Alan Sondheim on Tue, 19 Apr 2005 19:15:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> pulling the plug on WiFi

This article was forwarded to me by Gerald Jones.

In Brooklyn, I've got WiFi and anyone can use it as far as I'm concerned.
A block away on Bergen is a publicly advertised hotspot. You sit on the
curb or a brownstone stoop and you're on.

Wifi is still obviously for the wealthy - PDAs w/access are expensive and
laptops are really impractical if you're on the run. But eventually one
should have information available everywhere. And for free. And for those
who want it from those who want to provide it. It's a no-brainer except
for the corporate media fascists who want to drag the last drop of blood
out of the body politic.

- Alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 21:29:30 -0700 (PDT)
To: Alan <>
Subject: pulling the plug on WiFi

This appeared a few days after we spoke on the phone:

Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Apr. 17, 2005

Political hacks may pull plug on WiFi cities

Hollywood's witty nod to a leisurely future -- a WiFi
beach -- just looks like another commie plot to the
Luddites running the show up in Tallahassee.

Legislation moving through the House and the Senate
would snuff out wireless and broadband networks
created by forward-looking cities in Florida.

High-speed computer access would be safely returned to
the whim of Verizon, BellSouth and other corporate
broadband carriers.

Private companies, not a bunch of renegade city
commissions, will once again decide when, if ever,
private citizens get this fancy broadband stuff.


Hollywood has already installed a downtown wireless
network and last week announced plans for a hot zone
along the beachfront. Orlando has a similar WiFi
network downtown. The legislation would essentially
shut them down. Cities, trying to barge their way into
the brave new world, would be reeled back into the old

The effect in smaller Central Florida cities could be
daunting. The city government in St. Cloud, dismayed
by a lack of commercial broadband service, established
a downtown wireless network last year. Gainesville,
Quincy, Monticello and Tallahassee have their own
city-run networks. Winter Springs, Port Orange,
Casselberry and New Smyrna Beach have plans to go
broadband. City leaders, complaining about a lack of
service from commercial carriers, say their cities
must have broadband to stay competitive.

Leesburg opened access to a 141-mile fiber optic
network to all of Lake County in 2001.
Telecommunications economist George V. Ford of Applied
Economic Studies in Tampa released a study this week
showing Lake County's hot-wired economy has since
expanded at twice the rate of comparable counties
without broadband. Ford told me, ``In nearly every
case, these cities first went to the private companies
and asked for broadband. And they were told no. There
were cities like Quincy, which built a business park
but couldn't get a private carrier to provide
broadband. So the city did it itself.

''The leaders in these communities know that if they
don't have broadband, they'd become ghost towns,'' he
said. Ford's study was funded by the Florida Municipal
Electric Association, which opposes the pending
anti-broadband bills. FMEA knows the next generation
of broadband will be accessed through the power grid
-- broadband via the electric wall plug. But if a
government broadband prohibition passes, that would
kill such a possibility, at least for cities that
provide electrical service to their residents.


The broadband legislation wouldn't precisely outlaw
city-owned networks. Rather they would give private
companies the right of first refusal, make cities wait
months or years while the companies made up their
minds, mandate studies, hearings and taxes, bar city
networks from going outside their municipal borders
and keep them from adding new customers. All adding up
to a death sentence.

Similar bills, mostly written by phone company
lobbyists, are pending in 10 other states. Supporters
complain city services amount to unfair government
competition for phone companies -- an ironic
supposition, at least in Florida where telephone
carriers raked in $83.7 million in federal subsidies
last year.

It's almost as if our state legislators are blissfully
unaware of our floundering status in the high-tech
world. The U.S. proportion of citizens wired to
broadband has now fallen to 13th in the world. And
what passes for broadband in the United States would
not be tolerated in, say, South Korea, where 70
percent of the population is wired into a system far
faster, with far greater capacity.

But our providers have discovered that protective
legislation is a hell of a lot cheaper than
fiber-optic cable.

The Luddites in Tallahassee just ask: ``Why Fi?''

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