Louisiana Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Fiber-to-the-Home Plan

LAFAYETTE, La. (Feb. 23, 2007) – The Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Lafayette Utilities System's Fiber-to-the-Home project on Thursday, February, 22, 2007, clearing the last obstacle in the City of Lafayette's way to expand state-of-the-art fiber optics to every home and business in the city, as approved by voters at the polls in 2005. After just over two years of various legal maneuvers by forces opposed to the initiative, the Court's decision puts Lafayette on the cusp of being one of the most connected cities in the country.
“We have never wavered in our attempts to bring 21st century technology to Lafayette citizens and spark job growth and educational opportunities with that technology," said Joey Durel, Lafayette City-Parish President. “Now we can not only deliver world-class technology and competitive prices, but fiber allows us to bridge the digital divide that separates those who can afford high-speed Internet at home and those who cannot."
LUS Director Terry Huval explained that revenue bonds totaling up to $125 million for the project may be sold within 90 days. Eighteen months after the bonds are issued, the first LUS customers should be using fiber for their telephone, television and Internet services. Within three years of that first connection, everyone in the city who wants fiber should be connected.
“We hope to show the nation that Louisiana is a forward-thinking state harnessing technology in a way no one thought possible 10 years ago," added Terry Huval, LUS director. “We hope that residents, state lawmakers and others in the nation closely watching this case will celebrate with us in our victory and look for more ways that technology can improve our lives and our futures."
Fiber optics supporters recognize the benefits of the LUS Fiber-to-the-Home project beyond just the 56,000 homes and businesses in Lafayette. Direct fiber connectivity is the foundation of the LUS project which will bring vastly increased bandwidth between educational institutions and students' homes, allowing them to benefit from a world of education now beyond their reach. This advanced infrastructure will also give local businesses an opportunity to compete on a global scale that would be unobtainable without this technology, creating new jobs and attracting new businesses to the area.
NuComm International, a Canadian company that provides technical and service support, customer care, billing and data management to companies, announced on August 8, 2006, that it would be building its 14th and largest customer contact center in Lafayette. Company officials cited the city's technological developments, namely the LUS fiber telecommunications project, as a principal reason for locating here. The company has already hired over 500 employees with plans to hire up to 1,000 workers.
“The fact that the owners of the new call center came here because of our innovative communications plans signals what is possible and how attractive that goal is to out-of-state businesses," added Durel. “We are committed to follow through with this fiber project to make Lafayette competitive with the leading cities in the world and serve as a model for the rest of the state."
The case before the state's highest court centered around the Legislature's 2004 Local Government Fair Competition Act, which regulates the entry of local municipalities into the telecommunications business. In May 2006, Lafayette resident Elizabeth Naquin lost her suit seeking to block LUS's funding in district court and then appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal. That court ruled that LUS's bond ordinance was in violation of the Act.
But a majority of Lafayette voters had already made their wishes known. On July 16, 2005, 62 percent voted in favor of the plan with 38 percent voting against it.
The proposed cost of one of the bundle of services that consists of phone, cable TV and Internet will be available from LUS for approximately $85 a month, significantly less than the competition charges right now.
About Lafayette Utilities System
The mission of the Lafayette Utilities System (www.lus.org) is to provide high-quality, competitively-priced services that exceed customers' expectations, and contribute to the Lafayette Consolidated Government to support other community needs. LUS employs more than 450 people and offers its customers quality electric, water, wastewater and wholesale telecommunications services. As a customer-owned and operated utility, LUS customers, through their local elected officials, have the power to set rates and control the standard of service.

City-Parish President Durel and Sun Microsystems

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