Friday, January 15, 2010

WBS: "LUS Fiber: Already running a network"

What's Being Said department

LUS Fiber is serving as an example of a real community fiber network in places like Champaign-Urbana Illinois that want to start their own fiber network. Now I admit to having a soft spot for C-U for both personal and technical reasons—it was my first "real" professorial appointment and it was the original home of ideas foundational to our current tech surround— like Eudora email (which I only recently gave up), the Mosaic browser (the www's first browser), and "the Cave" 3D immersive technology we see at Lafayette's LITE center. For long years C-U's NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) was the biggest node on the infant internet and fount of new, imaginative applications that made the network useful.

Champaign-Urbana is trying to build its own fiber-optic network. It's a place both cursed and blessed by its history. If you work at the university you've got all the connectivity you could dream of. If you live in the community...well the contrast is stark and the place is small enought that everyone knows how much better things are campus. Town & Gown is a real distinction in C-U.

The community, to its credit has a long history of dealing with digital divide issues. It is the home of PrairieNet, a legendary old line Free-Net organization that has transformed several times over the years and still serves the community, and it was the home of some of the smartest community WiFi experiments so the new push to fiber up the community is not a huge surprise.
C-U is putting the digital divide issues at the core of its project and there are more than a few ideas in their proposal that Lafayette could profitably copy.

All in all, it's gratifying to see LUSFiber discussed with admiration as an example in C-U. What's even more fun is to see a little real news leak out through that venue. The author of the page interviews LUS' own Amy Broussard who reveals that LUS' take rate is above the break-even point in the older parts of its brand-new footprint. (That's something LUS should be publicizing more widely.) There are three nifty postage-stamp videos — remember they don't have fiber yet — talking about the service (speeds and 100 mbps intranet), the different motivation a publicly owned network has, and the obstacles the incumbents put in the way.

2 comments:

need said...

As a long time supporter of LUS and Fiber I am dismayed by the miserable impact to our local economy this project has had. To defend this statement, take a look at the next fiber installation truck and look at the license plate. In addition, ask the person who is installing your system “who’s your daddy” or “I think I know your family” or “who dat?” .Chances is they cannot pronounce Leblanc, Hebert, or Langlinais and do not have a local address or bank account. Millions of dollars have been spent on this project and I would like to ask Joey and Terry how much of this money has been spent locally? Promises were made that this fiber project would bring jobs and money to Lafayette. The project is projected to cost over 100 million dollars and just a fraction of this would have vaulted a local company to register in the “Times, Top 50 Companies in Acadiana”. I cringe at my LUS bill, my local taxes, my payroll taxes and the advertisements promoting LUS fiber when I know very little is being done to make the company I work for more profitable by the project I supported. I am floating this blog out there for response and feedback.

John said...

need,

I've not had your experience at all.

The skill set needed to do a lot of this work is rare and the training timeline long.Training a large cadre of new-to-the-field workers would be both expensive and an exercise in training folks to leave as soon as they were finished here. Only a handful of them would be needed for maintenance. The backbone install guys are good folks, I talked to them. No, most of them are not from here. But they really like being in Lafayette and are trying to do a good job.

The guy leading the team installing fiber in my house was also from away but the other two guys were definitely local. VERY definiitely. It was nice. Those guys have long-term jobs and one of them is probably a team leader by now.

That's the least expensive, most productive way to spend your money.

This has already brought jobs to Lafayette and it is not yet finished. From a large number of entry-level jobs at the call center in "upper" Lafayette to good-paying tech and video-related work. That was always the point; not to provide temporary work.

I _strongly_ suggest you simply call Terry (or Joey if you prefer) and register any serious concerns you have. They'll pick up the phone or answer your email. (That's the difference between our utility and the Atlanta corps...not only will the head guy talk to you, but you know his name. And he probably knows your family.)

Just ask. It's your utility