TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Regarding Local Government Offering Wireless ISP

Regarding Local Government Offering Wireless ISP

John L. Shelton (
Wed, 27 Jul 2005 12:19:38 -0700

I sent the following letter to Newsweek magazine after they posted an
editorial in favor of letting local government offer wireless Internet
access :

In your 2005, July 18 issue, Steven Levy wrote "Pulling the Plug on
Local Internet."

Mr. Levy suggests that it is right for cities to offer competitive
Internet services, perhaps because they can offer lower-cost options,
and don't "focus excessively on the affluent." Yet at the same time,
cities are actively fighting the same telcos to prevent them from
offering television service. (SBC, for example, is pushing state-wide
regulation to allow them to offer TV services, rather than having to
seek approval from each of thousands of towns.)

Government has no business making rules that it applies to others,
then "competing" in the same market. If a local government wants to
establish an independent competitive entity, it should bow out of
regulation. If it wants to regulate, then it shouldn't play. We
wouldn't accept a football game where the referees were playing as one
of the teams.

Our cities will best be served by open competition in all areas --
phone, TV, Internet, and others. Let government protect us from fraud
and force. Don't let government play favorites or compete without
independent regulation.


[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Although I do not entirely agree with
you, I can see the logic in what you are saying. (Here in the Digest
a couple days ago, I ran that article by Levy since it came through
on our RSS newswire feeds.) The problem as I see it is that SBC has
for a long time tried to do the very same things they now complain
about the municipalities doing; squelching the competition with very
low prices and very unfair tactics. For instance, here in Independence,
Kansas they have been having a price war with our 'local' phone
company for more than a year now: to 'win back' customers allegedly
stolen from them by Prairie Stream Communications (our local telco,
SBC has been giving away their service (the entire package except for
DSL) for $2.95 per month. The _only_ way you can get DSL is by signing
up with SBC. They (SBC) have stalled repeatedly on things like local
number portability; they have been caught in lie after lie with things
like reduction in price on DSL, Lifeline rates, etc. And although they
answer with a live person _immediatly_ on a special phone number set
up to woo back customers who have left them, once they have you back,
you (on future calls) go right into the voicemail queue with all the
hassles of complicated and complex billing, etc. Although in theory
you are correct, I am pleased to see them squirm a little as they
begin (hopefully) to realize there is no law saying people _have_ to
use their 'services'; get along quite nicely without them and there
are lots of other alternatives. PAT]

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