Thursday, December 02, 2004

Philadelphia's Government-owned Internet

Philadelphia is moving forward with its city-wide wireless network, to be the largest in the country. They've narrowly escaped special-purpose legislation crafted by Verizon which will block most Pennsylvania cities from doing this:

For the millions of people who cannot afford high-speed Internet access, some local officials think they've hit on the answer: Build government-owned networks to provide service at rates below what big telecommunications companies charge.

From San Francisco to St. Cloud, Fla., an estimated 200 communities are toying with community-owned networks, sparking a battle with cable and telephone companies over how public, or private, access to the Internet should be.

The companies are lobbying furiously to block such plans, fearful that their businesses would be hurt. Their efforts most recently paid off Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, where a new law bans local governments from creating their own networks without first giving the primary local phone company the chance to provide service.
In the borough of Kutztown, Pa., local officials built a fiber-optic network in 2000, following the path of the power lines that also are owned by the town.

Today, Internet service at speeds faster than those generally provided by phone and cable companies is available to residents and businesses beginning at $15 a month. The system also provides cable television service. More than 500 residents take advantage of the system.

Frank P. Caruso, the town's director of information technology, said he feels sorry for communities that will not be able to meet the 2006 deadline and thus be forced to deal with Verizon first.

"They don't realize that their throats have just been cut," Caruso said. "It's almost like Verizon is Big Brother." Caruso said that after the town began offering cable television service, the private provider dropped its price by 40 percent to compete.


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