In a stinging rebuff to opposition by cable and telephony incumbents, the citizens of Lafayette, La., have resoundingly approved a move by the parish government into the broadband business.
The referendum, held Saturday, was approved by a 62%-38% vote.
Cox Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. intently fought the plans of the Lafayette Utilities System, which plans to build a fiber-to-the-home plant to pass 55,000 residents and 6,000 businesses.
The project, dubbed “Fiber for the Future,” was approved by the parish government last year, but the venture was successfully challenged in court by the incumbents and the Louisiana Cable Telecommunications Association. Changes in state law mandate a public election on projects that use public funding, the incumbents argued. Citizens should have a chance to speak out on the project, they added.
Incumbents noted that they already deliver all of the products intended by the Fiber for the Future project and advised consumers not to commit tax dollars to the project.
The battle for broadband in the community drew national attention to Lafayette and to the issue of municipal broadband.
Mayor Joey Durel, a staunch and vocal proponent of the project, said in a prepared statement, "This is a huge moment for Lafayette and America. Our citizens have sent a powerful message: Americans want their local governments to do what's necessary to be 21st Century cities second to none."