Dissatisfied by private Internet providers’ service or speed, cities from Lancaster, Pa., to Boulder, Colo., have sought to build their own networks to provide upgraded, and in some cases, free service to residents. In turn, providers such as Time Warner and Comcast, among others, have complained to state lawmakers about unfair government competition….This year, Wyoming became one of 12 states that restricts public broadband Internet, joining Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Legislation proposing restrictions in North Carolina is in the committee phase but has inspired opposition from cities, consumer advocates such as the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group and tech companies such as Google. The debate also has caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who has drafted a bill to keep states from putting up barriers to public Internet. “Broadband is every bit as essential as electricity was when it was emerging 100 years ago,” he said. One of the state legislators Boucher wants to stop, Rep. Drew Saunders, also drew a comparison to the utilities of the past. The Democratic chairman of the N.C. House Public Utilities Committee said the bill he introduced this year would apply 21st-century technology to the principle that municipalities shouldn’t compete with industry.
Read this article from USA Today
Municipal Wi-Fi: A Failure To Communicate from Business Week
American Wi-Fi gets off to a bad start from the New Scientist online
Muni Wi-Fi hits wall of economic and political realities from ComputerWorld
Bringing public Wi-Fi to small-town America from C|Net
Facing economic realities of muni Wi-Fi from C|Net
City wi-fi plans under scrutiny from the BBC
Coming soon could be a wireless broadband world in which consumers get to pick any smartphone or other device and load any software on it — and not have to take what the wireless carrier wants to sell. That’s the goal of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, who will propose sweeping new rules for wireless airwaves the government is auctioning early next year. The 700 MHz spectrum, being vacated by TV stations as they go digital, is coveted for its ability to penetrate walls and other obstacles. Under Martin’s proposal, to be circulated in the agency as early as today, mobile services in these airwaves would have to allow consumer choice. “Whoever wins this spectrum has to provide … truly open broadband network — one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services for consumers,” Martin said in an interview Monday…..The FCC chairman said he has grown increasingly concerned that the current practices “hamper innovations” dreamed up by outside developers. One example: mobile devices that also can use Wi-Fi, such as a home network or airport “hot spot,” for Internet access. “Internationally, Wi-Fi handsets have been available for some time,” Martin noted. “But they are just beginning to roll out here.”
Read this item from the USA Today
The government-mandated shift from analog to digital television will allow local broadcasters to provide better picture quality and more programming. The move will also enable a more far-reaching benefit: The airwaves that broadcasters will no longer use for TV signals after Feb. 17, 2009, can be auctioned off for other important uses, potentially raising billions of dollars while encouraging technological and commercial innovation…That’s why the FCC should require that, for at least a portion of the spectrum, the winning bidder make its network available on a wholesale basis. Such a requirement would open the door for independent competitors to offer wireless broadband service over a leased network.
Read this item from the LA Times. Previously from WNM: All things “spectrum.”
One of those conditions is that anyone who wants high-speed access will have to pay roughly $25 per month for it. So the only free wi-fi will be slow and spotty. Another condition is that Google will provide the software side of this free wi-fi network, potentially serving up location-based ads and keeping track of where people are when they log on the network….Just for the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that EarthLink does manage to deliver wi-fi to low-income communities and that members of those communities can afford to get wi-fi-ready computers. Given that there are so few privacy protections in the EarthLink contract, I worry that we may close one digital divide only to open another….Already, it’s easy for a company like Google to track what users do online and sell that information to the highest bidder. What happens when companies link that capability with the ability to know where users are physically when they log onto the wi-fi network? We might see a new era in racial profiling, where Google or companies like it sell information to police about what people in black neighborhoods are searching for online. If anybody does a suspicious search for “drugs” or “the Nation of Islam,” that person could easily become the object of a fishing expedition by police.
Read Annalee Newitz’ article Is Digital Racial Profiling on Tap? from Alternet
“What good is access to the Internet if you don’t have a computer, laptop, Game Boy or something else that you can use it with? And if you are new to the Internet or to searching online, how can you make sense of the zillions of hits you get when you’re doing a search.”
Read this article from SearchCIO.com
When Time trumpets “community” and “collaboration,” beware that their next issue may feature their favourite twenty-something online billionaires. When the claim is that “the new Web is a very different thing… bringing together the small contributions of millions,” behold the beauty of the long tail – but note, too, the reverse. Proprietary content is growing like a Paris Hilton video gone viral, with firms like Gartner, Forrester, Yankee Group, IDC and McKinsey & Co. charging fat fees for specialised content of keen interest to deep-pocket customers. As an academic researcher, I am continually impressed by the excellent online databases that are (according to the email marketing, sometimes highly accurate) available for $2,995.00. C’mon guys. I’m a scholar. And what happened to “openness” and “community”?…The point is not that “closed” beats “open,” but that capitalism accommodates both. Rules need not be changed to embrace the revolution. Markets thrust revolutions upon us, boldly and magnificently, far more often than we care to remember.
Read The global village and the madness of e-crowds from the Financial Times
When Windom’s dominant phone company, Qwest, decided against setting up a broadband network a few years back, Dan says the town had a choice: get with the digital revolution on its own or be left in the dust. They chose to build Windomnet. It launched a little over a year ago and it cost close to 10 million dollars. But Olsen says towns without a strong telecommunications back-bone don’t have much of a future. “Rural communities are shrinking because the jobs aren’t there. You’ve got to go to the cities for the jobs. Well, what does big city have that we don’t? It’s infrastructure you need to have the telecom part of it.”…
Dan Olsen estimates that almost half the town is now using broadband. It costs about 35 dollars to get hooked up. And experts say this kind of access will soon be the norm. As the cost of connecting goes down and more rural towns get broadband capabilities, the digital divide will eventually disappear. But even here in wired little Windom there’s a new divide forming. Not one of access, but one of choice.
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