Monday, December 05, 2005

Angry BellSouth Withdrew Donation

WaPo reported Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional phone giant BellSouth Corp. withdrew an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings that would have housed new police headquarters, city officials said yesterday.

According to the officials, the head of BellSouth's Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force. City officials said BellSouth was upset about the plan to bring high-speed Internet access for free to homes and businesses to help stimulate resettlement and relocation to the devastated city.

I imagine they were upset at the loss of potential business. Telephone companies have opposed similar free wireless plans in a number of other cities.
Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them..... Greg Meffert, the city's chief technology officer and a deputy mayor, said he is saddened that BellSouth finds the city's network so objectionable.
I am sad too, but is he surprised?
"It's a once-in-a-century opportunity to truly show the entire world what can be, instead of just what is, and help write future history in the process," Meffert said. "It's a damn shame they don't see that."
They do see it, they just want the money. If you had been buying your internet connectivity through them, they probably would have supported it.
The wireless network covers the central business district and the French Quarter, and the city plans to expand it as the people return.

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