The next step for fiber, House authorizes funds for coastal Louisiana and more.
THE NEXT STEP FOR FIBER

Days after voters approved Lafayette Utilities System's plan to build a fiber optics network to every home and business in the city, local proponents of the project see several more hurdles on the horizon.

"There's still a whole lot of work to do," says City-Parish Councilman Marc Mouton. "Having never done this before, we're going to proceed cautiously but also with the mandate that this council has from the electorate."

The utility still estimates it is at least two years away from beginning to offer phone, cable and high-speed Internet services to homes over the fiber network.

Directly ahead for LUS is ironing out financing rules with the Public Service Commission ' rules that could affect LUS' bond rating and make LUS alter its initial business plan. The PSC could meet as soon as this Friday, July 22, to address the issue.

Incumbent telecommunications providers BellSouth and Cox Communications, who fought to have the issue defeated at the polls, have lobbied the PSC to not allow LUS to pledge its utilities assets for the project's bonds and to apply strict rules to LUS price rates. (Bellsouth Regional Manager John Williams did not return a phone call by press time.)

Mouton says he hopes the public's recent show of support at the polls will help clear the opposition. "I would hope that [BellSouth and Cox] would work with us in seeing that the will of the people is implemented. They were out to fight to protect their interest, and I can applaud that. The ball is in their court now for how they want to respond."

Last Saturday's election ended with 62 percent of city voters approving the $125 million bond issue. The final tally was 12,290 votes in favor of the project, with 7,507 in opposition. ' NS

HOUSE AUTHORIZES $1.13 BILLION FOR COASTAL LOUISIANA

Louisiana coastal restoration scored a major coup last week when the U.S. House passed its version of the 2005 Water Resources Development Act. The $10 billion omnibus bill authorizes hundreds of navigation, flood, and environmental improvement projects, including $1.13 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration.

The biennial WRDA legislation is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is the federal government's largest environmental spending bill. The last time the bill was passed was in 2000, making this year's bill three years overdue. In the past, it has funneled billions of dollars into major projects for Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Everglades. The funds included in the bill for Louisiana's coast will go to projects designated by the state and the Army Corps of Engineers in the Louisiana Coastal Area study, which can be viewed at www.lca.gov.

The LCA represents the largest coastal restoration project in American history. Before going into affect, WRDA still must pass the Senate, which is yet to schedule a vote on the bill into its tightly packed agenda. ' NS

FACE TIME

A new building, new computers ' all the UL Lafayette library lacked was a commemorative image of the woman who was the driving force behind its inception. Dr. Charles Triche, director of the Edith Garland Dupre library, has announced that the board has chosen artist Janine Collins to paint the nearly life-size portrait of Dupre that will hang in the main entrance. Collins' portrait of Herbert and Maurice Heymann hangs in the Petroleum Club, and a likeness of LSU School of Business namesake, E.J. Orso, was also done by the Lafayette painter. ' MT

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