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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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March 28, 2008 10:01 AM

The Latest From Lafayette, LA

Had the great fortune to chat yesterday with Terry Huval, head of Lafayette Utility System, which is in the midst of deploying a full fiber network to the community of Lafayette, LA.

We chatted about the latest happenings with this initiative, which include their selection of Alcatel Lucent's technology, the issuing of their bonds, and the start of construction for the first phase of deployment, which is scheduled to begin serving its first customers in January 2009.

But there were two other nuggets of news that really caught my eye as they proved LUS's desire to be progressive in deploying one of the most advanced communications networks in the world.

First off, Terry shared with me their plans to offer high speed intranet or LAN services for free to enable consumers and small businesses to transfer data in-network at speeds much faster than the Internet connections they're paying for.

So say you've signed up for LUS's baseline broadband, which will likely be around 10Mbps. Because of these free LAN capabilities, you'll be able to establish point-to-point connections to other users on LUS's network that go beyond the speed of your broadband connection to support burstable speeds of up 100Mbps for in-network data transfer.

What might this enable? Imagine sharing an HD home movie with a neighbor in minutes instead of hours, or a small business being able to send large datasets across town exponentially faster than it would take over the open Internet. No longer will you be limited by your Internet connectivity but instead you'll be able to take greater advantage of the capacity fiber provides.

I've written before about how a similar initiative in Vasteros, Sweden led the ratio of outbround to in-network traffic to flip from 80/20 to 20/80 respectively, a trend made even more spectacular by the fact that overall traffic increased a thousandfold on their new full fiber network.

It's my fervent belief that leveraging the in-network capabilities of full fiber networks holds the potential to revolutionize our relationship with the Internet and how we use connectivity to establish stronger bonds within our community. So needless to say I'm ecstatic to hear that LUS has chosen this path as I believe their decision will be rewarded handsomely by enabling the creation of a more powerful network.

The second major tidbit I learned relates to one of LUS's initiatives to bridge the so-called digital divide by offering low-cost Internet service to TV sets.

The idea is that many people may want TV and phone service but aren't yet convinced they need broadband. So LUS is going to enable them to pay a low fee to rent a special set-top box and for very basic Internet access--slower than their base level broadband--so that they can surf the Web from their TV.

Now Terry admits that this service will be limited as it likely won't be able to do things like allow people to watch YouTube videos plus there are the limitations of the set-top box, which won't have the storage and ability to support an endless array of peripherals as a full-fledged computer would.

But users will be able to visit webpages, use email, and other basic functions of being online. And because it's LUS's mission to deliver their services for 20% less than their local competitors, it'll essentially work out so that you pay the same to get TV and this limited Internet product from LUS as you would to get TV alone from the cable company.

The overall idea behind this is to provide another way for people to get introduced to the advantages of being online so that they might find inspiration to upgrade to the true broadband connectivity LUS's full fiber network can deliver.

While surfing the Internet on your TV is not new, this is the first I've heard of a broadband service provider offering this kind of package to entice new users to get online. It's really an interesting idea, though I'm going to be curious to see how customers react to it.

To date, surfing the Internet on your TV has not been a huge success, but this is different. This is about providing Internet access into a home that wouldn't already have it, which makes it harder for me to guess how readily users will adopt it as I've known I could never live anywhere without broadband ever since I got stuck living in a house my junior year of college with nothing more than dialup.

When I heard Terry describe a service where you couldn't watch YouTube, where you didn't have any storage, where you likely were extremely limited in the Internet applications you could use, I found myself cringing at the thought.

But again, that's me, someone who has written about and relied on broadband for my livelihood for the last five years.

Ultimately, I welcome any effort to expand the pie, to get more people excited about the Internet, and to eventually entice more people into equipping themselves with broadband.

So in the end I think this is an innovative approach to tackling the digital divide from a different angle, and I couldn't be more excited to see how it plays out, because if it works then we'll gain another important arrow in our quiver as we all work together to convince America that broadband's great and that everyone needs to be online.

All in all I continue to be impressed by the passion, inventiveness, and focus on their local community that I've seen expressed both by Terry individually and his entire team. But even more than that I appreciate Terry's practicality. He understands that mission one is getting the network built, mission two is making sure it can handle the load reliably, and mission three is acknowledging that realizing a FTTH success story requires more than building a great network, it's about finding ways to engage the community with actually utilizing the capacity being put into the ground.

On a final note, I wanted to thank Terry and the LUS team publicly for their sponsorship of my travel down to Lafayette the week after next to speak at TechSouth, the preeminent regional technology show in the area. I'll be presenting on the possibilities of broadband applications as well as how their present and future demands for bandwidth necessitate the eventual deployment of full fiber networks.

It should be a great event and you all can look forward to reading a lot more about it as I blog from the show floor starting April 8th.

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Comments (1)

While surfing the Internet on your TV is not new, this is the first I've heard of a broadband service provider offering this kind of package to entice new users to get online. It's really an interesting idea, though I'm going to be curious to see how customers react to it.

I believe the Thomasville, GA Muni was looking into the doing the same thing a few years back.

See http://www.cns-internet.com/

Posted by Peter Collins on March 28, 2008 5:03 PM

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