Ma Bell To Shut Down New Orleans WiFi

One of the surprising acts of compassion and competency that came out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was that the city began providing a free WiFi service to business owners and residents whose phone service had been wiped out. The 512 kbps service allowed many business owners to begin struggling back to their feet and corporate sponsors like Yahoo and Google were in discussion to expand the service in the coming months.

Well, no longer. Telecommunication lobbyists from Bell South have put the lean on New Orleans, demanding that the free service be outlawed. Apparently, it violates a law that prevents the public sector from competing with the telecommunication sector. By law, then, cities can provide no more than a 128 kbps service to citizens.

The vendors, the BellSouths of this world, are not only going to force us back, making our existing Wi-Fi illegal, but also they want to close a loophole for emergencies so that we would not do this again,
says Greg Meffert, New Orleans’ chief information officer. But Greg’s no lily-livered pansy.
If I have to go to jail, I guess I will,
he said.
If they really want to play that game, I guess they are right. But we simply cannot turn off these few lifelines we have to our city and businesses.

No, they aren’t right. Compassion. Extenuating circumstances. The lives, businesses, health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of New Orleans citizens. These are all things that trump bullshit laws and selfish, self-serving corporations. Bell South is right when they decide to replace the system on their own dime out of the goodness of their vile black hearts. But… of course… they won’t do that, because where’s the profit margin?

Wi-Fi Fight Brews in Big Easy [Red Herring]

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  1. AcidReign says:

    …..The city’s not making any money off of it; how can it be competition?

  2. zingbot says:

    This makes me so angry and makes NO sense. These telco companies act as if they OWN the right to be the sole supplier of something that is increasingly necessary and sometimes, in the case of New Orleans, absolutely urgent.

  3. Bubba Barney says:

    I find it interesting how AT+T pretty much shriveled up and died, and now they are back merging with LECs to become a big monopoly again.

    They are trying to take over America.

  4. rikomatic says:

    This is just par-for-the-course for the telcom companies activities all over the US trying to keep municipal wifi and community wifi from competing with their over-priced offerings.

  5. OkiMike says:

    There was an interesting article in “Wired” a number of months ago about this. The point was, thankfully, that in the coming future internet access will be seen as a human right and the failure of the government to provide wireless for free will be similar to not providing trash pickup for the city.

    New Orleans has shown us the obvious. I hear there are a number of other cities/public college campuses where free WiFi is in place.

  6. Jimbo says:

    Typical. Folks doing recover in Louisiana and Mississippi are using EVDO cards and routers to provide limited range WiFi access.

    At some point these companies will come to grips wit the fact that broadband access is a loss leader, not something they can stake their quarterly profits on.

    http://government.zdnet.com/?p=2074

  7. Battle says:

    Just like a corporation…..squeeze the little life, that there is in this city, out until the last penny!

  8. Jonnobot says:

    To tell you the truth, the free public WiFi service here never worked that well for me anyway; I live a few blocks outside of the French Quarter and was never able to get a signal at home – and it was weak even when I took my laptop places where the service was supposed to be available.

    Still, BellSouth’s attitude is inexcusable. Yet another reason why I’m switching to Cox for my internet access ASAP.