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February 14, 2005

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the municipal Wi-Fi debate

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Posted by Dominic Basulto

In the Wall Street Journal, Lee Gomes looks at the role of municipal governments in setting up city-wide wireless Internet networks. The problem that local governments are attempting to address, says Gomes, is that "the speeds at which houses can link up [to the Internet] has plateaued at current DSL and cable rates, badly lagging behind the speeds available in many other countries, notably in Asia."

With this mind, is government intervention of some kind required to bring broadband Internet access to its citizens? Philadelphia has already struggled with this issue, and now it appears that New York also will wrestle over the issue. Ordinarily, the Wall Street Journal would be aghast at the suggestion of government involvement. This case might be different, though:

"Incumbent players don't usually have an incentive to build these faster new networks because they are tied to their wired networks, which also deliver telephone and television services. And that's one reason that networking speeds in the U.S. are stuck in the rut they are in... It's easy to bash city governments as being full of maladroit bureaucrats eager to manhandle a new technology, and even economists who support municipal networks say cities shouldn't rush into them. But well-thought-out city plans could help everyone by acting as a catalyst and shaking up the status quo."

For more coverage on this topic, be sure to check out Corante's Future of Wireless series. This week, there's an inside look at a successful Wi-Fi experiment in Minnesota.

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