The IND, 07-01-2015

What’s next: citywide WiFi?

LUSFiber made a splash this year at Festival International when free WiFi was offered at the main stages of the event. It was part of the system’s sponsorship of the festival, but those WiFi units didn’t come down after the event was over; they’re still there.

So what’s next with that? Citywide WiFi for use by LUS Fiber customers is on the drawing board, LUS Director Terry Huval says. “We’re planning a phase-in of it, a slow phase-in.”

In addition to the Downtown units, there are also WiFi units at the airport and Acadiana Mall for anyone to use right now. Huval said initial plans are to open up the WiFi units at LUS substations, which currently are being used for LUS business, to allow fiber subscribers access.

As it stands today, the long-term plan is to provide more WiFi access for LUS Fiber customers around the city. However, there are no plans at present to provide free citywide WiFi.

“There has to be a blend here of offering this to the community, but more importantly helping us grow our business,” Huval says. “It needs to be tied into our continued success in expanding our customer accounts with fiber, because that’s what is funding it.”

In addition to the substations, more units will be added gradually to increase WiFi access for LUS Fiber customers around town.

“We will be adding some in places like Downtown, the Oil Center, our parks, those are the first areas we’re going to hit,” Huval says. “It’s going to be a slow process, because there’s only so much money I have to spend on that each year.”

Besides, it’s not much of a revenue-producing model. “It’s a good thing for our community; it gives our customers a benefit of being able to use the WiFi system instead of their data plan when they’re around town,” Huval says. “It’s more of a means to attract and retain customers, while at the same time providing an infrastructure.”

But what about people who live in Broussard or Youngsville and work and play in Lafayette? Could they buy an LUS Fiber WiFi package to use?

“If we do decide to make it free for our own customers, we’ll make sure there’s a mechanism to allow others to utilize it,” Huval says. “How popular it will be we don’t know.”

As usual, Huval is a cautious guy when it comes to LUS: “We know it’s a potentially popular service, and as we roll out sections of it, we’ll get a better sense of how the market is going to respond to that.” — AS