December 21, 2004

Preempt the preempters 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:47 AM
With a rewrite of the Illinois telecom act pending this year (the 2001 law expires in July), you'd better believe SBC is already maneuvering to extract maximum benefit from the public marrow. So far the news has been about local phone service regulation.

Something else to keep an eye out for: after Pennsylvania's shocking new law that gave Verizon the right-of-first-refusal over any effort made by any of that state's municipalities -- from townships all the way up to Pittsburgh -- to create their own broadband telecommunications infrastructure (save Philly, of course -- exempted from the bill because their proposed city-wide wireless data network was so heralded that Verizon had to threaten it, who then relented after Gov. Ed Rendell offered the sweeter fruit of the entire rest of the Commonwealth if they left poor Philly alone), and Ohio's recent introduction of similar legislation, look for fellow Baby Bell SBC to follow Verizon's lead and carve out their own preemption statute. They'll try to put the legislative kibosh on the growing community wireless networks (CWNs) movement (disclosure: that's the day job) that threatens their tired old battleship with cheaper, better services over vastly faster and higher capacity infrastructure that's community owned and operated, built on inexpensive and innovative technologies ("mesh" networking, and the 802.11 family of wireless standards: Wi-Fi if you're nasty) and access to our public airwaves (license-free use of the 2.4 GHz spectrum; thanks, FCC!).

Problem is, there's not much of a political constituency for CWNs, yet. Networks are just getting off the ground and municipalities are waking up to the notion of taking their broadband telecommunications future in their hands, at the same time as these preemption laws are popping up on state codes across the country. And of course, SBC has Springfield in a headlock. I'll have more on this over the next few months …

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