Wi-Fi... Shades of the early cable days?

Chris Steins's picture
Bob Jacobson emails to say that Brian Deagon's article for Investor's Business Daily, "Cities' Wi-Fi Efforts Might Pose Threat To Cable, Telecom" is a good article and reminds him of "the early cable days!"

More cities are starting to manage Internet access much like they manage electricity, water and transportation services. That trend could cost cable and telecom providers billions of dollars in lost business.

As of July 1, 59 cities were running broadband Internet networks, up from 38 a year earlier, according to MuniWireless.com, which tracks this subject.

< rant on >

At one time, I might have argued that it wasn't quite fair to the telecom companies for cities and counties to provide... Internet access as an city-run infrastructure service. However, economics aside, I've recently been privy to the nastiness of how several of the big telecom (wireless, and wired) companies are treating their customers. Two quick examples:

  • AT&T will charge you $150+ for a 40-minute call from LA to Perth, Australia. Same call on Skype? FREE.
  • When a telecom company did some infrastructure work on the phone lines, a friend's DSL line was "accidentally disconnected". As soon as this happened the telecom company "took over" the line and provisioned it to their DSL service provider affiliate. Four weeks later, they still won't release the line.

Reading through the online forums this type of heavy-handedness is not unique. It's pervasive. I don't know if this type of behavior was evident during the Cable/Telecom wars of the 70s and 80s, but at the rate the telecom companies are going, they're not going to have any public support behind them.

< / rant off >

From the article:

The report says 32 cities have free wireless hot zones, where a Wi-Fi connection is available in public areas such as libraries and parks. Cities have also built Wi-Fi networks for public safety and support. Add these efforts to the more ambitious citywide wireless plans, and nearly 250 cities have some kind of Wi-Fi service, or soon will. That's double the number from a year ago, according to MuniWireless. Some analysts say city-run Wi-Fi could become the standard.

It can't come soon enough for me...
Chris Steins is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.


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