Sunday, December 20, 2009

Getting His Fiber


Pat Ottinger is the happy new subscriber in this photo. It came with the following note:
Is this a great country, or what?

Can't wait to deliver my boxes to Cox.

Merry Christmas, Pat
Pat is the city's attorney and was our local lawyer in the many delaying lawsuits brought by the incumbents and their allies. (Like the one we won with a unanimous decision of the state supreme court.) He has earned his little silver LUS box. Congrats! (another post, this one with videos...)

PS: Isn't the slogan on the truck: "I'm proud of my LUS Fiber" perfect for the occasion and wouldn't it make a great yard sign?

Friday, December 18, 2009

"LUS sacks Cox with Saints vs. Cowboys game"

From the Independent blog:
"If you’re paying $39.95 a month for LUS’ 83-channel expanded basic cable service, breathe a sigh of relief. You’ll watch the undefeated Saints take on the Dallas Cowboys (8-5) on Channel 38 Saturday night at 7:20 p.m. But if you’re one of Cox Communications’ approximately 100,000 Acadiana customers who subscribes to expanded basic, 72 channels for $52.99 per month, it’s going to cost you more."
Couldn't have said it better myself. —You can sign up with the local guys or you can pay more for less and still not get what you want from Cox. It's a choice that ought to be easy. What do you think Lafayette?

The Saints Mania that has taken hold here (and across south Lousiana) has made people more than a little crazy and I've got email this week asking whether LUS will have the game. I had a hard time understanding what folks were anxious about since it is on expanded basic, and expanded basic is pretty much the default level for most folks. Now that I see that Cox is only carrying it on a more expensive tier I have to suspect that the truly fanatic were hearing about that and worried that the same would be true of LUS...there was a big blow-up in the Baton Rouge media earlier this week and apparently Cox worked hard at getting it set up there even though BR wouldn't normally be allowed to see it. I'm sure they'd like to have been able to do the same in Lafayette—if only to avoid the unfavorable contrast with LUS Fiber.

It's not really just about this game and single, immensely popular show...it is more about the contrasting corporate policies that Cox and LUS Fiber pursue. Cox has, time and again, moved "must have" weather, French language, TV guide, and sports channels off the basic tiers and pushed them up into the upper, more costly, tiers in unpopular if financially understandable, moves. After all they are in it to make money for their owners. LUS Fiber, on the other hand, really doesn't have nearly the same pressure to "upsell" its customers since those customers are its owners. Keeping your owners happy means entirely different things to a large corporation and small town utility.

And that's the real lesson of this story.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On "Broadband is not a Utility"

I continue to hear stuff like "Broadband is not a utility" and "broadband is a luxury" all of which is supposed to lead to the conclusion that we should all stand back and let the the incumbent duopoly do whatever they want. That has always seemed like a stunningly short-sighted and unimaginative position to me. Happily Glenn Fleishman over at Publicola in Seattle (where their new mayor is committed to a publicly owned FTTH project) has dug up the perfect rejoinder to such foolishness. Glenn analyzes this at length and his dissection is worth the read. But for our purposes the raw quote from the Richmond, Virginia's 1905 Times-Dispatch newspaper will suffice:

“Unless we adopt the principles of socialism, It can hardly be contended that It is the province of government, either state or municipal, to undertake the manufacture or supply of the ordinary subjects of trade and commerce, or to impose burdens upon the whole community for the supposed benefit of a few….

“The ownership and operation of municipal light plants stands upon a different basis from that of the ownership of water works, with which it is so often compared. Water is a necessity to the health and life of every individual member of a community…It must be supplied in order to preserve the public health, whether it can be done profitably or not, and must be furnished, not to a few individuals, but to every individual.

“Electric lights are different. Electricity is not in any sense a necessity, and under no conditions is it universally used by the people of a community. It is but a luxury enjoyed by a small proportion of the members of any municipality, and yet if the plant be owned and operated by the city, the burden of such ownership and operation must be borne by all the people through taxation.

“Now, electric light is not a necessity for every member of the community. It Is not the business of any one to see that I use electricity, or gas, or oil in my house, or even that I use any form of artificial light at all.”

Sound familiar? A century more or less makes little difference in the way some folks think...though the passage of time does change what they are wrong about.

Fleishman is writing in support of a fiber to the home network in Seattle but it is worth noting that he is more familiar as one of the net's go-to guys on wifi and related wireless technologies — and has been a great advocate of those technologies. But even he says that fiber is the end-game for fixed locations.

Friday, December 04, 2009

FUD..It's the same all over

The Free Utopia blog out of Utah posts a note that rings familiarly in the ears of Lafayette's citizens. That complaint concerns a flyer mailed to the residents of Brigham City by their local astroturf/disinformation group, the Utah Taxpayers Association. It goes out at the last minute in advance of a city-council vote that seems destined to approve a way to allow any citizen in the city who wants to take advantage of the quality and savings of a community-owned fiber optic network to do so.

That's gotta remind us locally of the last-minute disinformation flyer mailed to every household in Lafayette by our own disinformation group just before the fiber referendum. It too was filled with FUD—Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. And the cherry on top of that was what was perhaps the most egregious bit of "lying by taking out of context" that I've ever seen in a published piece.

In some ways the issue in Brigham City is even more outrageous than it was here...in Lafayette the disinformation flyer was timed to confuse the community throw sand in the process of approval that by that points seemed to all reasonable observers to be already over — Lafayette was clearly going to approve fiber and, shortly thereafter, did. In Brigham City the idea is to confuse the citizens and to give the council members grief about a different foregone conclusion. To wit: Brigham City the city has already committed to funding the basic infrastructure buildout for the regional community network "UTOPIA"—the financial obligation had been taken on years ago. (Keep that firmly in mind: The city is already fully committed to supporting the network, nothing that happens now can undo that.) All that is going on now is that 30% of the citizens, who want fiber NOW rather than sometime down the line when UTOPIA gets to them have asked to plunk down $3000 of their own money to get fiber from the community-owned alternative NOW. This does absolutely nothing to increase the indebtedness of Brigham City and, in fact, it takes a big potential burden off the rest of the citizenry by taking most of the city's indebtedness and passing it on to that subset of users...the $3000 dollars will be used finance most of the city's debt.

So what is the "Utah Taxpapers Association" up to? FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Why? Why should a "taxpayer" group complain if most of the burden of paying for a community resource is shifted from the whole community to 30% of it who willingly, eagerly take it on? What could possibly be wrong from the taxpayers point of view? The answer is that it just doesn't make sense. When something makes so little sense a reasonable person looks beyond the FUD an asks more the more fundamental question: Who benefits from this kind of misleading fear-mongering, who would pay the expense of such a flyer? And the answer is, as it was here in Lafayette, to follow the money: it is the incumbents, who would initially lose 30% of their installed base and in the end no doubt many more. In Brigham City those incumbents are Comcast cable and Qwest telephone.

It's the same all over.