BayouBuzz’s Steve Sabludowsky posted a story yesterday that is worth pointing to here. In a story titled “Louisiana Faces Most Important Issue In Legislative Session On Monday” he makes the case that Monday’s house commerce committee vote on freeing wireless communications from the Local Government (un)Fair Competition Act is the most important piece of legislation this season. That’s a pretty dramatic claim but he makes a good case.
The immediate issue is emergency preparedness–the Fair Competition Act prevents cities from using city resources to build public networks that are used to provide services directly to the public–whether free, paid, or emergency-based. New Orleans is evading the law by ignoring it during the “emergency”– a dicey move at best and strictly time-limited. The city would like to continue to offer free wifi service to its beleaguered residents but BellSouth and Cox are standing in the way of a partial repeal.
New Orleans’ need is critical but the need across Louisiana and especially south Louisiana is chronic as Sabludowsky documents. We simply don’t have a decent emergency communications network in place. Neither does the rest of the country as 9-11 demonstrated but in our case the need is utterly predictable. There will be another hurricane, and another, and another. We need to be free to take care of our own. No emergency service is profitable and the incumbents are NOT going to do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves and we have to be allowed to defray the cost however we please–after all it is our resources and we bear the costs both monetary and social. The state should stand out of our way–as they stood out of our way before the incumbents had this odious law passed.
I can add this personal note: I worked at the Cajundome after Katrina and Rita and modern telecommunications, when they came back up, were immeasurably valuable in the immediate aftermath of the storms. Part of what Lafayette Coming Together did at that time was put in VOIP phones, a WiFi node, and a computer lab with an internet connection. Members helped rework the dome’s network infrastructure to handle new traffic and stabilize the existing framework. All this was not as visible as other relief efforts but without them the Cajundome would have worked much more poorly and the evacuees would have had a much more difficult time locating resources. Communications is absolutely crucial.
Is there any more important issue on the Legislative agenda than saving lives, saving parishes and saving our state?
The article closes with this plea.
Here are the members of the House Commerce committee. They must know you want the best protection possible. http://house.louisiana.gov/H-Reps/Cmte_CO.asp
Please contact them now. Please attend the hearing on Monday. The lives we save, might be our own and if we fail to set up every means to communicate when we have had a year to do so, Lord help us because Congress won’t. Please forward this column to your friends and business associates. For the record, I am not being paid by anyone for writing this. I have written this column because I truly believe this is the only way to save Louisiana and Plaquesmines, St. Tammany, Orleans, Jefferson, Cameron, St. Bernard and other parishes in the direct path of the storm.
He’s right about all that too…please let your legislators know that the people are watching and that they care whether or not their representatives allow local people to do for local people with the state stepping in to forbid it because a couple of contribution-wielding corporations wants to protect what they imagine to be “their” future profits.
It’s our state.