Friday, May 05, 2006

"Free Wi-Fi Aids New Orleans Recovery"

For those following the saga of wifi in New Orleans will want to puruse a story that appears in Datamation, "Free Wi-Fi Aids New Orleans Recovery." It documents the utility of the wifi system during the immediate aftermath of Katrina and the role it's played in recovery. People talk about how much easier these networks are to get up and going and how much easier they are to expand as needs expand. You get a pretty good feel for how these factors work in a real situation by reading through the story.

Very clearly the ad hoc wifi network was one of the success stories in New Orleans' response to Katrina. Credit where credit is due: In its construction New Orleans, in at least one area, showed an ability to deal creatively with immediate disaster and to minimize the costs to citizens of recovery. That BS or Cox oppose this network and the investment it could bring to the recovery, is difficult to understand if you don't take into account that all they really care about is their own bottom line. The incumbents tried initally to legislate the possibility of municipal broadband out of existance. Their behavior in Lafayette, with push polls, economic intimidation, and delaying lawsuits demonsrated that their income was the real issue as did their earlier attempt punish New Orleans by playing politics over N.O.'s wifi with a proposed gift to the police force. BellSouth continues this tradition with a state-wide video franchise bill that would exempt itself from paying the franchise fees to provide video that cable companies already do and put current franchise money under state control. None of this demonstrates anything but that the incumbents are "bad actors" who can't be relied upon to act with any other interest but their immediate profits in mind.

I'm at a loss to understand why BellSouth or Cox should have the right to tell any city how they can use their own property and what benefits citizens of New Orleans are allowed to have from a network their city already owns. That it's "a law" isn't enough. Legislators should be encouraged to repeal bad laws--if they did a little more of that more citizens would respect the office they hold. The Local Government Fair Competition Act should be repealed. And failing that wireless networks, which have proven vital in hurricane preparedness and recovery should be exempted.

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