July 5, 2005 | By Donna Wentworth

What's Stupider Than Calling the Internet an "Information Superhighway"?

Proposing a federal law to stop local governments from filling the pot holes with free municipal WiFi:

Late in May, a member of Congress from Texas named Pete Sessions proposed a bill called the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act, which would prevent municipal governments from offering people free or low-cost Internet service. Why would an elected official want to bar cities from giving their residents quick and easy access to the Internet? That's easy: Sessions used to work for SBC, a telecom company that could lose a little business if cities started setting up local WiFi networks or Internet kiosks. I guess his old buddies in the network biz are more valuable to him than his constituents. It's sort of like a former contractor trying to ban government-sponsored road building in cities because asphalt companies might lose out. In the end, nobody can drive to work anymore.

Sort of.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it should. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) has a similar proposal that seeks to bar tax-funded weather services from making weather information easily available to...taxpayers.

Private actors often can do better in providing telecom services, but that's no reason for a federal ban on municipal WiFi. Local governments should be free to experiment with different approaches to see what works best.

For more on the fight over municipal WiFi, check out EFF Board member Lawrence Lessig's Wired piece, Why Your Broadband Sucks.


Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

A deep dive into XKEYSCORE, one of the NSA's creepiest spying tools: https://eff.org/r.c6hp

Jul 3 @ 3:12pm

Come to EFF HQ on July 8 for a book talk with author of "Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Tech" https://eff.org/r.i3fv

Jul 2 @ 4:57pm

EFF is turning 25! Here's the who, what, when, where, how, and—maybe most importantly—why of our celebration: https://eff.org/r.6dov

Jul 2 @ 4:51pm
JavaScript license information