Thursday, March 10, 2005


Great piece by Stanford's Prof. Lawrence Lessig. I completely agree. Cable and telecom have dragged this broadband thing through the mud and sandpits far enough. Broadband will hit 60% of U.S. households by the time my grandchildren reach their dreams of becoming an NBA player, PGA golfer, and AVP beach volleyball star (yes, i'm going to live my dreams through them). While it isn't good to compare with the Korean market, since the dense population and landscape is different than the U.S., there are a few things U.S. government entities can learn from the Korean government's initiatives in the late 90s.

I wonder what we can do to help push back against the industry giants and get governments involved in the push for broadband?

You'll be pleased to know that communism was defeated in Pennsylvania last year. Governor Ed Rendell signed into law a bill prohibiting the Reds in local government from offering free Wi-Fi throughout their municipalities. The action came after Philadelphia, where more than 50 percent of neighborhoods don't have access to broadband, embarked on a $10 million wireless Internet project. City leaders had stepped in where the free market had failed. Of course, it's a slippery slope from free Internet access to Karl Marx. So Rendell, the telecom industry's latest toady, even while exempting the City of Brotherly Love, acted to spare Pennsylvania from this grave threat to its economic freedom.

Let's hope this is just the first step. For if you look closely, you'll see the communist menace has infiltrated governments everywhere. Ever notice those free photons as you walk the city at night? Ever think about the poor streetlamp companies, run out of business because municipalities deigned to do completely what private industry would do only incompletely? Or think about the scandal of public roads: How many tollbooth workers have lost their jobs because we no longer (since about the 18th century) fund all roads through private enterprise? Municipal buses compete with private taxis. City police departments hamper the growth at Pinkerton's (now Securitas). It's a national scandal. So let the principle that guided Rendell guide governments everywhere: If private industry can provide a service, however poorly or incompletely, then ban the government from competing. What's true for Wi-Fi should be true for water.
(full article)

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