The USA Today occasionally covered the Lafayette muni fiber network fight as Cox and Bellsouth used every dirty trick conceivable against the community to shut it down. Reporter Rick Jervis looks back in now that the network is available to everyone in town.
The battle over broadband in Lafayette is part of a growing number of clashes across the USA that pit municipalities against telecom firms for the right to deliver Web access to homes and businesses. More than 150 local governments across the country have built or are planning to build cyber networks, says Christopher Mitchell of the Washington-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit group that advocates community development and local access to technology. Mitchell says those efforts often draw opposition in the form of misinformation campaigns, lawsuits from private providers or unfavorable state laws resulting from telecom lobbying. Nineteen states either ban cities and counties from getting into the broadband business — or make it difficult.
Minor quibble: the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (and particularly my work) is not Washington-based.
Like the toy in Crackerjack boxes, we cannot have a story about community networks without at least one blatant lie from some cable company employee. No disappointments here:
"Our initial objection was, and remains, that it is an unfair advantage for your competitor to also be your regulator," says Todd Smith, a Cox spokesman. "Many states prohibit government from competing with the private sector."
I challenge Todd Smith to name one way in which LUS Fiber regulates Cox. When the local government makes rules that impact either Cox or LUS Fiber, such rules have to be non-disciminatory or they violate state and federal laws. If incumbents think the community is violating any laws, we know that they know how to hire lawyers and file lawsuits. They've done it often enough.
The story details some of the benefits to the community since LUS Fiber opened shop -- including businesses moving to Lafayette to create new jobs:
Scott Eric Olivier moved his tech startup firm, Skyscraper Holding, from Los Angeles to Lafayette when he heard of the speeds and service offered by LUS Fiber. The same connectivity of 100 megabytes per second, which allows him to move large files across the Web for clients, would cost him several thousand dollars a month on the West Coast, he says. In Lafayette, he pays $200 a month. Another plus: He's getting what he paid for — exactly 100 megabytes per second — while his previous provider rarely delivered the promised speeds, Olivier says.
For Stephen Abshire, founding partner of the Gastroenterology Clinic of Acadiana, the city's fiber upgrade allowed him and his partners to finally make the switch to a fully electronic clinic. Health records, billing, pathology reports and endoscopy readouts are all reviewed digitally, he says.
The story profiles a local businessman who opposes the network and fought against it but still subscribes to it out of recognition that is "much quicker" than commercial alternatives.
LUS Fiber has historically kept its subscriber count close to its chest to avoid giving Cox any competitive information it is not required to divulge due to the more rigorous disclosure requirements on public entities than private providers. The story nonetheless reports that almost 1/3 of the city is subscribing already. Those who have stuck with Cox are paying less than nearby Cox customers as Cox has responded to competition with a host of special deals to prevent subscribers from switching to the far superior fiber-optic network.