June 27, 2005

Stopped Clocks Right Twice A Day… [7:36 am]

And Hiawatha Bray gets it right on occasion, too: Local WiFi plan turning into a federal case [pdf]

If Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is tempted to imitate the Philadelphia plan, he may have to clear it with Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican in the US House. This month, Sessions offered a thoroughly odd bill that would ban cities from running communications networks that compete against private-sector telecom companies.

Those of you who thought Republicans believed in states’ rights might be puzzled. If the leaders of Philadelphia or Boston or Sioux Falls want to dabble in WiFi, why should a Texas congressman make a federal case of it? Maybe it has to do with his previous career as an executive of SBC Corp., a large phone company that isn’t too eager to face fresh competition.

[...] What do these examples prove? Mainly, that it’s silly to try to resolve this by law, either state or federal. This is why we have 50 states; so the various regions can experiment with different solutions. Given the fact that half of US Internet households have broadband, it’s not clear there’s really a problem here. But Philadelphians are keen on making the effort, and the rest of us can learn from their experience. It may prove to be a fiasco, but I don’t pay taxes in Philly.

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