If They Had Their Way, Free Municipal Wifi Would Never See the Light of Day

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You may have heard about the cities which are coming online and offering free wifi on a city-wide (municipal) basis. What you probably haven’t heard about is the fights which often go on behind the scenes to keep you, the good citizens of these cities, from having access to municipal wifi.

Who on earth would not want you to be able to have free wifi access anywhere in your city?

Well, the telephone companies and ISPs, that’s who. In fact, in a recent New York Times article, a Comcast EVP was quoted as saying “Is it fair that the industry pay tax dollars to the city that are then used to launch a network that would compete with our own?â€?

Boo hoo hoo. Cry Aunty a river.

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By way of example, earlier this year Indiana was dealing with not one, but three bills all aimed at muni wifi, one of which would have made difficult a muni wifi system anywhere that an already-existing provider stated that they planned to build their own network within nine months.

Just today, however, the good citizens of Texas got a reprieve, when a bill intended to create one of the harshest bans on muni wifi in the country was not passed, although not so much because of opposition as because the Texas House and Senate were unable to reach a decision on implementation before the legistlative deadline passed.

And don’t you, dear reader who is not in Indiana or Texas, get too complacent. Because there are proposed laws pending in several other states as well, including Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia.

Muni wifi impinges on business interests which will not go quietly into that dark night.

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4 thoughts on “If They Had Their Way, Free Municipal Wifi Would Never See the Light of Day

  1. This development is analagous to what happened with public access cable TV. The cities that franchised their rights of way to private cable companies insisted that local citizens have free access at some level. The companies grudgingly agreed (with a push from federal law) and then began working tirelessly to undermine the promise. Local governments in some cases actually built entire wired Internet and cable systems because private firms were disinterested in their markets; but when the build began, the companies sued. Here’s the thing: The companies may not choose to serve your town, but they insist on the right to control your access via other providers, especially local government, on the basis that this is non-competitive and unfair competition. But that’s the pot calling the kettle black. Think about it.

  2. If it means some sort of control on price-gouging, then yes! I would certainly hope so! Telecom companies are functionally without competition in large parts of the country (read rural). I think its outrageous that my dialup costs $35 a month – and DSL in this area runs $90+

  3. Good. Municipalities (Cities / Counties) should not be in the business of providing Internet access. Bottom line. Is the government going to start providing phone service next?

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