Commentary: Municipal Wireless on the Rise

By Edward H. Baker  |  Posted 04-28-2006

This morning the New York Times reported that Suffolk County, on Long Island, is planning a free wireless service similar to the municipal services currently being worked on in Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere. But bigger: The plan would cover all 900 square miles of the county, even the beaches (only Chicago's 940 square-mile plan is larger, according to the Times).

This is good news for residents of the county, and I'm one of them. Try as I might, I have never been able to get DSL service there, or an explanation from Verizon, my telecom provider, as to why not. (This, despite their tireless, and very irritating, promotion of their supercheap DSL service.) Cable broadband just seems too expensive: We don't have, and don't want, the cable TV service that seems to be required to piggyback the broadband service on. So we've been stuck.

I assume plenty of people in the U.S. are in the same boat. And that's why I'm not sympathetic to the efforts by Verizon and other telecoms to outlaw municipal wireless as anti-competitive (even as they receive billions in federal subsidies every year). But what can you expect from a group of companies facing extinction at the hands of an Internet even they cannot control. Between cable and VoIP and municipal wireless and the consumer revolt against the notion of the nonneutral net, the writing is on the wall.

Yesterday's commentary from Edward Baker: Net Neutrality Suffers a Defeat in Washington