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Bell South Angered at New Orleans Free WIFI System – May Penalize The City

Hurricane Katrina Disaster T-shirts on sale on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, photo by Lorelle VanFossenAccording to a story in the Washington Post, Angry BellSouth Withdrew Donation, New Orleans Says, an agreement to donate a BellSouth building to the city, for the police force, courts, and other city offices, has been nixed due to the announcement that the city of New Orleans will launch a free wireless network to encourage people to return and help with communication throughout the city.

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According to the officials, the head of BellSouth’s Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force.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. 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.

I didn’t know that phone companies are trying to stop free WIFI networks around the country. I didn’t even know there were laws already in place to prevent them from being set up, free of phone company influences. What crap! Are the cable and television companies also a part of this silent attempt to stop free wireless communication without their hands in the till?

I hate conspiracy theories, but I want to be informed. I want to know why WIFI systems are so popular in some places and still behind the times in others and this may explain it. WIFI systems are incredibly cheap and easy to hook up and do so much good for the world. Especially for the traveling bloggers, like me, dependent upon anyone and anywhere I can find an Internet connection.

It’s time to pay attention, folks. Check with your local phone company and laws to see if this attempt by the Ma Bell conglomerates are infringing upon free or low cost WIFI access in your area. And write to BellSouth and tell them they are spiteful and mean to penalize an area that needs any encouragement they can get.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

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