Wi-Fi courtesy of your city

Small cities, low-cost Wi-Fi - OK. Big cities, low-cost Wi-Fi - not OK? Government Technology (Nov. 2005) reports on the growing controversy of large municipalities establishing their own wireless networks. Private telecommunications companies claim that they cannot match the low prices for subscribers set by government. Early on, small communities created their own Wi-Fi networks because the big companies weren't interested in them. Now Philadelphia and San Francisco, and other cities, have announced wireless intitiatives, and major telephone and cable companies are counterattacking. There has been legislative activity at the state level to restrict municipalities from creating wireless broadband networks (a sidebar in the article lists 14 such states).

The battle has moved to Congress, GovTech continues. Two bills, of opposing viewpoints, have been introduced in the House and Senate. HR 2726, the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005 (PDF, 32KB, 3p., from GPO), prohibits municipal governments from offering telecommunications services "except to remedy market failures by private enterprise to provide such services." Counter-legislation was introduced with S 1294, the Community Broadband Act of 2005 (PDF, 32KB, 3p., from GPO), "to preserve and protect the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services."

Meanwhile, the article notes, Philadelphia is proceeding with its network, having selected EarthLink to deploy Wi-Fi over 135 square miles, to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2006.



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