Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'Nother Local Boy Makes Good...

Crawford Comeaux, local computer jock and a project manager with FiberCorps went to Baton Rouge and came back with the prize. The Advocate story is well worth the read; it outlines the concept behind Startup Weekend held last weekend in the capital city. From the story:
AudienceAmp, a mobile platform for real-time audience participation with post-event analysis and reporting, took first place and will participate in the Global Startup Battle.
It is a competition that throws together all of the Startup Weekend winners from the 2011 Global Entrepreneur Week events. 
“We believe we can have a working prototype in a few days,” said Crawford Comeaux, 29, the leader behind AudienceAmp. 
Comeaux is a project manager with FiberCorps, a Lafayette nonprofit aimed at growing digital economic development in Acadiana. Comeaux and his team also will be given a spot in TechParkU, an entree of business mentoring, education and other services from the Louisiana Technology Park on Florida Boulevard.
Update 12/4/11: The Advertiser has run down the story. A nice write up.

Cox Exits Wireless, New Possibility for Lafayette with Sprint?

Cox has completely pulled out the wireless game stranding its investment in spectrum and throwing into doubt the particulars of a grand reorganization it recently announced.

This finally kills a constantly shrinking commitment by Cox to wireless. It means there will not be a wireless play by Cox in Lafayette to put up against the deal that LUS Fiber has put together with Sprint.

A wireless play by LUS Fiber is still a necessity. But Cox's withdrawal and AT&T's structural weakness means that LUS' play is much clearer—and cleaner. With Cox out of the way Sprint is no longer tied to an implacable opponent of our local network. Sprint has long been the most obvious choice for a cellular partnership with LUS Fiber. Sprint is committed to advanced technology, focused on data rather than voice as compared to its larger brethren, is the small, "different" telco that is struggling to break out of its also-ran status.

But I recently engaged in a long bit of speculation about the wide range of possibilities wired and wireless for potential Sprint-LUS Fiber and won't go back into all that now.

But since I took a look at the possibilities a new one has appeared., a major provider of VOIP services to folks like Skype, has launched its own user-facing company using the Sprint network. It's called Republic Wireless and it's hope is to disrupt the cellular industry. (Which could use some serious disruption!) Republic wants to flip your phone from being cellular-centric to being WiFi-centric. That's something many of us have already achieved — I know the vast majority of the times I use my phone its for data, and the vast majority of those times are when I am at home or at another location where I've got it switched onto a local hotspot. AT&T's 3G is a "good enough" service. But whenever I have the opportunity I switch to WiFi. The big exception to data-centricity is phone calls which are always routed over AT&Ts network. Republic is going to change that making WiFi instead of Cellular the default. You'll use WiFi for everything anytime it is available only grudgingly switching over to cellular's capped, slow networks when you have to.

And you get their service for $19 a month. Data and Voice.

Sure there are caveats. There's a cap on how much cellular you can use (that replaces the current cap cellular providers now place on data connections). And not all phones are set up to favor WiFi in that way. But that's not a big technical hurdle and I have to think that most phones could deal well with's a system level, software-malleable sort of thing. It's even been done before. T-Mobile's UMA-based Home Zone products preferred WiFi too. The problem isn't technology. The problem is that cellular corporations have control of the market. But Sprint and Republic Wireless may be about to change that assumption.

For Lafayette the possibility opens up of following through on long-delayed plans to build a wireless network. Such wireless networks have dramatically cut local government's telecomm bills in other locales and LUS Fiber provides the ubiquitous fiber-huge backhaul down every street that makes the engineering much less technical. It would be easy, very easy, to design a system that pushed 50 megs of bandwidth off our electrical poles. With that kind of bandwidth delicacy in design can go away...and with that kind of network a partnership with Republic or would mean that those of us living and working in the city would only tap into the Sprint cellular network when we travel. All for 20 bucks a month. Or less...

There'd be huge savings involved for the citizens. And damned good ones of the City-Parish government as well. We ought to be looking into it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Local Boy Makes Good: LUS Fiber/Skyscraper Partner

LUS Fiber and Skyscraper Data Solutions announced a nifty new freebie, iOBackp—with a great backstory—for LUS Fiber customers. Both LUS business and residential users will get 10 GB of free, offsite, encrypted backup.

The Freebie:
Like the recently announced Sprint deal it is basically a marketing trade: LUS gets a nice perk for its customers (and only its customers) and the company get a local marketing boost. No money changes hands between the two companies. Backup is one of those crucial things that folks seldom actually do. And when they do backup, they don't backup often enough. And even if they've set up a good, consistent system they don't backup offsite—and that is a crucial. Skyscraper is offering to do it all—and encrypt it to industrial standards. So this offer is a large real benefit and everyone for whom it is available really ought to take advantage of it. It can be scheduled to run during downtimes and looks pretty slick on the video. The biggest benefit will go to small business users who, if they restrict their usage to documents, can almost certainly keep their recent backups online and offsite. It's small businesses for whom that transient electrical spike can be a real disaster if it hits right before the billing cycle. Those guys ought to run, not walk, to take Skyscraper up on this. But residential users, at least those on Windows, ought to take 'em up on it as well. They may not have the dollars at stake but pictures of the kid's 3rd birthday party can be pretty priceless.

The Great Backstory:
Part of what is great about this deal is that it wraps up a lot of hopes for out municipal network into one neat package. Lafayette wanted to have a network with features that would enable great new business plans to be tried out. It wanted to keep our kids here and to draw those who had left back home. It wanted real benefits to come early and first to Lafayette. This nifty marketing deal hits all those buttons and should bring a smile to the faces of local citizens.

The principle in the new business is one Scott Eric Olivier and he's got a his own grand backstory: born and raised in Lafayette, gets into the music business, travels, gets techy, starts a small cloud-based business to protect audio assets post 9-11, works with Michael Jackson, quits touring to work on his businesses, moves back home to Lafayette, and shows up at a press one fine noontide as the CEO of a locally owned business partnering with LUS Fiber to provide advanced backup and storage to the community. At that press conference he says that it's the fiber network, and the 100 megs of intranet bandwidth that make his new business possible. Without that kind of upload capacity backing up 10 gigs of storage could take all night. So Lafayette gets the return of a native son, a nifty new business that is only really practical on our 100 meg intranet, and a nice nifty new freebie the likes of which are not available, for any price, in other places.

Hard to say that's not a win-win-win.

The Downside
Of course there's a downside. There's always a downside. In this case its that devotes of Mac and Linux operating systems are sadly left out in the cold. The website's FAQ  makes it clear that they are not supporting those operating systems. In a quick chat after the press conference Olivier said that he was well aware of the demand—and in fact had a Mac on his own desktop—but that he just couldn't make developing that client a priority for a business-oriened service. He is intimately aware that the audio and visual businesses where he got his start are Mac-heavy; in fact his original backup business, Laptop Roadie, there is a full client for Macs and Linux fanboys. Olivier, unsurprisingly, recommends that. But it's not free, and its not locally hosted...the two killer features of his enterprise product iOBackup. I think he ought to just make that service available if he's gonna tease us with an Appleish leading lower-case "i"...but then I'm clearly just a jealous Mac user.

Lagniappe: As an extra, scan down to the bottom of Olivier's online sounds as if he's doing a bunch of interesting things in Lafayette with his various businesses.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Net Neutrality Returns—Let Landrieu know (Updated-again!) Neutrality (remember net neutrality?) has returned and the first shot of the latest battle is about to be fired in the Senate. And it would be nice if at least one of our Senators would stand up for the internet. The only real possibility is, sadly, Mary Landrieu. Right now no one seems to know where she stands. She needs to hear from those that care about the internet. And there is an easy way to do that.

The Situation:
First the good news: The FCC has actually promulgated rules to protect basic net neutrality. (No one is really happy with them, but they are a start.) The Washington Post has a nice, short explanation:
The rules would prevent Internet service providers from blocking Web sites and applications on Internet lines feeding into U.S. homes. Those carriers -- such as Comcast and AT&T -- could not deliberately slow down one Web site over another. The rules frown on the practice of charging Web sites for better or faster delivery, but observers say that practice would not be strictly prohibited.
Wireless networks would not be covered as broadly by the rules. An FCC official said carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel would be prohibited from blocking competing voice and videoconferencing applications. Any other practices would have to be disclosed by the carriers.

Lawsuits are in the air from both sides of the net neutrality debate with the opponents calling the idea regulatory overreach and the proponents saying they are completely inadequate.

But whatever you think of the current rules the latest gambit is dangerous and deserves to be vigorously opposed.

Dangerous Times
The anti net neutrality crowd in Congress (mostly Republicans—this too has gotten caught up in blind ideology regardless of net neutrality having an astonishingly broad backing among conservatives) has decided on a dangerous course. They are working a seldom-used gambit from the Congressional Review Act that allows them to bypass the usual checks and balances of Congress and push a "resolution of disapproval" through. Such a resolution would block even the weak proposed network neutrality rules. The White House has promised to veto any resolution and overriding such a veto in the Senate would be very difficult. But this is only the beginning of this latest round of grandstanding.

Let's let Mary Landrieu know where she needs to stand. You might want to remind her that Louisiana is already pretty disappointed in the sort of "corporations are always right" ideology caused the state to lose an already approved 80 million dollar grant to build a new fiber optic network to serve the state's poorest parishes. She needs to know that she's got support to push back against that sort of nonsense.

The easy way: Save the Internet Petition
Write directly as a constituent: Contact Senator Landrieu
The most effective way: Call Mary's office and talk to a staffer

Update: Broadband Reports shows us exactly what leaving wireless out of net neutrality leads to: an enormous incentive to make sure that your network is not really capable of carrying the traffic you've sold: Verizon has just announced, breathlessly, as if it were a good thing that it will let each user who has already paid for their bandwidth tier to pay for a "Turbo boost" each time the network is too congested to deliver decent service. This is a good thing? To pay them again each time the network fails you? Really?

I'm astonished that it is legal. Why should Verizon ever bother to make their network capable enough to consistently offer the bandwidth that they've sold? They can make lots more by nickel and dimeing everyone whose Skype can't be understood or whose video conference starts to break up. (Of course, they could just pay a lot more for the carrier's specialized version of these either way, they win, you loose.)

If Landrieu and other Senators can be convinced to spike this latest attempt to hand the wrieline internet over to the corporations at least Cox (and Comcast and Time-Warner and other wireline providers) won't be able to do the same.

At least that's not going to happen here in Lafayette—at least not if you're using LUS Fiber. First, I can call the head of the company and talk to him: he's just not going to abuse his customers since they "know where he lives." (And he doesn't live in a gated community!) Second, the fiber network is generously over-provisioned: I've never experienced the sort of regular slowdowns I had with Cox when the kids got off the bus. Come to think of it maybe the second is due to the first? You think?

Update #2: 11/10/11
Mary Landrieu did us proud. You can post a note of thanks at her website.