Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Not Even in the Race

On the Media had an interesting piece on wifi recently (transcripts and audio here). As with any radio show, much of the detail gets left on the cutting room floor, but what's noteworthy about this piece is how much they managed to squeeze in. In particular, Bob Garfield begins:

You can't run an efficient business on a bad connection, and it's increasingly clear you can't run an efficient city on one either, not to mention educate students or support economic growth.

That's why some 300 American municipalities are looking to offer wireless service, or Wi-Fi
I think 300 might be low, but it's a telling number nonetheless. Why are so many communities looking to do something that is bound to get them in hot water with their incumbent Net providers? Could it be that despite all the claims to the contrary, the network services being provided are too little for too much (and too late)? Could it also be that communities do not want to wait only to find they have been left out of their incumbents' upgrade plans?

Economic benefits of true broadband are so important that it cannot be left to decision-makers who have fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders (as it should be), not the community. And overall, we are falling so far behind, we may never be able to catch up:

The dozens of ISP options in European cities have led to much lower prices for much faster service than what's offered in the U.S. And after leading the world in Internet access and affordability, the U.S. is quickly falling behind.

MICHAEL COPPS: We're 21st, right behind Estonia.

MICHAEL COPPS: And other countries are cleaning our clock and getting a lot of bandwidth out to their folks at a cheap price. We know that we're not in the competition.

Can we afford to not be in the competition?