boxes that will be at customers’ homes and businesses.

In fact, you need to invert that meaning: only the underground line contract came in over budget.

The story has been corrected online--the portion struck above portion now reads:
LUS Fiber’s Mona Simon said only one of those contracts — the underground line contract — came in over budget.
That's not entirely surprising since digging up yards carries a lot of unknown risks--nobody can "look" at the job and see what it really entails. I'd bid high on any job of which I wasn't confident.

If you're curious as to how LUS will pick the first area to be served (and who isn't?) you should check out the story:

LUS is picking the initial areas on using three sets of criteria, Huval said.

The first is which areas could provide the most potential customers at the lowest cost.

The second is which areas have a good mixture of residential and commercial — though with an emphasis on residential, as those customers are more likely to sign up in larger numbers.

The third is an area with a mixture of overhead and underground utility lines — again, with an emphasis on overhead lines because running fiber on poles is faster than having to bury them.

The idea of picking a diverse area is to get early experience and feedback in all aspects of the roll-out, Huval said.

That would describe almost any area of the city....though I'm personally hoping that it best describes the residential areas right around downtown. ;-)

The Advertiser's story is much briefer and focused more exclusively on the event and quotable quotes from the participants.

Huval said the service will have a long-lasting impact for residents and businesses.

"The real purpose is to provide a super broadband highway," Huval said. "We're going to be primed for new technology."

City-Parish President Joey Durel said the service is going to "be something much greater than we ever dreamed."

"We have underpromised, and we're going to overdeliver," Durel said. "A lot of things had to come together, but it's here and it's going to happen and we're going to knock your socks off."

There's a picture of of Huval with Mike Stagg, Keith Thibodeaux, John St. Julien, and Gobb Williams in the background. (I'm still looking for that pic with with Gobb Williams and Durel both holding golden shovels, digging them into the council carpet, and grinning like mad.)

KLFY has only the briefest of stories, but if you own a windows machine you can probably view the video. (I'm weary of complaining...but will note that the mac market share has hit 8%, and the percentage of internet users on that platform is higher yet... Maybe the Advertiser will publish one of its nifty multimedia stories that are easily the best edited, and most accessible, net video in Lafayette.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

LUS Fiber; Some History

At this morning's "groundbreaking" ceremony the initial moments were occupied with the obligatory remarks and reminiscences by officials and influentials. Much of the remarks were actually interesting—Durel again reiterated his promise that the Fiber project "over-deliver" and struggled to voice his enthusiasm by saying "We are gonna knock your socks off." Purvis Morrison, representing the council as vice-chair read a short bit by new council chair Don Bertrand who played a large leadership as a private citizen during the fiber fight. Those remarks focused on the hope that the community's goal of becoming "most connected city and parish in the country has taken a huge step forward." Morrison, who represents a rural part of the parish that isn't currently slated for service, made it clear that it was his hope that Bertrand wasn't just being politic when he referred to the parish. He wanted fiber brought to his rural part of the parish.

But it was the reminiscences that intrigued the historian in me. Especially interesting was Randy Menard's story. Menard was a member of the outgoing council that backed LUS fiber before that was an easy thing to do and which soldiered through the worst of the battle to secure it. His recounting pushed the story back more years than any tale I had heard before. Apparently Terry Huval recommended that council members attend an American Public Power Association conference in Toronto that planted the idea of a community communications network—12 years ago. On Menard's retelling he went and came back an advocate. A fiber ring for city use came up later and was eventually built. When a discussion about trying to get other people to build a fiber network in the city came up Menard says he asked Huval "Why aren't we doing that ourselves?" Huval's careful answer was that some people up the line weren't in favor. Translated: the then-current administration had put the kabosh on it. Menard and Ardoin, a former councilman, worked around that opposition. Menard, who does not live in the city proper, jokingly expressed a desire to be annexed. (I won't be surprised if that desire becomes more widespread.) Apparently there was a time when Huval was not the most enthusiastic proponent of further extending fiber...but that changed. On Mayor Durel's recounting Huval set him down even before his inarguration and laid out a plan to offer fiber to the home. When Durel committed to its support the course was fixed.

The rest, as is said, is history.

Correction: In the original version of this post I wrote Menard when I should have written Mouton ...Mustaches, "M" names, recent retirement, and a southern parish district...Mea Culpa.—A hearty thanks to the reader who pointed out my error.

Correction to the Correction: Ok, I was wrong about being wrong. It was Randy Menard and after talking to others who were there I am now confident about that. I still need to absolutely confirm that Menard lives outside the city—that's what my evidence shows, but... Anyway, a hearty thanks to the anonymous reader who encouraged me to think I might not be in error. :-)

"LUS Fiber" Launched

LUS launched its brand and a new informational website this morning. Not at the site of the new headend building, as had been planned, but at city hall. A storm rolling the through Acadiana led to the last minute change of venue.

We did get a groundbreaking ceremony of sorts. A group of advocates from the administration and the public lined up in the front of the council meeting room and posed for a series of photos with golden shovels. As symbolism it was effective: we saw folks from the administration who'd been instrumental in the plan coming together standing shoulder to shoulder again with community activists and supporters. All lined up proudly in front of the room grinning to beat the band. There were two golden shovels and in a nice bit of symbolism Mayor Joey Durel handled one while community leader Gobb Williams posed with the other. I've gotta get a picture of that.

For those of us involved in the fiber fight as members of Lafayette Coming Together it was a special point of pride to see some of the key members of the activist organization that drove the referendum forward honored: Andre Comeaux, Kevin Domingue, Max Hoyt, Mike Stagg, John St. Julien, and Gobb Williams.

Less symbolically and more substantially we got our first glimpse of the new branding devices. What's the service to be called? "LSUFiber." That's what you were already calling it? That, I think, is the point: without any other name by which to tag it we all got in the habit during the long fiber fight of calling what we were fighting for "LUS fiber" --everyone already knows what the term refers to; the identity is already well-established in the community. Why spend a lot of money trying to get some new term accepted? The new logotype that is pictured above was also on display. Expect to see it on a new fleet of trucks and service vehicles in your neighborhood. They'll carry the slogan: "Building a Fiber-Fast Community."

Citizens should start looking for door hangers announcing the upcoming service--that door hanger will carry a return card that will allow people to express interest and get in line for first crack at serrvice when it is finally offered in their region.

We also got access to the new informational website. It's a flash-dependent site you can find at http://www.lusfiber.com/ There you'll find an initial FAQ and, tantilizingly, a chance to sign up for news updates. As the rollout gets underway the site will include updates on the construction and new services—both of which announcements are eagerly awaited.

What didn't we get? Any announcement of just where the build will begin and who will get first crack at our new service. I'd hoped we get that today since I've had hints that a large percentage of Lafayette, including my neighborhood would be in the first section. But we're to be kept wondering a bit longer though Terry Huval promised that it'd be revealed soon...and that eager citizens would be given a chance to express their interest and get in line early as the day of deliverance came near. (Ok, no he didn't phrase it quite like that. :-) )

One more milestone laid down....

Breaking: Groundbreaking Moved

Whoa!

If you'd planned to go to the groundbreaking ceremony at LUS' new headend site at 11:00 am be advised that its been moved to city hall at 11:30...I assume that LUS will station someone at the site to route traffic back to city hall.

I'm gonna go. Should be satisfying...even if no dirt or special shoes is involved. :-)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Council, New Governance

A tip of the hat to the new City-Parish Council.

Both the Advertiser and the Advocate carry brief stories about the new council and its new rules. Emphasis was on the new five minute discussion rule for comments and the 45 second announcement rule for councilors--neither of which might not seem like a big deal to most people but which clearly impressed the reporters whose job requires them to sit through the interminable ramblings that sometimes devoured the council's time.

Followers of fiber news will be most interested in the rest of the news: that the utility governing body will no longer meet separately before regular council meetings and fiber partisans will be interested in, and heartened by the new leadership of the council.

The LPUA, the Lafayette Parish Utility Authority, is made up of the members of the City-parish council whose district is mostly in the city. They've always met separately an hour before the regular meeting twice a month to transact regular business. But big commitments have always been brought to the regular council as well since the full legal responsibility for things like bonded indebtedness is cloudy. (After all the city of Lafayette no longer really exists as a truly independent legal body as far as I can understand.--So who really owns LUS?) As a consequence there was a lot of overlap and double voting on issues. The new regime will make every meeting a joint LPUA-City-Parish meeting. This will probably be more efficient and it will also mean that LUS issues will be handled in a meeting that is better attended. The extra scrutiny is probably a good, if not entirely comfortable thing for LUS.

It also means new prominence for the head of the LPUA. At one time I thought Don Bertrand, newly elected from District 7, was up for the job. This would have been a happy moment for Lafayette's fiberistas since Don was one of the leaders of Lafayette Coming Together during the fiber fight and the man most responsible for bring the local Republican party on board in favor of the idea. You couldn't ask for a public official more committed to and thoughtful about the project. But Don didn't get the post--instead he has become the chair of the full council, a position from which he will have even more influence. I think that was the right choice for the community and the right choice for fiber.

Brandon Shelvin, the new LPUA head also appears to be a friend of fiber. In fact the new council seems to be pretty solid there--in contrast to the uniformed view that some of our representative candidates displayed during the LWV debate, the council candidates appeared to understand what is at stake in the new system they will oversee. (None of the candidates who had even mixed feelings about fiber made it past the primary in the council election. The present council will surely see that as a clear message.)

With eight of nine new members, a new organizational structures, and 'interesting' topics in the offing it should be an interesting year for council-watchers.

Friday, January 04, 2008

LUS "Ground-Breaking Announcement"

LUS is a going to make a "ground-breaking" announcement... They're being a little coy about it but, at the very least they're gonna 1) announce breaking ground on the headend facility (groundbreaking, get it?) and 2) announce their "brand"--The logo and slogan you'll see on the side of all those trucks and on your monthly telecom bill come the day. With any luck at all they'll feed us some more substantial information about our build. They're slated to start construction sometime soon; so they're bound to have some more juicy tidbits to hand....I'm ready to know more, much more.

January 10th, 11 AM at the headend building site, 234 Distribution Dr. (click the image for a map) Watch the evening news on the 10th....and the papers the next morning. Hope for something good with your coffee.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Year in Review

The Year In Review @ LafayetteProFiber

2007 was the year Lafayette's fiber project emerged from the wilderness and people began to dream in earnest. The final delaying lawsuit was dismissed, the bonds sold, and contracts let for construction. Dreams followed the announcement of intriguing new features like a wireless addition and the 100 megs of intranet bandwidth and people began to dream of what we might do with it it to close the digital divide or provide new ways to strengthen the community.

January........
At the year's beginning we were still awaiting a decision from the State Supreme Court on the last lawsuit holding up the bond sale. The Fiber to the Schools project advanced, ensuring a parish-wide fiber backbone and early hints of a wireless project were realized when LUS put out a bid for a municipal wireless network — one initially designed to provide government services. The competition was clearly still out there as Cox introduced Video On Demand, upping the ante on what Lafayette's network needed to provide in its initial offerings.

February........
In early February Durel's "State of the City" address lauded the fiber build but failed to slake our appetite for new news on the wireless component. The Advertiser's attempt to move into an internet-centric future advanced in fits and starts but it emerged with arguably the best local video site in town, far outclassing the efforts of the local TV stations and proving that with the construction of new net-based infrastructure the race will not necessarily go to the established incumbents. An attempt to resuscitate the breathless prose of the fiber fight fell flat at the Advertiser as a story about the cost of defending ourselves against the incumbents produced no discernible ripple of concern from a populace immunized against such sensationalism by the long fiber battle.

Late in the month, after weeks of waiting, came the Supreme Court decision we'd been waiting—and hoping—for. The Court unanimously overturned the 3rd Circuit's ruling and pretty roundly spanked them for their mistakes in letting the argument go on for so long. The final victory for Lafayette was widely heralded as one that would have consequences in locales beyond Lafayette or Louisiana. Cox, after years of vigorous attempts to delay or destroy the project, testily denied that it made any difference to them. Dreaming about what we could do with the shiny new toy starts almost immediately and LUS announced plans to solicit ideas from the community.

March........
The first, and in retrospect apparently last, of the Fiber Forums is held and the community had plenty of ideas. (Cox and AT&T also attended and took conspicuously copious notes.) If nothing else the forum demonstrated that the LUS understood that a generous attitude will pay unanticipated dividends. And that simple insight is one which will do more to make the system a success than any elaborate business plan. Wireless hopes, big intranet bandwidth, symmetrical speeds and more were all promised and their implications discussed.

An old issue, the digital divide, returned, Lafayette was named a "Smart Community," and the first high paying jobs attracted by the fiber arrived. LUS started to spend visible money on the networks construction, selecting a design firm to lay out plans for the headend building that would house the electronics and for a warehouse to store the masses of equipment that would be needed in the construction phase.

April........
April brought a shower of small advances. The Digital Divide Committee was reconvened, the location of the headend facility at the intersection of I-10 and I-49 was set, and an engineer to oversee the construction and help make crucial decisions was chosen.

May.......
March brought a reblooming of the old FUD tactics from the incumbent corporations. Cox kicked off the festival with an embarrassing attempt to pretend its hybrid fiber-coax network was a fiber network in a venue where everyone knew better. Just a bit later we got a whiff of old push poll tactics when a new, apparently limited version was trialed in Lafayette. Then Naquin's (AT&T's PR team?) attorneys carried water for the incumbents by engaging in a rather transparently false threat to sue LUS just a week before the city went to New York to interview for the crucial bond ratings.

June........
As the seasons turned Huval went to Councilor William's "Real Talk" and talked—about the retail wireless plans, about a faster construction schedule, about a larger basic cable lineup than anticipated, about internet speeds where the slowest package would be faster than the fastest speeds available in most of the country. Oh yeah, and symmetrical bandwidth coupled with a 100 meg intranet. Enough to leave the most ardent proponent breathless. Lafayette Pro Fiber floated a dream about a "Lafayette Commons" that would take our commonly owned network and use it to make a place to share local information build community.

The bond sale was authorized and the bonds were put on the market. The first unit sold solidified the legal standing of the entire business plan since bond holders are constitutionally protected from any change in the plan no future legal challenges to the basic plan can be successful.

July.......
In July LUS' Huval was honored by his national peers—he was both given an achievement award and made the chairman of the board of the American Public Power Association. The success of the fiber fight clearly raised his stock nationally as well as locally. The bond sale closed; meaning the money was in the bank and available to spend. The newly hired engineer's men were in the field surveying poles—making sure there was plenty of room for the fiber to be hung.

August........
Joey Durel took over leadership of the Louisiana Municipal and pledged to work "to give local governments more ability to control their own destinies while not placing roadblocks in the way of our progress." Among other things, that probably referred to the infamous imposition by the legislature of the (un)Fair Competition Act. An LMA with aware leadership will fight such laws. The City-Parish Council approved the fiber funding plan. Dreaming about what might well turn out to be the nation's best telecom system continued apace and a new Digital Divide report was made to the council.

September.......
Another small media tempest erupted as the kids headed back to school. The headend building came in way over budget and LUS had to scale back and issue a new set of specs to keep its price under control. The headend was one in a series of public projects whose price spiraled upwards in the wake of Lafayette's post-Katrina/Rita building boom.

Cox fired its most effective shot yet across the bow of LUS by securing a long-term contract with ULL athletics for exclusive rights to telecast replays of coaches programs, sporting events and university athletic programs on its cable systems—and we can rest assured they'll not be reselling such valuable material to the local opposition. For ULL fans this is a very big deal—such deals have lead to a lot of fan anger on both coasts where such deals are more common.

The Advertiser endorsed the dreams of bridging the digital divide in a supportive editorial and Huval spoke up on Federal broadband policy in his role of APPA chair saying plainly that the incumbent telecom corporations had failed American in spite of massive subsidies and called for letting "the public sector take the reins in communities where citizens want them to do so."

October........
Dreaming of a better wireless network provided a bit of fun in October. The surprise announcement that LUS would imitate Apple and open its own "fiber storefront" to educate and promote the brand was greeted with approval. And the construction news rolled on with Alcatel being picked to provide the electronic guts of Lafayette's new system.


November........
LUS signed a franchise agreement with the city-parish that was virtually a copy of Cox's and immediately tried to reassure folks during its approval that the agreement wasn't nearly all they hoped to provide the community. One of the few areas where LUS laid out a plan in their franchise agreement for going beyond what Cox had already done was in its support of AOC, the local access channel. That touched of some dreaming about what a 21st century AOC might really look like. Mike weighed in with some dreams about an asynchronous Lafayette in which AOC or a surrogate would play a major role.

If history repeated itself with the franchise agreement, an awareness of the recent fiber battle seemed completely missing from the minds of some candidates for the state representative seats up for grabs this year. Let's hope their more aware colleagues educate them as to what a successful telecommunications utility could mean for the hopes and dreams of their community.

December........
As the year wound down toward the holiday season the bid on the revamped fiber headend was accepted and the crews were spotted in a North Lafayette neighborhood moving wires on poles in preparation for hanging fiber.

The future is upon us. Since the plan is to light up a section of the city somewhere near the first of the coming year, with any luck next year's edition of this missive will be able to say that fiber has been lit up in Lafayette and that we no longer need to wait for the future.

It's a new year indeed.