Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Easy Ed vs. Free Internet

Although it was last year that Ed Rendell shot down the 10 million dollar municipal internet connectivity project, the story is actually getting a little bit more national attention in the latest issue of Wired (read the editorial here).

The basic gist of Lessig's argument is that there are certain areas in which municipalities directly compete with private businesses, and it's a system that works just fine. According to Lessig, internet connectivity should be one of those businesses.

Now, it's easy to understand why this got shot down in Philadelphia... Comcast has a huge stake in internet connectivity, and they're one of the largest corporations that call Philadelphia home. But the fact that 50% of Philadelphia has no way to get broadband internet is a problem, especially since, in my opinion, universal internet connectivity has (or certainly will soon) become essential to the American notion of a "level playing field."

Does that mean it's time to start handing out free internet to everyone? Well, I don't know about that.. but let me ask you this: isn't universal access to information a goal that goes hand in hand with publicly funded schools and scholarship programs? Obviously, somebody somewhere is going to have to pay for it, but by signing a law prohibiting local governments from providing free WiFi in their communities, Rendell has limited one of the obvious candidates for the source of income to provide what should be a public service: your tax dollars.

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