Monday, December 29, 2014

Telemedicine in Lafayette Schools; LUS Fiber and Geoff Daily

The Advertiser runs a happy story this morning back on page 6A that tells the story of how the parish school system is implementing a new telemedicine program that will help keep students in school and help them be more productive while they are there. Well it tells most of the story anyway. And the story it doesn't tell is perhaps more important for the ambitions of Lafayette.

What's left out is probably important only to techie types and those with a causal turn of mind: it's pretty innovative really—Why in Lafayette? Telemedicine is high on the list of things that futurists have been projecting for a long time. And it is high on the list cynics make of things that aren't actually happening; not as high as jetpacks and flying cars but right on up there. It seems pretty curious that a full scale implementation across four schools in the same north Lafayette area are turning on here of all places.

One element in the mix is covered, obliquely, in the story, Lafayette General is a classic not-for-profit hospital with a classically community-oriented mission. It should not be too surprising that it is the hospital associated with trying an innovative, small, and likely to be not only low profit but to provide a model that might eventually endanger the current well-established profit center of simply visiting the doctor. You need to have someone in the mix at every level who actually cares about the community and Lafayette General provides that necessary component on the provider side. The Lafayette Parish School System has an easily understandable motive on the user side—sick kids don't learn.

But there a fair number of good-hearted nonprofit medical facilities and lots of needy school districts. Those prerequisites are not enough to explain the why Lafayette is getting the benefit so many have dreamed of. There also needs to be an awareness of the possible benefit and the technical capacity to carry it out without too much hassle.

Technical capacity:

It is easy to see where the technical capacity came from in Lafayette—From LUS Fiber and the fiber-to-the-schools project that it initiated even before the it launched its world-class fiber to the home project. LUS Fiber put 100 megs of service into every school in the parish as its first public-facing project way back in '05 and without that much bandwidth—at the affordable prices that LUS Fiber offers— there'd be no possibility of running the sort of video-heavy service that the telemedicine project represents.

You need two kinds of awareness: awareness of the need and awareness of the ability of the technological means to help ameliorate it.

Awareness of the need shouldn't be too hard to find; every teacher at every level is aware of the issue of sick students. It is a need that is especially prevalent and especially troublesome at schools that serve poorer populations. Pat Cooper, to offer the devil his due, raised that awareness with his efforts to put clinics in the schools. A telemedicine component seemed like a great way to lower the costs of such a program.

Awareness of the technology was and is harder to find and is especially hard to find in places that can influence medical centers, schools, and technologists all at the same time. Our community was lucky to have Geoff Daily in the mix at the right moment. Geoff was and is an enthusiastic supporter of our community fiber network. He has lead the charge to find innovative and truly useful projects to use the enormous pipes that LUS Fiber has provided to the community and, crucially, he was head of the Lafayette General Foundation at the right moment. The idea of telemedicine clinics had been perking around Lafayette largely through his FiberCorp efforts to promote the idea. Local employment powerhouse Stuller had implemented a trial version largely through Geoff's efforts. When Geoff went on to become head of Lafayette General Foundation he brought the idea with him. Now, soon after he has left the position, the fruits of that long history has ripened.

A Lesson:
This story has a moral: the benefits of technical innovation are often ignored and are hard to trace but the passion for technology that projects like LUS Fiber engender are valuable in all sorts of difficult to trace but very real ways. Without the fight, and the subsequent efforts to put the fiber we had won to good use this particular very nice piece of innovation would not be present in Lafayette. Ironically it is a sign of the success of that passion that nobody even notices the technical and human passions that lead to that nice plum for Lafayette; background factors are powerful determinates. But they are not particularly good copy.

Let's raise our glasses to the unseen providers: LUS Fiber and Geoff Daily's passion.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tied for First: Lafayette's LUS Fiber

LUS Fiber is ranked number one in a 10-way tie for the fastest residential internet in the world according to the Open Technology Institute's chart.


And, hey, we did it for ourselves.

(via ABiz)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: The Reality of Lafayette’s Gigabit Network | Institute for Local Self-Reliance

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) a major player on the broadband scene nationally through is MuniNetworks division has published an extensive rebuttal to Steven Titch's latest in a long line of  screeds attacking Lafayette and LUS Fiber.

MuniNetworks has produced a brutal line by line, point by point rebuttal of Titch's paper. It is really quite  amazing & I recommend it highly: Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: The Reality of Lafayette’s Gigabit Network

(If you'd like to amuse yourself you can walk through LafayetteProFiber's extensive coverage of Titch's shenanigans. I recommend starting at the bottom with the first post on Titch and reading toward the present; it makes quite a narrative.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

FCC Head Lauds Lafayette's Fight

Lafayette's battle to win the right to serve itself with the most powerful technologies has made it back into the national debate. Our fight, and the success of LUS Fiber has been cited by the head of the FCC as he drops hints as to how his regulations might eventually enable other cities to follow Lafayette's lead. The FCC has the power to forbid laws that operate to stifle competition; historically that power has been used to outlaw state laws that hurt competition. Arguably, quite arguably, it extends to forbidding laws that restrain the abilities of local towns and cities to compete with telecommunications corporations. Two cities with fiber-based telecommunications utilities have petitioned the FCC to do just that and rule-making hearings are being planned. This is a big deal.

In our arcane system of governance the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, which sounds like some inconsequential federal bureau is actually an extremely important center of power. With the similarly innocuously named FTC the two commissions are the two major levers which the federal government has for ensuring competition and the free flow information. In recent years the FCC has been, to put it kindly, ineffectual not for lack of power but for lack of will to oppose the large corporations that dominate the media landscape. That may be changing FCC chair Tom Wheeler has been edging toward both a real net neutrality position and toward using the FCC statutory power to forbid competition-killing laws in many state—including Louisiana—which effectively block local communities from competing with the few national corporations that have an oligopolistic hold on the communications industry.

Wheeler, speaking before NATOA, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, offered hints that he'd be willing to push harder on freeing local communities to do what we've done here in Lafayette. From the remarks (emphases mine):

As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks. There are currently laws in 19 states that impose restrictions of one kind of another on such local decision-making. 
We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further. 
However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project. Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty- two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years. When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get. 
Those American principles can play an important and essential role in assuring America’s future. 
Here's to hoping our experience helps influence the nation's policy toward allowing communities to find their own way forward without relying on the favors dispensed by corporations with no interest in our towns and cities beyond the profit they turn. I just wish Lafayette's name was on that petition as well beside Wilson and Chattanooga's.

"Three New Companies Move to the Silicon Bayou"

Community Broadband Networks covers the addition of yet another hi-tech company to Lafayette further validating the community's decision to invest in LUS Fiber. From Durel's official statement:

“These are exciting times for Lafayette and Acadiana,” Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel said. “With the announcements of Bell Helicopter, Enquero, CGI and now Perficient, we have proven that Lafayette and Louisiana can compete for world-class companies. These companies are proof that investing in the right infrastructure pays dividends for our citizens.”
CBN comments:
In the past few months, Lafayette has drawn in three high tech companies that will create approximately 1,300 well-paying positions. In addition to the community's commitment to boost its high-tech workforce, better connectivity offered by LUS Fiber helped attract the new businesses.  

Just to be very explicit—good international corporations value communities that show the same sort of entrepreneurial spirit that they posses. And it's good business as well. Locating in the city carries along with it access to some of the cheapest hi-speed bandwidth available anywhere in the country. Lafayette carries a final even rarer quality: it offers 1 gig of intranet connectivity to every home or business location in the city at no extra cost. If an employee has the standard service from LUS they can connect to their company at a blazing 1 gig speed. Most companies maintain a wired 1 gig intranet inside their corporate offices connecting their most critical computers. In Lafayette every employee could connect to the home office with same effectiveness as if they were just down the hall. Need a satellite office  for a big job? No problem; just rent any space. Great bandwidth is a utility in Lafayette. Not something that requires complicated setup and corporate time and energy. Work at home with no penalty. Save all your files, however massive, to the company server. Work off server-based programs as easily as folks in the central office. The flexibility is something you simply can't buy elsewhere.

Nice indeed.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

"DTA adds Wi-Fi for Fall 2014 - IND Media"

LUS Fiber is offering free wifi in the big downtown venues! It will come online for the fall concert series but will really come into its own when the Festival Internaional takes the stage. It would be great to have it spread over the downtown area by the time of festival.

LUS Fiber has had a cache of unused wifi nodes for awhile now. Great to see them being used in a way that will differentiate LUS Fiber from its competitors—this is what a community-owned network should be doing. (I'll also hazard a hope that these publicly available nodes can be used as a basis for a much larger scale wifi network...the telecoms and the cable companies have started to do this and we are much better positioned to do a good job of this than their patchy networks ever will.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

What he said....'bout Net Neutrality as a Public Utility Value

Harold Feld of Piublic Knowledge and "Tales of the Sausage Factory" posts a reflection on of a very interesting big data analysis of the 1.1 million comments so far made on the FCC's request that the public weigh in on potential net neutrality regulations.

Feld incisively points to the unprecedented degree to which Americans are engaged with this issue, the personal way they tie this to fundamental civic values, and the sheer amount of individual thought put into this matter. The money quote:
More broadly, when we look at these sentiments, we see a lot of support for the idea of broadband as a public utility – by which I mean a basic service so essential to participation in modern society that we do not simply leave it to the kindness of kings, the benevolence of corporate barons, or the indifference of the unfettered market. We don’t speak of access to consumer goods or most services as essential to the American Dream and tied into values of fundamental fairness. We reserve that kind of language for a very small number of services like water, electricity and other very basic and fundamental things. That people now add “broadband access” to this short list of services that should reflect our values is quite telling.
When we say that access to the net should be a "utility" it isn't, not by any means, a reference to simply a preferred economic model. It is about equitable access for all, access that is not controlled by some consortia of big guys.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

LUS Fiber adds children's French channel

KATC reports that LUS Fiber has added a new french language channel aimed at young children, TiVi5MONDE Kids—at channel 105 in the "Digital Plus" tier.
The inclusion of a children's channel in French is an acknowledgment of the francophone region's Cajun and Creole heritage. Terry Huval, himself a noted Cajun fiddle player, notes in the press release:
"It's important to encourage youth to embrace our French heritage...This is why LUS Fiber sought out to be one of the first cable companies to host this channel."
Beyond just the nod to the region's french heritage in a community where about 13% of the population tell census takers that they speak French in the home, the new channel will also have a special relationship with the parish's public school system. Lafayette has two French immersion schools in its "Schools of Choice" program—at Evangeline and Myrtle Place Elementary—where instruction is primarily in French.
LUS Fiber officials say that, along with the family-friendly programming, TiVi5MONDE Kids will offer free lesson plans to teachers. Included within the agreement struck by LUS Fiber, TiVi5MONDE Kids will train local teachers how to incorporate the network and free online tools into their classroom education plans...
However, programming will not solely be targeted to French Immersion students, but teachers and parents as well, LUS Fiber explains in a release. The release says that channel will act as an exciting tool to compliment traditional foreign language education covering the basic linguistic skills - reading, writing, speaking and listening. 
French programming has also been a issue in the ongoing competition between Cox and LUS Fiber both before LUS Fiber launched and after. While LUS Fiber was still building Cox got called in on the carpet by the Council to "explain" yanking the weather channel and French programming from the basic tier during the period when Lafayette was merged into the greater Louisiana. Later it attempted to make an advertising pitch about its having TV5—without noting that it was packaged into the high-priced tier while LUS Fiber kept in on the basis channel setup.

Which brings up a discomfiting point: LUS no longer carries TV5 on the inexpensive, no frills, no box it too has moved TV5 to the higher, box-required tier. Even more: TiVi5 Monde Kids is on an upper, yet more expensive tier. That's not good for the young families the channel would most benefit. That's part of a drift towards doing everything as if LUS were a standard cable company. It's a disappointment. Sure Cox has, in the interim treated the natives even worse, having moved TV5 to its most expensive "regular" channel tier with a buncha sports channels Tante Sue is not likely to care about. Still if there is any place where we should be able to buck the pattern and act in favor of community, ethnicity, and history it should be here. It's worrisome that it's not. LUS seems to have lost track of the idea that it needs to differentiate itself from "business as usual" coporatism.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

"LUS Fiber inks SEC"

Hey, LUS Fiber has signed up for the new SEC channel. This is actually a big deal; getting the local sports networks is huge deal to a good portion of the subscriber base. A portion that is willing to pay for privilege, incidentally.

LUS Director Huval underlines this point when he says:
"I would like to personally thank the individuals who took the time to let us know how important it was that we carry this channel. We take customer feedback seriously and appreciate the opportunity to better serve the City of Lafayette.”
Even purist tech geeks and gigabit hipsters oughta care: local sports networks are crucial to the survival of smaller independent systems like LUS Fiber and all too often the big guys (AKA: Cox) manage to influence local sports networks to make life difficult for the small guys.

But LUS' LSU sports fiends will be able to get their fix through the hometown network. As a three time graduate of LSU that spent his freshman year in the grungy dorms beneath Tiger Stadium I might even pony up myself.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa

It's my fault; the whole big thing is my fault.

This blog has been offline for several months; mostly because I got my signals seriously crossed on some minor technical issues between Google's blogger, my web space provider, and my domain name holder. And, yeah, family issues and other civic commitments that seemed to be more pressing at any moment kept me too distracted to see how easy the fix was. It shouldn't have gone on so long.

I apologize.

But I'm back. Lafayette Pro Fiber is back and I've been faithfully plopping story ideas into the hopper as they've come up in my news stream. Those that seem to still be relevant will see new life on these pages.

Watch this space. (Again)

Abjectly yours, John

Update 8/7/14: Ok, the blog went down again and getting it back up seems to have revealed the basic issue...I am no longer so abject: the apparent reason that I've had trouble getting the blog up was that Google scans for disparities in its record of you DNS number (the actual, numerical, address) and if it doesn't match takes down your blog. My webspace provider had forced a move to a new server and so that address had changed. Google gives NO notice to your registered account email, no flag on your control board, no hint in any instructions (and I read several conflicting versions of how to do all this in Google's internally incoherent "help" files) that verification, which takes place implicitly when you first register you personal domain, is ever an issue.  The same settings which worked yesterday suddenly don't work any longer with not only no warning but with no hint that Google has done anything. Since the only changes that happened recently were at the web provider the evidence pointed to them even though the blog stayed up for at least a week after that change. I only found the issue by futzing with settings I knew were right that were buried several levels off this blog's particular account. I successfully changed those correct settings. And only then did I get a follow-up flag that verification had failed. Had I not kept that window open, but closed it immediately upon success I don't believe I'd have ever seen flag. That flag lead to a link, which in turn lead to another link which in turn described an arcane procedure of messing with the TXT field of the domain name provider and goosing Google to force another verification. I did so and after anxious waiting the blog came back...again.

Yes, I'm profoundly irritated.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Fighting Telecom Giants"—Lafayette cited as a Kumbaya example

What They're Saying Dept.

There's been a wave of new interest in municipally owned telecoms since the Comcast—the largest cableco— made a bid to take over TimeWarner Cable—the second largest cable company. Together they'd own 62% of America's households. Now in another, better, time there'd be no question but that approving such a move would be sanctioning a monopoly and it wouldn't be allowed to take place. But we don't live in that better time. We live in a time where Comcast can blithely claim that it really doesn't matter if they merge because they don't compete anyway. And they don't. But that is the most cockamamie reason I can imagine to ensure that the combined company is utterly unchallengeable by anyone.

Currently Comcast by most estimates pays from 1/3 to 1/2 what a struggling startup would pay for television channels, You know, like LUS Fiber, Allowing these companies to combine would make the situation even worse.

Still, Lafayette regularly gets cited as the city that succeeded. Jim Baller, interviewed by Bob Garfield in an NPR report says:

BOB GARFIELD:  You were talking about what these municipal services can mean for the integrity of a community. Do you have one “Kumbaya” example that you can give me?
JAMES BALLER:  Sure. Lafayette, Louisiana is one of the most conservative cities in the country. It has a mayor, Joey Durel. He saw the benefits of fiber network and asked private companies to provide the service. They refused several times. It ultimately went forward with a referendum and ran into opposition from BellSouth and Cox Communications. During the referendum campaign, both the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties worked shoulder to shoulder in support of the project, and at the end of the day, the project was supported by a landslide vote. It’s drawn thousands of jobs into the community. It's operating financially successfully. And it has, among other things, attracted an entirely new industry, the film industry. Secretariatwas filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana, in large part because of the existence of their fiber network.
BOB GARFIELD:  There’s a tear streaming down my cheek.
BOB GARFIELD:  Free marketeers and municipal broadbanders living together in harmony.
JAMES BALLER:  Right. As Joey says, “They each held their noses but decided that on this one exceptional project they had a common interest.”