Would you trust your critical business systems to a wireless network owned, deployed and supported by a municipality?
Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans is betting you will and today is rolling out the nation’s first municipally owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users. The idea is to get the city back on its feet by making it as attractive a place to do business as possible.
As reported in the Boston Globe, the system is scheduled to go live today in the central business district and the French Quarter and to be expanded over time.
Today’s move will add impetus to an already growing debate over whether it makes sense for localities to launch their own systems.
Cities around the country, including most notably Philadelphia, are studying the desirability and feasibility of deploying their own WiFi networks to help bridge the digital divide in low-income areas and to make their cities more attractive to business. Recently, Google offered to build a free WiFI system for San Francisco.
Not surprisingly, telephone and cable companies, including Verizon, SBC and Comcast, oppose the moves as unfair taxpayer-funded competition and have successfully lobbied several states to prohibit or restrict these networks.