November 1, 2006  ·  Lessig

Slashdot picked up a great post by Broadband Reports about the “experts” who have banded together to oppose muni-wireless. The gaggle of concerned experts make their case on a page at the Reason Foundation. Broadband Reports makes the obvious and important point about self-interest (many of the signers have a stake in the outcome) and inconsistency (oppose regulation except for regulation that bans muni competition). My favorite part of the statement was this:

Rules governing Internet use and electronic commerce should result from private collective action, not government edict.

I know some of these guys, so I hope they don’t forget that their hatred of regulation notwithstanding, antitrust laws still firmly regulate “private collective action.”

On the anti-muni-broadband movement, here’s a piece I did for Wired, also available as a podcast.

  • Scott Allen

    Forbes isn’t helping matters either. In their recent article about “The Ten Most Dangerous Online Activities”, they list using public wi-fi networks as #8. Their argument is that the guy in the next booth at the local coffee shop may be trying to hack into your laptop.

    I know that’s technologically possible, but realistically, is this a threat we need to be worried about with muni wireless networks?

  • Arin Crumley

    Damn, bummer, I read about that issue originally in wired and just listened to your podcast about what went down in philly. Sucks! In NYC I used to notice a lot more free wifi but I think people are using scare tactics to encourage everyone to lock up their internet connections. Obviously charging for wireless internet is something these companies really need, but man, It would be so awesome to just have internet everywhere!

    Also I want to show you a mash up video I made that your in. It’s a rough cut I plan to post on YouTube and hope to get featured Monday encouraging people vote because of the net neutrality video.


  • crf

    Why does reason claim that their is no evidence of “market failure” in delivering broadband, particularly in rural areas? I really doubt these guys would look for such evidence. Plainly there is a failure to provide services in a lot of areas, and there is no “regulation” which can be blamed for this non-existing service. The is mostly economic. It may shock reason to point out that many companies couldn’t care less about providing service to rural areas, when they can invest their limited capital in urban areas, which have an ever growing desire for internet bandwidth, to generate a higer return on capital than rural investment could ever generate. There is no law of capitalism or economics that says that needs [u]will[/u] be satisfied by the free market so long as there is a potential for a positive return on investment.

    With Muni BB, despite the fact that people would pay for broadband through their tax bill, there would still a huge free market in providing and running municipal broadband services, similar to free markets in the provisioning of other municipal services.

    Having municipal broadband isn’t necessarily going to stop other companies from providing service. They just need to provide a service that would be better or different than that of the municipality. I am sure some people, maybe the majority, think internet access is so important to the proper functioning of society that some basic level of ubiquitous service would be desirable, which a patchwork of private operators would have difficulty providing.

    The argument that is it is unfair to certain individuals having the collective pay for services of that only some members would take advantage of is true, but it may be that, as a whole, the service provided by the municipality would be cheaper than if every citizen individually purchased the equivalent basic services he wanted from private operators. This question is something politicians can rightly decide.

    Generally, government has always been an actor in the free market, in almost every sector of the economy. It is not true to claim, as reason does, that government provisioning of services represents “market failure”.