Monday, June 27, 2005

Local WiFi turns into federal case

Local WiFi plan turning into a federal case
By Hiawatha Bray   |  June 27, 2005

A number of US cities are committed to the idea of treating Internet access as a public utility, especially since they won't have to string miles of wire. Wireless changes all the economics.

But, first, cities may have to clear it with Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican in the US House. This month, Sessions offered a thoroughly odd bill that would ban cities from running communications networks that compete against private-sector telecom companies. And, you thought Republicans believed in states' rights?

If a city decides to dabble in WiFi, why should a Texas congressman make a federal case of it? Maybe it has to do with his previous career as an executive of SBC Corp., a large phone company that isn't too eager to face fresh competition.

Do we really want cities going into the telecom business?

We do have a very large digital divide with estimates of no more than 25 percent of citizens in poor neighborhoods having Internet access. In my opinion, government ought to get high-speed access to those neighborhoods. The prospect of cheap municipal WiFi makes it possible.

Click here for Hiawatha Bray's story...


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