Tag: "louisiana"

Posted December 30, 2011 by christopher

In 2005, when Lafayette, Louisiana was considering a community broadband network, it created an excellent report discussing how a publicly owned network can work to improve digital inclusion. Six years later, the report remains well worth reading.

Public ownership provides more tools for making sure advances in communications technology benefits everyone.

Report Overview

This Digital Divide committee is motivated by the vision of our community creating a future in which everyone is both able to and motivated to seize the full power of a fiber optic network. Such a network has the potential to transform the lives of citizens in ways similar to the deployment of electricity, radio, and television. In building its own fiber-optic based utility, Lafayette creates the opportunity for further unifying the people of this community and, potentially, to help bridge current divides among her citizens. A publicly owned network can lower barriers to full and equal participation by making a new and powerful communication technology available to every citizen at the lowest practical cost. In our times, the keys to participation and productivity lie in these rapidly developing technologies. We recognize that if Lafayette is to experience healthy growth and benefit fully from such new technologies, all her people will need to become equal partners in our endeavor. Lowering the barriers to such a partnership and engaging in vigorous and innovative educational efforts will help us realize our community’s full potential.

Barriers preventing entry into the world of computers and the World Wide Web include low income, fear or suspicion of technology, a lack of understanding of how useful technology can be, and absence of instruction concerning computers and the Internet. In addition, transportation to places where computers and Internet access are available to the public and knowledge that such places even exist are barriers for some. For others, the use of technology is simply not integrated into their identity and they see few models for its productive use in their communities.

Lafayette citizens most likely to be standing on the other side of the digital divide include people who have low incomes, who are elderly, less educated, or disabled, members of ethnic minorities, and any community members who have been traditionally marginalized or for any reason feel separated from the broader society.

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Posted December 6, 2011 by christopher

Communities with grassroots movements investigating or encouraging community networks should take a look at the many resources the citizens of Lafayette, Louisiana, developed in their referendum fight in establishing LUS Fiber.

In order to help educate the community, fiber supporters created a short newsletter (if there was more than one issue, I have not been able to locate it) with articles focusing on how the proposed publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network would create benefits in economic development, health care, and education. The newsletter is has a professional layout and comes complete with a glossary.

Fiber for the Future Newsletter

The newsletter also has a word from the Mayor (the inimitable Joey Durel) and quotes the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Broadband Policy. Finally, it also explains why the Lafayette Utilities System should build the network and cites successes from BVU in Bristol, Virginia.

Groups that are looking for strategies or a template for a web presence should check out Lafayette Coming Together. This was the organizing site they used in building support for the network, as a complement to Lafayette Pro Fiber. Unfortunately, the Fiber Film Festival web page no longer exists, but the most popular video (Slick Sam Slade) is still around - and embedded below.

An old episode examining the arguments around the network is still viewable (for Windows users) via the Louisiana Public Broadcasting archives -- look for episode #2844.

Posted November 18, 2011 by christopher

Scott Olivier is one of several people originally from Lafayette to return to Lafayette to take advantage of the their incredible community fiber network. He has done a series of short testimonials about LUS Fifber (embedded below).

We have covered similar testimonial from other community broadband networks and I think they are an easy way any community can begin marketing itself. Network supporters must also help out though - embedding the videos, spreading them with social media, and otherwise making sure the videos get distributed.

Below those testimonials is one of LUS Fiber's radio ads. It took me a little bit to understand exactly what they were getting at with the commercial - I think it could use a little more work. Remember, having the best network is not enough, you have to find ways of breaking through to citizens and motivating them to take the time to switch providers -- which is always a hassle.

These testimonials are no longer available.

Posted November 8, 2011 by christopher

One of the goals for this site is to help communities that are organizing to build their own community-owned broadband networks. To that end, we are going to build a library of resources used by communities that have already organized for the same goals.

We want to collect pamphlets, flyers, videos, audio (of debates, radio programs, etc), anything that will useful to other communities and allows us to learn from each other. If you have suggestions for items we can include in this effort, please let us know.

I'm going to start this with a flyer John St Julien shared with me on my recent visit to Lafayette: a flyer they used to advertise one of the many community meetings they held prior to their successful referendum in 2005. You can download a higher resolution pdf here.

2005 Lafayette Referendum Flyer

Posted October 28, 2011 by christopher

A common misconception is that local governments award exclusive (or monopolistic) franchises to cable companies and that is why the US has so little cable competition.  However, no local government has done this since the 1996 Telecommunications Act 1992 Cable Act made the practice illegal.

But even before the '96 Telecom Act '92 Cable Act, local governments tended to award non-exclusive contracts to cable companies because they wanted more competition, not less -- as illustrated in this article about Cox preparing to renew its franchise agreement with New Orleans.

Federal laws and Federal Communications Commission decisions also have sharply curtailed the city's negotiating ability.

Even if other companies were seeking permission to provide cable to local customers, said William Aaron, a legal adviser to the council on telecommunications issues, council members could not arbitrarily refuse to renew the Cox franchise. The council could do that only on the basis of certain limited criteria, such as that the company has not lived up to the terms of the 1995 agreement.

Cox has had a nonexclusive franchise to operate in Orleans Parish since 1981, meaning that other companies also can apply to provide cable services, though none has done so. The franchise was renewed in 1995.

For years, state and federal policies have limited local authority to require just compensation for access to the valuable right-of-way because the cable and telephone companies pretended that they would invest more and create competition if local authority were preempted.

Local authority has been significantly preempted in many communities without any real increase in competition or lowering of prices. No surprise there - another victory for companies better at lobbying than providing essential services.

Posted October 4, 2011 by christopher

No matter how much community broadband advocates prepare the community and elected officials for the expected difficulty of building a successful local project, in the midst of the deployment, times are tough.

A local paper in Lafayette claims "LUS Fiber [is] at a crossroads" but starts with an admission that these problems were forecast and expected:

Competitors will pay less for programming than you do, and in turn play hard ball by lowering rates for customers. Good luck keeping up with technological advances, expansion needs and growth costs; it's a risky proposition for a public entity used to maintaining rather than adapting. Your opportunities will be limited because you can't provide services outside the city limits. You'll be criticized for offering programming such as adult movies, and you'll be told you really should be focusing on your core business: running power, water and wastewater plants.

Terry Huval delivered that message in 2000, long before Lafayette committed to building their community fiber network -- a network that delivers some of the fastest speeds in the nation at the lowest rates and has already delivered hundreds of jobs.

Nonetheless, LUS Fiber is behind the take rate goals they had set in the business plan. The expenses are higher than forecast because Lafayette was unfairly denied entry to a coop that secures lowers rates for television contracts for members. The only discernible reason for rejecting Lafayette is that Cox joined the coop after Lafayette committed to building its network. There is little doubt that Cox was influential in denying Lafayette's application, likely increasing LUS Fiber expenses for offering cable channels by more than 20%.

This is just one of the many ways that the telecommunications market is rigged to benefit incumbents at the expense of all of us -- residents and small businesses alike. We will not have real choices in competition until government policy treats telecom like the essential infrastructure it is.

Mike Stagg, a long time supporter of the network is quoted in the article, challenging LUS Fiber to improve its marketing:

Can they do better? Probably so. Part of it is the fact that, just from a mindset standpoint, LUS is a utility and utilities generally do not compete," Stagg said. "I...

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Posted August 22, 2011 by christopher

Lafayette Doing OK, Doubles Capacity for Promotion

John at Lafayette Pro Fiber recently updated us all on LUS Fiber's financials. According to John, LUS Fiber is doing OK, not great, in its FTTH offering (probably the best deal in the nation for fast, affordable, and reliable connections). In reading deeper, it is clear that the impact of the community network on the public is GREAT, not just ok.

From John's writeup:

LUS estimates that the citizens of the community have saved 5.7 million dollars—in part direct saving from LUS' cheaper phone, video, and internet services and in part as a consequence of Cox lowering its prices and giving out special rates. Those special rates were discussed in the meeting with Huval pointing out that Cox had petitioned for and received permission to treat Lafayette as a "competitive" area. That meant that Cox could offer special deals to Lafayette users and, as we all know, has offered cuts to anyone who tries to leave. Those "deals." as Huval pointed out to Patin don't include the rural areas of the parish where Cox has no competition.

But it doesn't end there. LUS Fiber, due to anti-competitive laws pushed through the state's legislature to handicap public providers, is actually subsidizing the City -- providing more benefits to everyone, even those who do not subscribe to the network.

Again it all goes back to the (un)Fair Competion Act. One of the things in that act a concession that LUS Fiber would be able to borrow from LUS' other utilities just like any other corporation could set up internal borrowing arrangements. This is not a subsidy, it's a loan—with real interest. One of the efforts to raise an issue by Messrs Patin and Theriot centered around "imputed" taxes. Those are extra costs that Cox and ATT got the state to require that LUS include in order to force LUS to raise their price to customers (you!) above the actual cost. (Yes, really. See...

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Posted June 30, 2011 by christopher

We occasionally see big cable and phone companies getting creative in their efforts to shut down community networks. In socially conservative communities, restrictions on providing adult content is a common approach.

This technique came up several times in North Carolina, where TWC-sponsored elected officials proposed disallowing public providers from offering the same adult content channels that private providers offer. The reason has nothing to do with morals, but rather with the substantial revenue adult content generates. Incumbent providers know that if community networks cannot offer adult content to those who wish to purchase it, they will be deprived a significant source of revenue needed to pay the debt from building a modern network.

Bear in mind that no one is forced to see this content or even a scrambled channel (as was common in the "old" days). Community networks allow each family to decide for themselves what content is appropriate -- to the extent community networks differ from private providers in this regard, they provide more tools to filter out content that some may find inappropriate.

Last week, the Louisiana House briefly considered a bill to limit Lafayette's authority to make adult content available to subscribers that request it. House Bill 142 exists solely to put LUS Fiber, an impressive muni FTTH network, at a disadvantage.

John at Lafayette Pro Fiber has excellent coverage of the situation, with both an initial post featuring eyes-a-rollin' as well as an in depth followup "Lafayette delegation kills anti-LUS bill."

LUS Fiber Logo

The latter is essential reading for those new to understanding how any legislature works. And anyone building a network that will compete with big companies like AT&T, Cox, Time Warner Cable, et al. had better know how legislatures work because those companies live in the Leg. Their...

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Posted June 25, 2011 by christopher

Lafayette's publicly owned FTTH network has created a YouTube channel featuring a commercial aimed at residential subscribers (in 15, 30, and 60 second spots) as well as a longer video aimed at increasing economic development.  Both are embedded below.  

These are "no-brainer" marketing techniques that every community should have at a minimum to promote their services.

Posted September 28, 2010 by christopher

Lafayette's LUS Fiber network, after recently kicking off its ad campaign, has decided to offer 100Mbps residential connections after a number of requests from subscribers. The network previously offered a 100Mbps business service for $200 -- it seems they are now just allowing anyone to subscribe at that level and price.

As John notes at Lafayette Pro Fiber blog, this is the only tier for which residential plans come with the same price as business plans.

The other residential tiers are cheaper than their corresponding business tiers by 45-48%. Nor, according to Huval's remarks in the comments is the monthly usage cap any different—in both the residential and the commercial versions of the 100 meg package is capped at 8 terabits. (Note: that'd be about 1 terabyte of hard disk storage.) The idea behind the higher prices for businesses is that they use much more bandwidth than households—and LUS pays for its connectivity by capacity.

LUS Bandwidth Caps

This brings up something I don't think I previously noted in discussions about LUS Fiber - it comes with a monthly transfer cap. I cut the cap chart out of their user agreement [pdf] above. Remember, 8 bits to the byte. Thanks to DSL Reports for the link to the user agreement.

This raises an interesting discussion. Private cable companies typically enforce caps because their network cannot physically support many users using a lot of bandwidth simultaneously. When hundreds of users share a single connection (as with cable), a few major users can seriously impact the experiences of others.

In a FTTH network like Lafayette's, there is no real danger of one user's activities affecting another's. However, there is a danger of racking up a high bandwidth charge for LUS Fiber if many users are constantly using a lot of bandwidth. By constantly, I mean really constantly as in...

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