Lawrence Lessig presented an interesting argument in this month’s Wired that Verizon is working against the public with a recent decision in Philadelphia. Governor Ed Rendell signed into law a bill prohibiting the government from offering free Wi-Fi in their municipalities. In Philly, more than half of neighborhoods have no broadband, so the city planned to set up a city-wide free Wi-Fi zone to fill in the breach. The gov’s argument, bolstered by Verizon’s voracious campaign donations and lobbying, is that businesses shouldn’t have to compete with governments. Yet, as Lessing argues, we are happy with muncipal streetlights and water service, in spite of what may happen to private companies trying to offer the same thing.
The private market has failed the US so far in broadband, we are still ranked #13 in the world and many places in the US offer no high speed service at all. The solution he says is to encourage competition. Free wireless access doesn’t kill demand for the same access in private.