Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ISP Realism

Oooh, was I mad...I saw the headlines last night on Aaron Brown's CNN show, at the end of which he previews the front pages of newspapers. Last night, he showed the Star Tribune (the big newspaper in Minneapolis), and pointed out the headline, "Minneapolis going wireless." Ahhhhh!! Not another socialist pipedream.

But then I read the article online, and was relieved. The Minneapolis plan is very agreeable, and I think it approaches the problem of creating a citywide wireless network with a pragmatic, cost effective solution. From the article:

No tax money would be used for the Minneapolis wireless network, which would be paid for, built, owned and operated by the winning bidder on the city's proposal. That is a markedly different approach than in Philadelphia, where the city will own and operate a new Wi-Fi network.

Well, that's a relief. Now, I know government contracts are not the same as the free market, but the Minneapolis plan is a realistic way of accomplishing something that, once established, will help the city. In a way, it is sort of a market-based approach--the city needs the service, and whoever can do it for the cheapest will provide the service.

In addition to the political pressures, the city also needed an improved network that could speed up data traffic in its 47 main buildings and extend high-speed access to 300 other buildings...

The city also wanted to replace expensive cellular radio communications used by police cars with a cheaper and faster wireless data network. There also was a desire to provide broadband to an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the city's population that either isn't served by high-speed Internet access or can't afford it.

Okay, so the city's goals are two-fold:
  1. Provide more efficient communications between government buildings and organizations.
  2. Provide decently high speed internet access to those who "can't afford it."
Obviously, in a libertarian utopia, neither of the above two goals would be necessary. But, realistically, I think both of the above are acceptable...especially #1--I'm all for more government efficiency. Goal #2 is admirable, but government almost always does a bad job at charity, so I'm a bit more skeptical. Due to the nature of wireless internet, however, goal #2 can be accomplished essentially as a convenient byproduct of goal #1. So, why not?
All in all, the idea's not that bad--tax dollars won't be used to fund it (at least for now...you never know about the future) and it won't be owned or operated by the city. This seems like a pragmatic solution, and one that's not necessarily, in my opinion, in disagreement with libertarian principles.

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