WTF – Do they think NOLA is back to NORMAL?

The fight against Municipal Wifi efforts has reached the streets of NOLA, and its not going to be pretty. I missed this piece last week, but am glad Eran over at brought this to my attention. The Telco’s are understandably not happy with cities who want to offer free WiFi services which would compete for customers of their services, but are they really fighting the local government in an area where they can not even provide service to half the population?

Red Herring has an interview with Greg Meffert, the New Orleans CIO who opened up the city’s WiFi mesh to all residents for free. While the telcom lobbyists fight to get it shut down, Greg vows to fight on until they throw him in jail. Now with a real taste of freedom (VOIP anyone?), there is no turning back for the city’s small businesses and the returning residents who are struggling to rebuild. Internet access is proving to be a key public utility and cities who want to help bridge the digital divide are seriously considering this same sort of move all across the country.

Given the situation in New Orleans, perhaps the Oil Industry lobbyists should step in to fight for the rights of the city against the Telcoms. Or better still, maybe someone in the Bush administration can put some pressure on these folks to back off. It would be a small token of apology for the incompetence that they have demonstrated on so many levels, but it sure will go a long way toward helping the city rebuild the local economy. If the legislature stands up for the rights of the big corporations and ignore the needs of the countless small business owners that serve as the backbone of the economy, it shows how corrupt politics really are in the south. The legislature should be rewriting the laws to allow for such provisional use – the camel’s nose is already in the tent. Instead they are perhaps thinking about the next elections and trying to figure out how to fund their campaigns without the contributions of BigCorp.

A good synopsis of Greg’s story can be found over at Jeff Pulver’s blog. I wish I had known Greg was here in San Jose at the VON conference a couple of weeks ago because I would have made it down there to talk to him. Now I will hopefully get to Skype with him in advance on the upcoming BrainJams event down there. If there is anything more we can do to help you Greg, let us know.

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