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Short-sighted win for Philly WiFi

Free the WiFi!
WiFi wants to be free!
As someone who's excited about the prospects for cities providing low-cost (or free) broadband access, the resolution of the wireless issue in Philadelphia is not nearly as positive as it might appear. While it is great that the plans for a WiFi rollout in Philly can go ahead, the fact of the matter is that the city had to negotiate with Verizon to get permission to make this service available to city residents.

The reason groups like MoveOn, Common Cause, FreePress.net, Muniwireless and local activists Philly for Change were working against Pennsylvania House Bill 30 was because of the power it gives communication monopolies to stop plans like the one Philadelphia hopes to implement. The fact that a last-minute deal had to be made in a back room between Gov. Rendell, Philadelphia and Verizon to get the telco's permission is awful — but we're supposed to believe it's a good thing.

Once the deal was struck with Verizon and the short-term issues had been taken care of, Gov. Rendell signed the bill into law. But the long-term issues remain: if Pittsburgh or Harrisburg or New Hope, Pa., want to implement a broadband rollout similar to the one in Philly, they'll be at the mercy of their local telco monopoly. Sure, Philadelphia residents will be okay, but the rest of the state is out of luck.

Score this one as a win for the corporate lobbyists.

Update: Micah Sifry has posted a good summary of this situation on PDF, finding several links I missed.

posted by Mike on Wednesday 01-Dec-04 at 01:59 PM

email to Rendell:

Governor Rendell,

I am writing to express my disapproval of HB30, legislation which you recently signed into law. To prohibit municipalities from providing information services is simply not in Pennsylvania's best interest. There have been success stories like Kutztown, in which the entire community has affordable, reliable, and fast broadband access.

Unfortunately, the rest of PA is out of luck. The legislation that the legislature passed, and which you signed into law, will ensure that. The fact is Verizon, and the other incumbent telcos are for profit corporations. They will deploy broadband across the state in a way that will maximize their profit, call it cherry picking if you like.

What is especially insulting to PA is the back room deal that was cut with Verizon and Philadelphia, recognizing full well how awful this legislation really is.

So congratulations, you have relegated PA to being an information backwater in the 21st century.

posted by Brian on Thursday 02-Dec-04 at 10:12 AM

This is an outrage!

posted by Will Payne on Thursday 02-Dec-04 at 08:57 PM


I actually just stumbled on this copy paste email, but figured it would be a good time to explain something. I'm 27 and I live in PA I've lived here most of my life and I am leaving in August for school and not returning to this state...yup chalk another one up on the board.
We grow up here and there is no culture, but consumerism. Unless you want the 1950's nuclear family suburbanite life PA has no culture to offer you. PA is not and has never been a forward thinking state it has always been the status quo. When you have put up with status quo your whole adolesence you hardly want to put up with more of the same throughout adulthood. Every kid I talked growing up said the same thing..."I can't wait to get out of PA." They still say this I've known people that were broke that train hopped just to get out of PA. Why? Take this wifi shit with verizon for example...........Other cities in the U.S. are enacting citywide free internet access (a savings of $480 to each voter a year) Sure Philly may be free, but what about me out here in Westmoreland county. You have given every young person a $480 a year reason why not to stay in PA, unless of course I want to live IN philly. So before we even start talking about better climates, beaches, better pay, high property taxes, high deman for PA workers in other areas, etc you have the two major reasons why young people leave 1. No forward thinking culture. 2. $480 a month internet cost.

posted by Rocco DeVenanzio on Tuesday 04-Jan-05 at 01:55 AM

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