Friday, May 06, 2005

Free WiFi for All

Note: Blogger ate this post and all the commments. I looked for a cached version on Google, but no luck. It sucks because there were some good comments attached to the post that added a lot to the conversation.

Update Google Desktop to the rescue. Rick Lee found a cached version of the post and the comments on his computer. I've added the comments to the bottom of the post. Thanks Rick.

BuzzMachine... by Jeff Jarvis: a wi-fi in every pot
: Micah Sifry, who's helping out in Andrew Rasiej's campaign for NYC's Public Advocate, sent me text of a speech Andrew gave today at City Hall criticizing a Bloomberg report on communications and drawing a line in the sand at universal and inexpensive wi-fi for all. Hell, if Philadelphia can have it, why can't we? I'll be this will become an issue in every city -- and then suburb -- in the nation. No more letting Korea lead. No more letting telecom companies keep us back. We need to be connected to this connected world. Anything less is like not having indoor plumbing.

Telecom companies are doing their best to block local governments wi-fi for getting in the wi-fi biz. After Philadelphia began a project to cover the city with free Wi-Fi Verizon and other carriers pushed a bill thought the Pennsylvania legislature that banned the further spread of free Wi-Fi, but gave Philadelphia a pass. The bill was signed into law late last year.
The bill has received much attention because Philadelphia announced plans in September to offer municipal wireless services. Despite the bill, Verizon said that it will support Philadelphia's plans but has yet to say whether it will support the public Wi-Fi plans of other Pennsylvania cities.

The West Virginia Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Unger introduced a bill (SB 740) that allowed municipalies to deploy wired and wireless broadband in WV.
The proposed bill (Electronic Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Act or ETOPIA) allows local governments to become ISPs and promotes the installation of fiber optic networks. Municipalities would be allowed to issue bonds to finance broadband infrastructure development.

As usual, Verizon is against the bill. With only 17 days left in the legislative sessions, they want more time to do an analysis. What they really want to do is have enough time to lobby the state legislature and spread their own version of FUD to stop this. In fact, the spokesperson for Verizon says (I quote from the article): "It seems crazy to me to say we need municipal government providing broadband services in an area that already has two broadband providers."

Once again Verizon lobbied against the bill, and it died in committee. Resolutions in the House and the Senate to study the broadband issue failed to pass as well.

We might live in a flat world, but it appears Verizon and other broadband providers aren't interested in helping the US compete in the world marketplace.

Dell has now gotten into the picture. Jeff Jarvis reports:
See also Smartmobs reporting that Dell is opposing bills that back by telecom dinosaurs that would prevent local governments from encouraging ubiquitous broadband. The dinos are afraid they'd be put out of business by decent competition. Dell is afraid that the telecoms will succeed only in holding back the adoption of technology that will expand everyone's business, including Dell's. Dell is right.

At least Dell gets it.

This issue is dead for now in West Virginia, but we can allows hope legislative action might be taken next year.


Rick Lee said...

I don't know how I feel about this. It seems like a wonderful thing... free wi-fi. But suppose that municipal governments do roll out (nearly) ubiquitous wi-fi... and suppose this causes other broadband carriers to flee the market... then imagine what you're left with... one provider with no commercial incentive to provide great service. One thing I'll say for Verizon, my DSL hasn't been down in a couple of years.

9:00 AM
oncee said...

Hi Rick,

I belive adoption of technology will expand everyone's business. I'm most worried about small WV communities with no broadband at all. Verizon and Charter are making some real progress in bringing broadband to smaller areas, but there is much to do. Open markets are the way to go. Not every local government will want to undertake this project, buy why not let them attempt it in the first place.

Free wireless is the most cost effective route to take. You don't have to wire anything except the central access point. People will still be paying for the service either thought local taxes or fees.

The issue really is access. Broadband access lets people do things like telecommuting and collaboration that cannot be done with a simple dialup connection.

Verizon and Charter over great services. As a network admin I worked with Verizon DSL and thought it was great. I've had Charter at home for five years and love it. But some people find these broadband providers costs prohibitive.

What about the children who parents can't afford broadband, or the web designer who lives two far aways to drive two hours for a job, when he or she has the option to telecommute?

The United States is the richest nation on earth. We owe our population the same sort of broadband access one finds in a lesser developed country such as Korea. If we don't I fear we will be left economically left behind, as countries like Korea, India, and China continue to make great gains.

9:32 AM


Blogger Rick Lee said...

Google Desktop found a cache on my computer. I'd have sent it to you but I don't seem to have an email address for you.

10:24 AM  

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