“New Orleans’s New Connection”

The Washington Post gets a jump on the news by posting a story datelined Tuesday Monday night. And it’s good news. New Orleans has deployed its own municipal internet utility and is switching it on tomorrow.

From the article:

Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will deploy the nation’s first municipally owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users, part of an effort to jump-start recovery by making living and doing business in the city as attractive as possible.

Well, it’s not really true that New Orleans will be the first city to do this…maybe the first really enormous city but there are ton’s of other projects out there in towns and small cities.

It should be a real boost for the city. Of course, if Lafayette’s experience is any guide they’ll have to look out for BellSouth. BellSouth is bound to object; their one bit of bragging rights in what has generally been an uninspiring and uninspired rebuilding effort has been to provide New Orleans with a rudimentary WiFi setup. You have to know that this news is causing Bill Oliver, who is headquartered in New Orleans as the president of BellSouth Louisiana, considerable heartburn. Between Lafayette and New Orleans it can’t have been a good week for Oliver.

I wonder if BellSouth will really have the nerve to object to New Orleans showing a little spunk and self-reliance. In point of fact, New Orleans’ deployment is illegal. But excused under emergency rules:

Louisiana is one of those states, prohibiting any locality from offering Internet connection speeds of more than 144 kilobits per second, about twice the speed of dial-up but one-tenth to one-twentieth of what is typically provided via digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable-modem services.

The New Orleans system will feature 512-kilobit-per-second speed, which city officials said is the most the network can handle efficiently at first. Because the city is under a state of emergency, it can skirt existing law.

City officials said they will battle to overturn the 144-kilobit speed limitation that will take effect when the state of emergency is over.

Hey! Lafayette should join that battle. Nagin and Durel might make quite a potent team at the legislature and quite a photogenic pair for the national press. Nagin can brag about the self-reliance and willingness to try creative new things in the face of adversity that his system will demonstrate. Durel could step up and make a parallel speech. They could both complain about this state law that keeps them from promoting the interests of their people. They could happily demand “deregulation” and note that removing restrictions on who can enter the market could only help the long-suffering Louisiana consumer.

If you were a Louisiana legislator, desperate to find some way to help your hurricaned-ravaged constituents, smarting from the state’s image as a dependent step child and deeply resentful of the out of state corporations that are dominating reconstruction what would you do?

If we play our cards right this might turn out to be almost as good for Lafayette as for New Orleans.

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