Opponents of municipal broadband initiatives contend that public broadband projects are “failures” if they do generate “profits” in the amounts, and within the short time periods, that investors and the financial community expect of private corporations. To define success this way is to miss two fundamental points: (1) public entities have fundamentally different ways of creating economic benefits for the community than the private sector; and (2) municipalities often undertake a public communications initiative precisely because the project would not be profitable enough for a private company.
Lafayette Republicans and Democrats Joined Forces for Fiber
Earlier this year, we published a case study that examined the LUS Fiber network and its origins. In it, we noted that both Republicans and Democrats backed the plan but here we focus on their resolutions in support.
Back in early 2005, Lafayette was preparing for a referendum on whether the city owned utility should issue bonds to build a FTTH network. Though Cox cable and BellSouth (now AT&T) were running a fierce campaign to scare voters, both Republican and Democrat parties in the community came together to support the community owned network -- both found ways of incorporating this important investment into their political philosophies.
In February, the Democrats were the first to pass a resolution supporting the city's fiber optic plan [pdf]. Recall that Joey Durel (the mayor then and now) is an ardent Republican.
We, the members of the Lafayette Democratic Parish Executive Committee, believe the project will enhance businesses, enrich our lives, and prepare our children for the future. With proper planning, future generations will see profits generated by this project stay in this community and improve businesses and lives for generations to come.
Improving local communities has been the traditional purpose of the Democratic Party. With that in mind, we commend City-Parish President Joey Durel for his bold initiative to make this plan a success.
A few weeks later, the Lafayette Republican Party endorsed the network [pdf] as well:
... Whereas, the “Fibre Optic to the Home” service would create the potential for new economic opportunity for Lafayette, and in our opinion far exceeding the financial risk,
Whereas, we believe the LUS Plan represents an investment in infrastructure as opposed to direct competition between government and private business, which would violate a basic principle of Republican Philosophy,
Be it Resolved this 10th day of March, 2005, the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee (RPEC), endorses and supports the effort by the Lafayette Utility System to make “Fibre Optic to the Home” services a reality for the citizens, institutions of learning and business’ of the City of Lafayette and beyond as time and resources allow.
With those resolutions, the parties released a joint letter of support and "Request for City Residents to Vote YES" on July just before the referendum.
Dear Lafayette Residents,
We all have a unique opportunity together, to make a decision for our city and ultimately our region by voting in favor on the LUS Fiber To The Home & Business Initiative in the upcoming Bond Election.
While our committees came to our conclusions differently - BOTH parties agree that this opportunity is good for Lafayette. This decision is landmark and we have the ability to set our community apart and distinguish ourselves for many years to come as a leader in technology innovation and implementation.
Because Fiber To the Home & Business is truly a “tide that will lift all boats”, create competition, lower costs, and improve Lafayette’s technological infrastructure, we ask that you make a concerted effort to get out and vote “YES”, whether you are voting absentee, from Tuesday, July 5th – Saturday, July 9th, or at the polls on Saturday, July 16th.
The referendum passed by a 62% - 38% margin. The grassroots organizing in Lafayette was unlike anything we have seen anywhere else, which is why we so often return to stories about LUS Fiber (see related stories).