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The FUD Strategy

Strategy: FUD

Promoting Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) is the central strategy of BellSouth and Cox in their battle to prevent local development of a fiber to the home plan.

Unfortunately, but perhaps not too surprisingly, there has been a lot of misinformation and spin put out by the opponents of the fiber to the home project. Most of it falls under the broad but telling category of "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt: "FUD." The strategy has a long, dishonorable history in the world of technology and has recently been employed against a number of communities in an effort to distract citizens from the fundamental advantages of fiber optic networks.

A Bit of History

In battles between technological companies, FUD refers to the practice of sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt among the potential purchasers of your opponent's products. Back in the day when IBM was rapidly losing market share to upstart makers of "plug compatible" mainframe computers that were both less expensive and faster than IBM, FUD made its first appearence. As you might imagine it was tough for IBM salesmen to make a very convincing case for functionally identical, slower, more expensive products. Very hard indeed. But IBM was a well-established company and initiated a whispering campaign that their competitors' machines might be unreliable, or their parts unavailable, or their service bad, or that these guys actually were fixing to make some other kind of incompatible computer, or that the company was about to go out of business and would never deliver, or that your company is about to release something secret that would blow them out of the water (aka vaporware) or, or...something, anything scary or confusing. Nobody knew that there was any really wrong with the product....but there surely was a lot of bad talk. There might be something there. Maybe. And word circulated that "nobody ever lost his job by buying IBM." The sad fact is that the tactic worked at least well enough that it bought IBM enough time to shore up its mainframe business and survive the onslaught. The strategy got a return engagement during IBM's slow-motion loss of the personal computer market as makers of faster, cheaper p.c.s consumed IBM's market.

Faster & Cheaper

The strategy, to put it bluntly, is a loser's strategy. If you have something better such as price, compatibility, or speed, you happily go out and sell that. But if you have nothing but the fact that you are long-established, you need something more. Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

That's the situation here in Lafayette. There is a monopoly network centered on phone wire (BellSouth's). There is a monopoly network centered on coaxial cable (Cox's). LUS is suggesting a pure optical fiber network. The pure optical fiber network, when it is built, will be a monopoly too. It will be faster from its first moment and as technologies develop it will only extend its lead in speed and capacity. Emerging technologies such as HDTV and two-way interactive video will outstrip the capacity of copper-based networks which are increasingly struggling to meet current demands for bandwidth—much less the demands of the near future. Fiber is a cheaper pipe with virtually unlimited room for expansion. Copper, protestations aside, is dying. The cable companies and the phone companies know this. That is why they are ripping out the heart of their systems and replacing it with fiber. That is why more progressive companies like Verizon and Eatel are currently rolling out fiber to the home. They, like LUS, know it is inevitable.

The raw truth is that the first fiber optic network in any locale will be faster and cheaper than its competition. The company that provides it will have the better product. And its competition will have essentially nothing...but fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Gut Check

We urge you to take a cheerful gut check:

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
    • Recall all the talk about vague new technologies that might/could/would replace fiber optics—vague talk by those who are racing to replace their own technologies with fiber optics.
  • Doubt
    • Recall that these out-of-state corporations want you to believe that an inarguably well-run local utility whose bond rating is at the absolute top of the market is suddenly just too incompentent to be trusted. Hunh?

Saying these things and repeating them and repeating other charges just like them do NOT make them true. As each charge is easily dismissed, it is dropped and new, equally implausable ones are substituted. Cox and BellSouth are counting on the Lafayette public to recall only that there were a lot of "scary" and "doubtful" things about the project. They are hoping that even though no one quite recalls just what they are, they can scare you into backing away. But if you've read up on your LafayetteProFiber, if you've got that dose of head-healthy fiber you'll know it's all just FUD.

Your Own FUD Checklist: Recognize the signs

You know you've been FUDed when your opponent seeks not to promote his or her own position nor, really, to make explicit negative claims about the opposition's real offerings. Instead, the strategy is to surround the proposal which they hope to block with a whispering campaign of fear where none is warranted, and to introduce ungrounded uncertainty and doubt about the very idea. It has always been the strategy of those with little in the way of a real argument—those whose product or service is demonstrably inferior but whose stake in the outcome is large. We believe that you should always beware those who would rather tear down their competition than promote their own ideas or product.

We are seeing FUD in Lafayette and the best antidote is clarity on the facts of the matter at hand. You can get that here.