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Lafayette Voters Approve $125M Broadband Project

August 08, 2005

The year-long battle between Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) and competitors BellSouth Louisiana and Cox Communications over the utility company's proposed Fiber for the Future project came to an end last month when voters approved the $125 million fiber optics plan by a vote of 62 percent to 38 percent.

The LUS Initiative, called Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), proposes to bring fiber optics to every home and business in Lafayette in order to deliver cable TV, telephone, and Internet services at a cost of 20 percent less than current providers. A special election was called last month to decide whether the city could issue $125 million worth of bonds to fund the project, according to The Advocate.

Under the LUS plan, the 25-year bonds could be paid off within 15 years, with LUS capturing 50 percent of the phone and cable markets. About 70 percent of consumers and 80 percent of businesses are interested in the fiber optics service, LUS surveys show.

BellSouth and Cox Communications, the local telephone and cable companies who are strongly opposed to the project, filed a lawsuit earlier this year citing that the utility company was using a portion of state bond law that contained no provision for citizens to call for a voter referendum, according to Terry Huval, LUS director. The state district court ruled in favor of BellSouth and Cox Communications and in March, LUS decided to go through with the voter referendum on their own.

LUS fiber optic connections have already been installed in 18 Lafayette-area schools and they could start activating consumers within two years. To begin the project, LUS is planning trial areas in two parts of the city, a mix of high and low-income and residential and commercial areas. More information on the Fiber for the Future project is available from LUS at: http://www.lus.org/site.php?pageID=184