Lafayette says "yes" to fiber

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/18/2005 - 08:01

In what may become a milestone in the quest for broadband, a public referendum in Lafayette, Louisiana to use municipal bonds to fund a fiber network passed by a wide margin (62% of voters said "yes"). Lafayette's public electric utility wanted to offer fiber broadband to its customers a couple of years ago, and the city became ground central for a bitterly fought battle led by the telephone and cable companies, which spent millions to stop the initiative.

Lafayette was probably a poor choice to fight the community. In 1896, the town had to form the Lafayette Utilities Service because the big electric companies refused to provide service to the rural community.

The Lafayette vote is significant. It was held on a Saturday, and received a 27% turnout, which is pretty high for a single issue vote (it was the only item on the ballot). Politicians across the country will have to look more closely at broadband issues going forward, because the one weakness of the telephone and cable companies is that companies do not vote--but citizens do, and in Lafayette, the citizens spoke loudly and clearly on the issue. All the lobbyist money in the world can't offset citizens determined to make a change.

The city says the first customers will get their fiber connections in about two years, and it will take a total of three and a half years to get fiber to every home and business in the community. That's not bad, considering it took almost 40 years to get a telephone to most homes.

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