Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.
[…] City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.
As much as I think BellSouth is the spawn of Satan with their crap service, they don’t deserve to get stabbed in the back by Nagin over donations in good faith. Withdrawing may be a bit harsh though over the cockamamie free WiFi scheme that may die due to bad publicity.
Update: A few of you seem to disagree with me on this, and I’m rather confused.
I must have missed the memo describing how the best course of action in recovery is to advance the ideology of socialism and free government-owned Internet. The fact is, if BellSouth or any other company had worked out a deal to give free wireless on their dime (not the taxpayers of New Orleans), I would have no problem with this — but that’s not the case here.
Instead, the mayor is taking equipment that was donated (the only silver-lining in this story) and stating that he will give away free WiFi, private initiatives be damned. And I think that is wrong.