Big article in the NY Times today about Philadelphia’s plan to roll out a city-wide wireless network. It wouldn’t be free, but it would be cheaper than what the cable and DSL companies charge, and the city would offer larger discounts to students and low-income residents. Comcast, which is actually based in Philly, and its competitors are steamed.
The article goes on to talk about a bunch of small towns in places like Kansas that have put in place a high-speed network when the cable and phone companies wouldn’t. But Philly is different since its goal is plainly to make high-speed access accessible to people who can’t afford it now—even if that means undercutting local companies.
To me, the article dances around a very interesting point: high-speed Internet access has a chance to be the next healthcare—something that some people think is a right and others a privilege. I imagine that as a society we are still a couple of years away from asking ourselves what we think. But this is my blog, and I can ask whatever I want. So, is high-speed Internet access a right? If so, why, what benefits does the ability to get online carry that make it one? And regardless of whether you think it is a right or a privilege, if a government entity like a city can offer cheaper access than private companies, should it?