USAToday: New Orleans’ free Wi-Fi

Almost let this one slip by…and am grateful for a reader alert.

USAToday carried an interesting story on the front page of the money section Tuesday. I’m not sure how many legislators take the most widely read paper in the nation but I hope that lobbyists from Acadiana and New Orleans had the presence of mind to raid the coinboxes and hand out batches to the legislators. From the leading ‘graph:

More than half of New Orleans still doesn’t have phone or Internet access. But that isn’t stopping BellSouth from campaigning to shut down a free Wi-Fi service that has become a lifeline for thousands of residents, the city’s top technology officer says.

That should be enough to convence a few more legislator’s that Louisiana’s interests and BellSouth/ATT&T’s are not the same. (Though they could try just listening to their colleagues.)

But more interesting was the news that EarthLink has signed on to expand the service. Reportedly it will offer a free low-speed tier and a series of higher-speed ones for which it will charge. It will be interesting to how the deal is structured but I have to hope it doesn’t amount to a give-away of community resources–a concern that has emerged about a similar -sounding plan in Philadelphia.

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