February 03, 2005

Anti-municipality telecommunication legislation coming down the pike for Illinois 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:44 PM
A while back I mentioned that 2005 would be a pivotal year locally and nationally for communities, neighborhoods and municipalities to determine their own telecommunications future. SBC, fresh from gobbling up its big daddy, AT&T, is already manuevering next door in Indiana. Expect to see similar if not nearly identical legislation introduced very soon in Springfield that neuters the ability of a muni to provide advanced telecommunications services to its citizens, even if the market has ignored them or actively suppressed innovation and affordable prices. With the recent release of free and open source software that lets anyone deploy their own community wireless network---which runs great on low-cost and even recycled computer hardware: burn a CD, pop it in that old 486 PC lying in your closet, throw a cheap wireless card in it, and you're off---Illinoisans should be wary of laws that preempt their choice, because we've already seen what this looks like in Pennsylvania. Let's not turn out like Pennsylvania.

Word is, the bill won't be introduced until after a meeting of the Illinois Telecommunications Association sometime next week. But community telecom advocates need to be ready for a fight, and it won't be pretty. SBC has Emil Jones et al. in its pocket. There's not much of a political constituency for community wireless just yet. This may change soon ...

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