March 10, 2005
Free WiFi still endangered

Dwight is keeping up with Save Muni Wireless, which sadly reports that HB789 (PDF) has been changed, but not for the better:

One change actually broadens the ban to cover even more services. The original ban primarily protected the large phone companies. The revision extends further protections to the large cable providers.

The bill adds some small exceptions. New provisions will allow free public hotspots under limited circumstances. The change would allow the city to light up a library, but not a downtown block.

Exceptions are added for a number of obvious services, such as permitting e-government services and allowing libraries to charge out-of-area visitors to use their facilities. The presence of these ridiculous exceptions validates our claim that the ban is harmful and overly broad. It also illustrates the folly of this approach. The bill fails to exempt on-line library catalogs, for instance, so presumably the Austin Public Library would need to shut down that service.

The changes open up just one provision for community Internet. Municipalities will be allowed to setup networks to support "economic development activities" providing that specific legislation authorizes the project.

Sigh. If you want to know the reason why all of this is so stupid, read this Lawrence Lessig column, which sums it up neatly. Via By the Bayou.

UPDATE: More from In the Pink Texas.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack