Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Louisiana has its priorities straight

The city of New Orleans is running a free wireless network. They have been running it since the immediate aftermath of Katrina. The network is based on hardware mounted on street lights. The wireless signal passes from street light to street light without a need for wires. It's just the thing for a city where the infrastructure was ripped apart. The city says it is necessary for the return of business.

So, of course there are people who want to shut it down. In particular, the telecommunications companies want it shut down. There is a state law — similar to laws in other states — that prevent government bodies from setting up competing networks. They are allowed to set up a 512 kilobit per second network in the case of a state of emergency. However, once the emergency is over the network has to be downgraded to 128 kps. Dial-up is at most 56 kps, though in Monroe Bellsouth was in no hurry to upgrade their voice lines, so we were lucky if we got 24000 bits per second. Note that 512 kilobits per second is still slower than DSL or cable.

Laws have been introduced into the state legislature in order to allow New Orleans' network to stay around, but legislators have said that they will be killed. Apparently this is due to the power of the telecomm lobby.

Here's the story on Wired News:

On the other hand, while the legislature can't give the damaged city of New Orleans free wi-fi internet access, they hope to make Louisiana the only state in the Union to have Daylight Savings Time all year round. Legislators say it will save energy and make the state more competitive. How they figure this is beyond me. Apparently being in the Eastern time zone in the winter will give us an edge, even though every state around us will be an hour behind. The sun doesn't come up until after 7 a.m. in December. That means kids will be going to school in the dark (not that it will be a hardship for most kids, as almost every child in the state is driven to school).

So, no free wi-fi in New Orleans, but a good chance we will be thrown out of step with the rest of the nation. Glad to see that the representatives of the state of Louisiana have their priorities straight...

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