Even Obama knows the awesomeness of LUS Fiber

It’s not just Lafayette residents who now know that our city’s so-called “gamble” on fiber has paid out big time over the last seven or so years; President Barack Obama knows it too.

LUS Director Terry Huval

Photo by Robin May

It’s not just Lafayette residents who now know that our city’s so-called “gamble” on fiber has paid out big time over the last seven or so years — we’ve got a publicly-owned Internet service provider that’s easily among the nation’s fastest and cheapest — apparently President Barack Obama knows it too.

According to an email from Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval, our city’s fiber experience will be featured in a speech delivered by the president today [Wednesday] in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

In his email to the local media, Huval notes:

Cedar Falls was one of the early communities to provide telecom services in their community and was often referenced in our early discussions leading to the LUS Fiber initiative. It appears one of the President’s initiatives is to address the previous efforts of 19 states [to] place “unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition."

President Obama’s stop in Cedar Falls is an effort to bring broadband to more of America, specifically to the country’s more rural communities like Cedar Falls.

From a White House press release issued Tuesday detailing the president’s broadband plans and his appearance in Iowa:

President Obama will announce steps he will discuss in the State of the Union to help more Americans, in more communities around the country, get access to fast and affordable broadband. Communities like Cedar Falls have banded together to commit to broadband that works by bringing in new competition, leveraging municipal investments, and forming new partnerships to bring world-class Internet to places like this small Iowa town.

And for Lafayette, here’s the flattering part about today’s appearance by the president as noted in the release from the White House:

High-speed, low-cost broadband is paving the way for economic revitalization not just in Cedar Falls, but in places like Chattanooga, TN, Kansas City, MO, and Lafayette, LA — all of which have Internet speeds nearly 100 times faster than the national average and deliver it at an affordable price.

And it’ll be more than just name dropping for Lafayette, Chattanooga and Kansas City, as the president’s speech will further detail each city’s experience.

Here’s what the president’s “Community-Based Broadband Solutions” report, released in January, has to say about Lafayette’s Fiber:

The residents of Lafayette have a long history of supporting local infrastructure initiatives. Recognizing the need to modernize its broadband infrastructure in the early 2000’s, the community voted in 2005 to approve construction of a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. After overcoming serious opposition from local broadband service providers, the publicly-owned Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) started connecting homes and businesses to its LUS Fiber network in 2009. The network seeks to provide equitable access to all of Lafayette’s citizens, and the system was rolled out across high-income and low-income neighborhoods equally. LUS Fiber now offers 100 Mbps speed for all subscribers.

As competing firms adjusted their plans to account for LUS Fiber’s market entry,residents who weren’t customers of the network started to see lower prices. Cox Communications, a major regional provider which had raised rates six times in four years, kept its rates stable from 2004 to 2007 to account for LUS’s possible market entry. Still, LUS’s prices have been consistently lower than those offered by Cox. Terry Huval, the director of LUS, estimates that the community saved $4 million from these deferred rate increases. Using estimates of Cox’s average competing discounts and LUS Fiber’s lower rates, LUS projects the fiber system will create total savings of between $90 and $100 million over the its first 10 years. The fiber network has brought in companies eager to obtain fast service at lower prices. Pixel Magic brought 100 to 200 jobs when it built an office in Lafayette to accomplish work on the movie “Secretariat”. The high-speed capability of the broadband network was a big factor in their eventual decision to maintain their office in Louisiana permanently. The tech startup firm Skyscraper Holding moved from Los Angeles to Lafayette to obtain 100 Mb/s speeds at a fraction of the cost the company was charged on the west coast. The company pays just $200 a month for more reliable service.

The network has strengthened community anchors as well, delivering greater value and opportunities for connectivity to Lafayette’s school and library systems. By mid-2008, all of the schools in the Lafayette Parish School System were able to access 100 Mbps speeds for $390/month. Not only can students now do more to leverage the Internet for better learning opportunities, this monthly fee saves community tax dollars by being a better value than competitors could offer. Lafayette’s public libraries also benefit from the network by sharing a 90 Mbps connection from LUS that was rated as the best value amongst possible providers by the federal E-Rate program.

For more on the president’s broadband initiative click here and here.