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john st. julien
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Community Fiber Network Diversifying Economy in Louisiana
Acadiana, the southern region of Louisiana, is seeing a resurgence of industry thanks in large part to it publicly owned fast, affordable, reliable network. Years ago, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, built the LUS Fiber network to connect homes and business.
Now, LUS Fiber is helping to diversify Acadiana’s economy, which once almost exclusively relied on the oil industry. Fiber networks offer much potential for economic development.
“The State of Business” in the Silicon Bayou
The October-November issue of the Acadiana Profile at MyNewOrleans.com ran an article on the changing landscape of Acadiana’s businesses. Author Kimberly Singletary provides an overview of three growing industries: technology, manufacturing, and healthcare. All three need access to reliable, high-speed connections.
Singletary spoke with One Acadiana, an economic development organization in Lafayette:
“We’ve had a long history of innovation in IT and software,” says Jason El Koubi, CEO of One Acadiana. “But it's still very much an emerging field.”
Due to what El Koubi describes as “almost a grassroots movement in cultivating IT over the years,” the Acadiana region enjoys a robust offering of internet services resulting in a competitive, cheap and extremely fast LUS Fiber network.
LUS Fiber offers affordable, high-speed connectivity to several software developers that have made Acadiana their new home. The network offers speeds of up to 2 Gigabits (2,000 Megabits per second). In 2014, LUS Fiber attracted three companies, bringing almost 1,000 jobs to the “Silicon Bayou.” Another company, Waitr, an Uber-like food delivery service, is planning to add an operations center to Lafayette, which will bring another 100 jobs to the community.
More Than Tech: Industries Need Connectivity
"Lafayette Pro Fiber Blog" Lives On!
In January, our friend John St. Julien from Lafayette, Louisiana, passed away. Without John to help organize the people of Lafayette, the LUS Fiber network would not have had the strong grassroots support that made the project a success.
One of the ways John helped get the project going and spread the word about the many benefits of a municipal fiber network was through the Lafayette Pro Fiber Blog. The blog was a collection of resources, writings, and comment fights that shed light on the local issues that affected, and were affected by, Lafayette's previously poor connectivity and the municipal fiber network project.
The blog is a walk through one community's historical record as they took the initiative to invest in their future.
Even though John St. Julien has passed on and the fight for LUS Fiber is over, we want to preserve the record as an important historical document. We have obtained permission from John's loved ones to keep the blog archived online. Those who are new to the story of Lafayette, LUS Fiber, and John St. Julien, now have access to the stories that helped the community make the smart choice and move forward. The blog and its posts are archived here. Unfortunately, we only have stories from the beginning of the blog until 2011.
As an educator, John knew that teaching people on the front lines was the best way to garner support for a movement to improve local connectivity. He used the blog to raise awareness about a range of matters from basic telecommunications terminology to the shady astroturf techniques meant to misinform voters. For a decade, John used the Lafayette Pro Fiber blog to set the record straight on incumbent lawsuits, strategic delays, and twisted criticisms. The resulting LUS Fiber network has brought jobs to the community, inspired affordable Internet access for all, and saved public dollars.
John St. Julien, Lafayette Community Leader, Passes
We learned yesterday that John St. Julien, one of the leading voices behind the strong grassroots support of the LUS Fiber project, passed away on Sunday, January 10. His presence will be missed by us and by the many people he helped through his work to bring better Internet access to Lafayette, Louisiana.
John visited us for the Community Broadband Bits podcast for episodes #19 and #94 to share his advice and experience as a grassroots organizer. John developed the Lafayette Pro Fiber blog in the early days of the the LUS Fiber network fight. The blog helped spread the truth about the network and correct the lies spread by the incumbents. His ability to communicate with the people of Lafayette set the record straight so they could make informed decisions about a municipal fiber network.
When Chris wrote his report about Lafayette's municipal fiber network, he turned to John to learn about the community effort behind the project. Chris had this to say about John and his triumphs:
"I think I met John my second year working on community networks. I had spoken with him several times over the phone and had decided to do a case study of Lafayette. I drove to Lafayette from Dallas and spent an afternoon with him, learning about the struggle against Cox and BellSouth for local self-reliance. Visiting Lafayette while hearing John's stories helped immeasurably to build my passion for this work."
"John taught me many lessons about organizing and compassion over the years. I'm grateful for that wisdom and all the people he shared it with. We will miss him greatly but his work will live on in many others."
MAG-Net Hosts Community Networks Discussion With Christopher
The Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) recently hosted a Community Cohort Call titled Tech In The City: A Conversation About Community Broadband Access. Chris Mitchell, Andrea Figueroa Martinez, John St. Julien from Lafayette, and other community broadband advocates discuss the current state of U.S. broadband infrastructure.
Chris offers perspective on monopolistic behavior from current mega providers and how they find ways to limit our options. What can we do to counteract the powerful cable and telecommunications lobbies to preserve an open and free Internet? How can we guarantee affordable access? This panel discussion looks at long-term strategies and actions we can take now.