Let Governments build Free WiFi

I think most people will agree that free wireless access is a *good thing*. When is it not a good thing? Honestly.

Have a look at [Lawrence Lessig’s]:http://lessig.org article on Wired: [Why Your Broadband Sucks]:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.03/view.html?pg=5

Lessig talks about how the ramifications of Pennsylvania Governer Rendell’s passing of a law that prohibits government from building free wireless in communities, exempting [Philadelphia’s free wireless]:http://www.phila.gov/wireless/ , since of course Philadelphia is the only place that likes free wireless.


I might be being a little reactionary, but how does free wireless stifle competition? You can argue that people won’t be using the paid hotspots when free wireless is available, so… does this mean that we shouldn’t have public bathrooms? I mean, hey, a private company might want to build pay-per-use bathrooms at the park, and the government would be unfairly competing there, wouldn’t it? Oh, and darn it all, libraries compete unfairly with bookstores, don’t they? How dare they provide free access to books and newspapers!

Would government really be unfairly competing? I think Lessig is right on target with the idea that government should be able to compete to provide public services. Private enterprise is always free to compete with government (Lessig’s example: FedEx, UPS, DHL, Airborne Express vs. USPS), in order to provide better product or better prices. Isn’t this a good thing?

On a side note, I think free wireless would increase commerce and put more dollars into the economy than paid wireless. I buy a lot of stuff online, and I definitely buy more when access is a given. Online access makes me a much more efficient consumer. Whether increased spending is good for me or not is another issue entirely, but I think the quality of life definitely goes up, even if my savings account grows slower.

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