Thursday, June 09, 2005

Chasing Every Dime
Certain ideas seem self-evidently good. One of them is community WiFi. Many communities, such as Madison, are offering such service. It can make coming downtown more attractive--bring your laptop and hang out in the coffee shop or on a park bench for a whole afternoon. It can also help bridge the digital divide people used to care about--in this case, between people who can afford high-speed access and those who can't. Who could have a problem with that?


Daily Kos reports that a congressman from Texas has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for municipalities to offer free wireless networks to citizens. The telecommunications companies (many of whom have been pushing similar legislation at the state level in various places) scream that such municipally funded competition is unfair, and so it must be stopped. This idea is out of the same playbook as Rick Santorum's bill introduced last spring to keep the National Weather Service from handing out its information free, when there are perfectly good private providers who could make money by selling it.

We must not stand in the way of a company's ability to make money, must we? How will America remain great if our multi-billion dollar corporations are not permitted to pursue profits unfettered by antiquated notions of the common good? If there's a dime to be made, it's wasteful if nobody makes it. Remember, if corporations can't control everything to their private advantage, then the terrorists win.

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