Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why Muni Wireless Matters

Some links from Techdirt:

"Measuring Broadband's Economic Impact" (PDF) a report from Carnegie Mellon and MIT.

Conculsion: "Broadband is clearly related to economic well-being and is thus a critical component of our national communications infrastructure."

"Turning a Blind Eye to Wifi" an article by Robert McChesney and John Podesta.

Lead: "Broadband internet is the electricity of the 21st century -- and the rest of the world is poised to leave America in the dark."

"In the near future, telephone, television, radio and the web all will be delivered to your home via a single broadband connection. In the not-so-distant-future, broadband will be an indispensable part of economic, personal, and public life.

American residents and businesses now pay two to three times as much for slower and poorer quality service than countries like South Korea or Japan. Since 2001, according to the International Telecommunications Union, the United States has fallen from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband penetration.

Thomas Bleha recently argued in Foreign Affairs that what passes for broadband in the United States is "the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world."

Please go read the whole article. But now the part about Muni Wireless, from a section called "The Philadelphia Story."

"To provide universal, affordable Internet access, Philadelphia plans to construct a gigantic "wireless mesh network" -- a system of interconnected antennas placed on streetlights, traffic signals, and public buildings.

No tax dollars will be used to build the system, which will be financed instead with $10 to $15 million in bonds and private investment.

The service will cost about $20 a month -- with subsidized access for lower-income households for about $10. The city plans to deploy the first of 3,000 nodes soon and complete the system by 2007."

Sounds great, right?

"Last fall, behind closed doors in the state capitol, industry lobbyists slipped a measure into a massive telecommunications bill to stop municipalities from entering the broadband business."

The industry point of view is that the free market should handle connectivity and that governement run efforts would crowd out more capable private companies.

"In reality, most municipal networks are a last resort by desperate local governments. Often their choice isn't between a municipal system and a private one, but between municipal and nothing."



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