As the July 16 vote on the issue approaches, one notably absent participant in the conversation has been UL Lafayette. The university has not taken an official position on the issue. UL Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies Robert Stewart says that when it comes to fiber, "The university does not have any comments." UL President Ray Authement did not return calls to comment for this article.
Although cautious not to speak for the university, several professors ' including specialists in education, English, physics and business ' willingly give their own opinions on the issue.
Paula Carson, associate dean of UL's College of Business Administration, says she has been disappointed with how emotions and politics have clouded a lot of the discussion about LUS' proposal. "I think it's very difficult in this type of environment for consumers to make an informed decision," she says.
Carson particularly expresses concern over scare tactics she says the project's opponents have used to try to discredit LUS' plans. "There are risks inherent in the project," she says, "but all worthwhile ventures contain some risk, and I think that [the risks] have been carefully calculated."
Carson believes LUS' investment would be sound and plans to vote in favor of the project. "The infrastructure investment will demonstrate that Lafayette is committed to economic development," she says. "I think fiber to the home will be symptomatic for those looking to do business in Lafayette that we're a progressive community."
Carson's colleague Lewis Gale, dean of the College of Business Administration, agrees. He contends that while some economists generally oppose government competition with private industry, he doesn't feel the issue is that cut and dry. "Utilities are a good example," he says. "There's not just one model that works the best. You have some examples where you have some public utilities more effectively providing services and others with private utilities better providing the services. LUS has a strong track record. They're more competitive than other [private] utilities in this region."
Gale, who is leaving Lafayette for a similar post at a Utah university, hopes the debate over LUS' fiber network evolves beyond the immediate issue of who can best provide low-cost phone, cable and Internet service. "What I would like to hear people talk more about are the services of tomorrow," he says. With a fiber-optic network connecting every house in the city, Gale says LUS' customers could more accurately monitor their energy usage, helping them to conserve and save money.
The fiber-optic network's ability to transfer large volumes of data at high speeds is also likely to benefit small companies and home businesses in the area, Gale says. "It changes the dynamics and environment in which these businesses can participate," he says. "It makes them more competitive. There are specific things such as an entrepreneur being able to run their business more efficiently from their home. I think that overall the idea is good, and the time is now."
Although Gale supports the LUS proposal because of its economic development potential, he cautions that since the issue is so new, there is little evidence from other communities to indicate whether LUS' business model is the best option. "It's difficult to say that 20 years from now the model that LUS is proposing is going to be the best for the area," he says. "That's one of the reasons I've been on the sidelines. It's just not that clear cut."
English professor David Thibodaux, who also sits on the parish school board, is one UL faculty member who is having a hard time deciding whether the LUS business model is one he can support. "I'm on the fence," Thibodaux says. "Clearly a fiber ring in Lafayette would be a good thing. The problem I have is the source of it and how we should pay for it."
As a conservative Republican, Thibodaux says he is generally opposed to government competing with private industry. "That's basic conservative doctrine," he says. "That's what we're supposed to stand for, less government and more private business."
Conversely, John Meriwether, who heads up UL's physics department, says his political philosophy matches up nicely with what LUS is attempting to do. "I've always had a kind of egalitarian view on how government should work," he says. "I think it's a very positive move because it takes an issue in the public interest rather than wait for the companies to decide what's right for the community based on their profits. I think communities ought to do things cooperatively rather than just buying everything."
Another enthusiastic supporter of LUS' plan is Doug Williams, an assistant professor in the College of Education and the director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Assessment Technologies. Williams helped found the center a year ago to develop educational computer software programs. "Most kids find traditional schooling to be irrelevant and not engaging," Williams says. "We're using education technology to help kids engage in authentic activities that are very consistent with what we adults do in the real world."
With the greater Internet speeds that come with a fiber-to-the-home network, Williams says parents, students, teachers and administrators ' throughout all levels of education ' could access these types of learning applications from home. In addition, cleaner, faster video feeds could foster the burgeoning possibilities of long-distance learning. "You can really break down the traditional barrier that typically exists between schools and what [students] can do from home," Williams says. "I only see advantages [to the LUS plan]. I think it's a great project particularly for the educational side, whether it's kids in school having access to rich interactive multimedia resources or home schoolers, community college and university students."
From his vantage point at the UL-housed radio station KRVS, Chief Engineer Karl Fontenot sees how a high-speed fiber network could be a double-edged sword. While the system could allow KRVS to upgrade the quality of its audio to area Internet users through its Web site, Fontenot says a fiber network could also impact radio in the same way the proliferation of television did in the 1960s.
"In one way I think it would negatively impact radio in general because people would have better access to audio, video and voice data," Fontenot says. "There's more information out there, so it may lead people away from traditional radio."
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.