Saturday, March 05, 2005


Let’s protect the Telecoms!

Municipalities are now exploring providing their residents with free Internet access. Towns such as Austin, Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
Residents get the benefit of free internet access, (at this stage) the towns get a little free publicity, and the businesses hosting the hotspots get more traffic, and potentially more sales.

When a service is provided by the government, the potential to be a boondoggle is great – even greater when technology is involved (see the IRS and CO Benefits). Couple this with the fact that very few technology projects actually succeed, and you wonder why any local government would even consider attempting to provide Internet access. However, the cost of the technology for wireless access is in the thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. That wireless router at Best Buy for $70 is similar to the equipment used in these projects. This is a far cry from the $100 million + projects that larger government entities undertake. If the community wireless access project fails, the investment is relatively low compared to the risk. If it succeeds, everyone benefits – except . .

The major telecommunication companies (Verizon, SBC, Qwest, etc.) have spent BILLIONS of dollars building out their wired networks. They will fight to the death to ensure that they get substantial return on investment. While community wireless is only a peripheral threat, depending on the scope of the project, it can become a much greater threat. So what is a major telecom to do when they have little to no influence on local government – they take it to the state level. There they have numerous state legislators who are more than eager to take up their cause. That is why we have now have state bills outlawing municipal wireless access.

Real enlightened, Texas. Same goes for Pennsylvania. I hope those fat campaign contributions offset the fact that your constituents will suffer. The municipalities considering providing wireless access are going forward with a service that the telecoms will be painfully slow to provide (if ever). Thankfully, one of the FCC commissioners gets it. In this statement, Michael Copps states “They are not out there trying to put broadband in the municipality. Where is the competition?” Whether it’s the FCC or Congress, one can only hope that the Federal government steps in and eliminates the stupidity occurring at the state level.

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