Voters approved the measure 12,290 to 7,507, or 62 percent to 38 percent, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
The city of 116,000 residents known for its vibrant Cajun culture has been planning to build its own fiber-optic network for more than a year. But local phone company BellSouth and cable operator Cox Communications challenged the city-owned utility, which plans to build and operate the network.
After a, a special election was called to decide whether the city could issue $125 million worth of bonds to fund the project.
Fiber 411, the citizens group that opposed the project, characterized the loss as a victory.
"I think we won," Tim Supple of Fiber 411 told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. "We started off wanting to get people the right to vote. We accomplished that. We tried to get people to understand the issue. We accomplished that, I hope. We won."
Lafayette's approval of the project could help rally citizens in thehave already been banned or limited, said Joey Durel, president of Lafayette Parish.
"What the cable and phone companies do a lot better than provide service to customers is work politicians," he said. "Unless towns like Lafayette get moving, I'm afraid that more states could pass laws limiting these kinds of networks. If this referendum passes here in Lafayette, I think we'll start to see some states undoing those laws."
Lafayette isn't the only city that has faced resistance from incumbent phone and cable providers when it wanted. City officials across the country including some in ; Palo Alto, Calif.; and also have faced strong opposition from local phone and cable companies when they proposed building their own networks.
These cities view building their own network as a way to bring their citizens faster broadband connections at cheaper rates, narrowing the so-called digital divide. But the Bell phone companies and cable operators argue that government intervention in their business is not justified and say they are far better equipped to operate complex and far-flung data networks.
"We believe Lafayette is already well-served by Cox and BellSouth," said David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox.
Millions of dollars have been spentand fighting court battles on both sides of the debate.
The issue has become so heated in recent months that two separate bills have been a bill that would guarantee cities the right to build municipal communications networks.. U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., have introduced
On the other side of the debate, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, recently introduced a bill that would ban cities from running communications networks that compete against private-sector telecom companies. Sessions, a former SBC executive, argues that local governments should not compete with private companies.