Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Market Share - The Independent Weekly

20101124-cover-0101The Independent has published its second and final installment in the series on "LUS Fiber — where it stands and where it’s headed." This one focuses on the immediate road ahead. The issues are ones that would be of interest to an partisan of Lafayette: marketing, market share, financing, the competitive landscape LUS Fiber has created, and innovation.

This series marks the beginning of the inevitable "friendly critique" of LUS Fiber. Supporters—not detractors—are beginning to voice disagreement with LUS over specific points while continuing to be broadly supportive. That's the beginning of a more healthy relationship between LUS Fiber and its public. The inclination of supporters, and that includes a large majority of the citizenry, has been to close ranks with LUS against the (accurately) perceived hostility of the incumbent providers to our venture. That supportive criticisms are now being made of the still unlaunched advertising claims, and the sort of innovation that LUS has is seen to have encouraged is probably a good thing and indicates that people are seeing LUS Fiber as an accepted, "normal," part of the landscape. Now I'm sure LUS is not feeling nearly so secure just yet and would prefer a longer stretch of reticence from the public but it should take some comfort in the implied confidence such quarrelsome talk represents.

Apparently some in the marketing community want a bang-up, high tech projection of LUS Fiber's advanced network and object to what they see as the stodgy utility orientation of the ads they've seen. Just to stoke the fires of community discussion: I disagree with both sides either/or... I'd like to see ads that first, emphasize the home-town, local benefits that owning our own fiber accrues and that includes the utility orientation that LUS projects, then, second, I'd like to see the evokation of civic pride in what we've got and that in turn includes bragging on the unique aspects of our network. I can see why we can't have, and benefit, from both. The point though is until recently all I heard was how badly people wanted to see some, any marketing strategy enacted. That the situation has matured to the point that we can now disagree over the style of a marketing strategy is a happy development.

Similarly others in the space between tech and business want to see LUS pursuing Google and the likes as it opens the public network to innovation. Shoot, so would I and have long advocated that the city pursue a Google "internet in a box" located on network. But I am located in the space between tech and community and would see the real potential for innovation occurring around decisions to give us all 100 megs of intranet bandwidth (check!) and opening the set top box to internet access...the really innovative things, in my judgment, will involve pulling in greater levels of participation at higher levels of usage. But again, until recently folks were just looking for "innovation" — arguing about what sort of innovation we should emphasize is a good sort of disagreement...and one that LUS should be proud (if not always comfortable!) to have inspired.

There's more in the article worth looking at and discussing but none of the financial stuff beside upping the take rate number to 30% strikes me as news.

The real news is that we are beginning to talk about our network openly enough to disagree. And that's a good thing. A very good thing. Just not a comfortable one.

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