BellSouth to New Orleans: Let them eat cake

BellSouth Robot

The mission of The Emergency Email Network(sm) states:

“Provide notification to citizens of local, regional, national and international emergencies utilizing the Internet and electronic mail (email) in a secure and expedient manner”

© 1999 The Emergency Email Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

…which is quaint, presupposing that during a disaster, you’ll actually have some form of internet connectivity. Ironic, given that this service (complete with robot teleaid) is linked to from the BellSouth website and that they’re suing the city of New Orleans to prohibit them from offering free 512KBPs wifi to its citizens. Something about the government not competing with private industry.

Okay, well, whatever. Clearly they have to pay the mortgage and clearly competing with the hurricane-ravaged government of New Orleans is a burden no monopoly company should have to deal with:

“Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition,” says the story. “Some states have laws prohibiting them.”

Yeah, alright, them’s the rules and all, ain’t they? I mean, Google has to abide by Chinese law in China…

MuniFiedSuch as it’s the case that the government’s been neutered from providing adequate network services to its constituents, it strikes me that it might just be time, oh, I dunno, to get up and make our own network? And hey, the work’s alreeady begun with community mesh projects like CUWireless and SFLan. So get on a bus and head to the upcoming National Summit for Community Wireless Networks. And add your thoughts, resources or capabilities to the shiny new MuniFied wiki.

I have barely a clue about the technical ins and outs of wifi, but if I know one thing, it’s that we can’t wait around and rely on the public or private sectors to get it right, make it open, make it free and then guard against bullshit maneuvers like BellSouth’s taken against the very communities that need this kind of connectivity the most.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

2 thoughts on “BellSouth to New Orleans: Let them eat cake”

  1. Pingback: Licence to Roam

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