Rampant Corporatism in New Orleans


Seen on Yahoo! News:

NEW ORLEANS - A showdown may be looming over a free wireless Internet network that New Orleans set up to boost recovery after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the city.


The system uses hardware mounted on street lights. Its "mesh" technology passes the wireless signal from pole to pole rather than through Wi-Fi transmitters plugged directly into a physical network cable. That way, laptop users can connect even in areas where the wireline phone network has not been restored.

That's a really clever way of doing it. Simple, practical and cheap.

Hundreds of similar projects in other cities have met with stiff opposition from phone and cable TV companies, which have poured money into legislative bills aimed at blocking competition from government agencies.


Bills to allow New Orleans to keep the network operating full-time at 512 kbps failed during a recent special legislative session. Several similar bills are pending in the current regular session, but Meffert says city lobbyists give them little hope of passage because of opposition from the telecommunications lobby.

"We've been told in no uncertain terms those bills are going to get shot down," Meffert said.

So something which is helping to rebuild the city is being threatened so that large corporations can make more profits.

David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox Communications Inc., a major telecommunications provider in New Orleans, said the company backs the state's Fair Competition Act, which would end the city's legal authority to continue operating the system at full speed after the state of emergency ends.

"We believe the Fair Competition Act was established to provide safeguards for private industry," Grabert said. "Efforts to repeal it do raise concerns."

BellSouth Corp. says it does not comment on pending legislation, but its regional director for southern Louisiana, Merlin Villar, denies the company's trying to shut down the city's system.

"The law does not prevent New Orleans or any other local government from providing Wi-Fi service," Villar said in a statement.

Source: Big Easy May Face Showdown Over Internet

Right, so it's all about fair competition, not about profiteering, huh? If it were really about competition, the Telcos would just provide a faster Wifi service and win customers from the city's slower service that way.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on April 7, 2006 9:00 AM.

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