Dianah Neff on Philly Wi-Fi (updated with NY Times Article)From CNET, by way of Philly Future Philly Chief Information Officer Dianah Neff wrote a column defending the Philly wireless internet project. As I have said before, I am a fan of this project in a big way, so I am not exactly unbiased.
Neff says some great stuff:
Tell me who among incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)--have deployed ubiquitous, high-speed wireless networks that support roaming/mobile capabilities. No ILEC. Who provides high-speed, broadband, ubiquitous services at dial-up rates for the underserved populations? No ILEC. Who is working to get equipment and training into the homes of low-income and disadvantaged portions of our community? Again, no ILEC.And then, there is this:
When was the last time they were elected to determine what is best for our communities? If they're really concerned about what is important to all members of the community, why haven't they built this type of network that meets community needs or approached a city to use their assets to build a high-speed, low-cost, ubiquitous network?
For all the money they've spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves. The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications.
Since the 1980s, ILECs have been talking about installing fiber as long as they were given incentives to protect their investments. Now, in Pennsylvania, they've been given another 12 years, and they promise to upgrade some share of the homes passed to fiber optics if, and only if, they don't have to let competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), Internet service providers or video program providers onto their network. (And by the way, let's prohibit governments from serving their community with low-cost Internet access to strengthen economic development in the neighborhoods, to help overcome the digital divide or to help families with children better communicate with teachers and the administration to improve their kids' education.)This is about forward thinking in Philadelphia. This is about potentially closing a small piece of the wide digital-divide. This is good, really good. This is, above all else, a win for the City and its residents. I have previously detailed why I think this is a crucial project for Philly. But, I just want to say that I think Neff, without knowing her at all, or frankly, what she generally spends her time on, is doing this city a great, great service.
(Update Thursday- 10:30PM:)
The New York Times article on the project is pretty laudatory. There are a few parts that I especially like:
City officials envision a seamless mesh of broadband signals that will enable the police to download mug shots as they race to crime scenes in their patrol cars, allow truck drivers to maintain Internet access to inventories as they roam the city, and perhaps most important, let students and low-income residents get on the net.
Experts say the Philadelphia model, if successful, could provide the tipping point for a nationwide movement to make broadband affordable and accessible in every municipality. From tiny St. Francis, Kan., to tech-savvy San Francisco, more than 50 local governments have already installed or are on the verge of creating municipal broadband systems for the public.
And, to answer an earlier question as to whether Comcast considers this a threat, I give you this:
Industry officials say that if the program takes off, it will inevitably take customers from providers like the Comcast Corporation or Verizon Communications.
"Is it fair that the industry pay tax dollars to the city that are then used to launch a network that would compete with our own?" asked David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia. "I don't think so."
This project could literally forever change how the country views the right to be online.