New Orleans batting for Wi-Fi

New Orleans comes out guns blazing against the conventional telecom companies. Its recent city wide wifi network set up after Katrina needs to be disbanded if the telcos could have their way.

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. [ link ]

Calling the network vital to the city’s economic comeback, New Orleans technology chief Greg Meffert is vowing to keep the system running as is, even if it means breaking a state law that permits its full operation only during emergencies.

City wide Wi-fi is fast becoming a possibility in terms of economy and technology. Already there are initiatives in the Bay Area, Philadelphia and other smaller cities to deploy city wide wifi internet access for the citizens of that city. This would bring affordable broadband internet access to all.

New Orleans, after the Katrina rampage, set one up as a means of communications. That was the only way to go, as repairing the conventional land infrastructure would take time and money.

The system, established with $1 million in donated equipment, made its debut last fall in the wake of the hurricane disaster. It’s the first free wireless internet network owned and run by a major city.

But if telecom companies could have their way, they would force you to use the internet, only if they can supply it over your telephone or cable line. And of course they will charge you an arm and a leg for it and then limit your downolad and upload speed, and of course dictate what you can and cannot use it for.

But a state law, passed two years ago in response to other attempts to establish government-owned internet systems, dictates the network can run at 512 kbps only as long as the city remains under a state of emergency — a declaration still in place more than seven months after the storm.

Once the state of emergency is lifted — and no one has said when that might take place — state law says the bandwidth must be slowed to 128 kbps.

Meffert says the reduction will make the service virtually useless for businesses and others trying to re-establish commerce in the city.

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.

As one commenter on the site says

with laws like that, it’s no wonder the US are the laughing stock of the wired (and wireless) world!! overinflated prices, NO competition despite what the corporations say… Yes broadband penetration has risen in the past months, but it still costs up to 100% more in the US relative to Europe to get proper broadband, and still, speed is miserable! ie in the UK or France, 20Mbps access will cost on average 30/35 dollars a month…

This is another example of how valuable money and time is wasted in fighting progress and recovery. Why cant we have politicians who have brains. Why is that so difficult in this the greatest contry in the world.