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]