Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fiber optic networks developing in Shreveport, Caddo

A suggestive story is emerging from Shreveport. Caddo parish is eyeing an move to extending its own internal network, what is know as a "government network" to almost all its services using fiber. It projects a substantial savings over its current pattern of using leased lines.

Now that's not exactly top of the page news for a blog with Lafayette-centric interests but what is striking is that Shreveport is explicitly using Lafayette and LUS Fiber as a model. At each turn in the story it refers back to Lafayette's successful experience. In fact the center third of the story is about LUS Fiber:
Lafayette, which operates a municpal telephone, TV and Internet service utilizing fiber optic cables, began using the technology in a similar fashion. 
Terry Huval, director of LUS Fiber, a subsidiary of Lafayette Utilities System, the city-owned power company, said Lafayette began using fiber optic lines in the late 1990s to update connectivity between its electric substations. 
After lines were operational, the local business community began to ask whether the fiber lines could provide other uses, he said. The City did a study and found one option was to lease the fiber line or get into the cable, telephone and Internet business. 
Instead, officials decided to connect other governmental entities, such as the school board and courthouse to their network, and sell some lines on a wholesale basis to companies providing broadband connected services as a “last mile solution,” Huval said. 
But as residents and businesses continued to clamor for municipal telecom services, city officials re-thought leveraging the asset to bring in the next generation of commerce.
“If you look at 1896 when the electricity was brought in (to Lafayette), it was the new highway of commerce for the future,” Huval said. “It was what railroads were before then and were rivers before then.” 
Officials felt the fiber optic system could open that next opportunity, and in 2004 the city moved forward with plans to create LUS Fiber, he said.
“We had some serious challenges, including a legal battle that went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Dee Stanley, Lafayette’s chief administrative officer, referring to lawsuits filed by local telecom competitors. 
But in February 2009, roughly a year after construction started, the service reached its first customers. 
Stanley said the Internet access has been a game changer in the community, with many businesses hungry for that bandwidth. Medical and engineering fields require enormous amounts of bandwidth to move data, as well as digital media.

One of the so-far unrealized hopes for Lafayette's ground-breaking fiber network was that it would serve to inspire other Louisiana communities to do the same. There has been abortive interest shown in Alexandria and a few of the smaller communities—and talk in still-recovering New Orleans—but to date no other community has buckled down to following Lafayette's lead.

Geaux Shreveport. :-)

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