This week, we learned that municipal Wifi is under discussion here in Dublin. Great. But there’s a sting, of course: it might not be “real” wireless, despite the great claims at ‘bridging the digital divide’. In fact, councillor Naoise Ó Muirí explained it well on RTÉ radio (RealAudio), when he agreed with the presenter’s suggestion that this would be “yellow pack broadband” and volunteered that services like VOIP should be blocked. Hello Net Neutrality Debate.
There’s also this laughable press release from IBEC’s telecoms forum, arguing that municipal wifi would lead to redundancies, network congestion and a flood to end all floods (note: not all of the above may be a true and accurate report of IBEC’s comments). Guess we have an idea of what lies ahead. If these lads had been around at the time of the first public libraries, they would have offered a great defence of the poor booksellers and their starving children. “Libraries won’t cure the digital divide. More bookstores will”. Heaven forbid if anyone should get a good public service system – obviously we are served brilliantly by the current broadband market in Ireland!
There’s an informative tender notice on etenders.gov.ie (not etenders.ie!) Note: apparently the key document is unreliable, but I can’t give a direct link, so email me if you run into trouble. And the Municipal WiFi website has oodles of information on how this could be done. Lawrence Lessig has been arguing that properly implemented municipal wifi can help solve the problem of anti-network-neutrality trends: recent Wired column, older conference speech.
The American University Law Review has a brilliant article on the legal issues relating to municipal wifi in the US:
Should be required reading for anyone involved in the Dublin proposals. This article from December’s Federal Communications Law Review has a good summary of how the debate has played out on that side of the Atlantic. Note that in the US, there have been moves (supported by the big market players) to try and ban local authorities from helping their citizens to get access to information. A worthy cause, as outlined above. The IBEC intervention indicates that this element of the American debate will form part of ours in the very near future.