The iPhone Hearings – Free the iPhone

Free the iPhone

Sign the petition!

The iPhone has set the stage for the future of mobile Internet — but bad policies allow companies like AT&T and Verizon to shackle great gadgets to their closed networks.

To free wireless Internet, the FCC and Congress must use the 700MHz spectrum auction to create an open network that gives consumers:

1. The freedom to use whatever device we want on any network.

2. The freedom to choose among many providers in a competitive wholesale marketplace.

3. The freedom to access any content or services we want through our devices.

These true open access standards should apply to the entire wireless market.

Where is the WiFi?

At a recent council meeting the Chapel Hill IT Director presented information about a WiFi pilot project. One council member asked How will citizens know where it is? How will we know when its up? The Mayor asked the IT Director to work with the Town Information Officer. A good first step. I subscribe to the Chapel Hill eNews. (A email list.) I wonder what percentage of Chapel Hillians do?

For this pilot project to work not only do the WiFi hot spots need to be where people will be but the Town needs to tell people where they are. A press release will help but it won’t be enough to encourage full participation.

Here are a few ideas for getting the word out. I hope that if the Town is really interested in the success of this pilot that they’ll consider these options. What ideas do you have? Please leave them in the comments.

First, mark the locations clearly where open public WiFi is present. The Town of Carrboro uses a internationally known symbol for an open wifi node.
There is a symbol like this on the door of the Century Center as you head towards the Cybrary. Still this bit of iconography is a bit geeky so some may be confused by it. I think english AND spanish signs that say; Public Wireless Internet Access Available Here, would be good.

Second, plot the WiFi hot spots on a map. Google maps are incredibly powerful tools that are free to use. Last year I created a map for local WiFi called Chapel Hill Wireless. It has pins on a map that you can click on and learn more about the spot. I’ve included WiFi from both Towns and from local businesses. (Sadly UNC’s wifi is NOT on this map. That network is closed to most citizens.) Since this map’s creation we’ve also gotten maps for other towns such as Durham Wireless and Asheville Wireless.

Third, hold events at the WiFi locations. Work with local tech groups like BlogTogether and University user groups to have lawn chair parties within range of the WiFi. I suggest people need to bring their own chairs because it looks like the majority of the pilot project will be conducted in parking lots. Sorta hard to sip coffee and talk to friends and family on asphalt. But I plan on doing just that.

I am sure there are even more creative ways to let people know about these new public resources. As I said in my comments before the council success of public WiFi relies on two way communication with people more than technology. WiFi for people before parking meters!

Cross posted from Orange Politics.

Three Meraki Minis

[flv: 320 240] Three Meraki Minis just arrived. I’m going to place them around and see how well they work. Supposedly they’re easy to install and set up. This could be key for rapid network deployment. Man.. they are really small! More video about this project later.

Note: I shot this video using my Canon Elura 100. It was recorded to a 4GB SD card. (no tape) I then uploaded it to my laptop. Trimmed it. Then converted it to an flv file. (flash video) Thanks to the FLV Embed plugin and WordPress publishing this video was pretty quick.

Chapel Hill WiFi Pilot needs different Hotspots

Tonight Tomorrow night the Chapel Hill Town Council will hear a staff proposal for a WiFi pilot project. This project has been a long time coming. One of the first reasons it was proposed in 2005 was to increase equal access to the Internet for all citizens. Former Council Member Edith Wiggins made it clear that if WiFi were to be offered to any part of the community it should include Pine Knolls and Northside. Here is a video of all five locations that will be proposed. None of them are in Northside or Pine Knolls, none will be available indoors, and three of them are in parking lots.
Continue reading “Chapel Hill WiFi Pilot needs different Hotspots”

More Indy coverage of HB1587

Fiona Morgan writes another great article about HB1587. She covers the important parts of the last vote in the NC House Public Utilities Committee meeting well. I know because I was there.

Here is one part I didn’t know about. From Anti muni-broadband bill moves forward

There are still many questions about the bill’s impact. According to legislative staff, it would not affect free Wi-Fi service, as it only applies to services provided for a fee. But it could affect public-private partnerships, or any service that “provides a financial benefit” to a local government.

I remind people that the foe we are dealing with does not have a history of honest deal making. Not to mention legislative staff are not law makers. Either way you look at it I WANT my local government to have the option of making money. Wouldn’t that be better for them to be self sustaining that have a big tax increase? Not to mention that giving away resources cost money. I am all for free WiFi for the people but we must have options to pay for that needed service. HB1587 would completely stop local governments from getting into the business of helping its citizens. For what ever reason.

The sad fact is many local governments in North Carolina are not as forward thinking as the City of Wilson. The technology involved in broadband is complicated. Council Members, Alderman, and Mayors are often times not technologist. We need more geeks out there to help enlighten our Representatives. Local, State, and National.

NC HB1587 is still bad

Yesterday the NC House Utility Committee [excel file of emails] meet and discussed HB 1587, “The Local Government Fair Competition Act”. Turns out lots of people showed up and spoke in favor and against the bill. So the committee vote was delayed until Wednesday June 6 at 10am. Here is a synopsis of the meeting I received:

Your emails and phone calls are working! The Public Utilities Committee delayed vote on HB1587 one week, after the industry and a few members of the public spoke. The Committee Chair, Saunders (Mecklenburg) introduced a new version of HB1587 on site, advocated to push the bill to the Finance Committee with a yes vote, and then called off the vote after hearing a number of questions from his committee members (Harrison, Bryant, Coates, Holmes, McComas) and short public comment (Exec Director, North Carolina Telephone Alliance, Mayor from Mooresville, Freedom Works (industry), and Action Audits (Nash County, TJCOG, SEATOA). Saunders will reconvene the Public Utility Committee for a vote next Wednesday, June 6, ROOM 1228, LEGISLATIVE BUILDING. Please repeat your emails to committee members (attached) from your communities. Please repeat your phone calls and please come and speak on behalf of your community. Your members need to understand how this bill hurts the communities they represent! Only that will give them the leverage to vote against the wishes of the Chair.

One result of this meeting was an amendment to the Bill. I think it was in response to many localities who have already invested a lot of money in the creation of municipal networks. (fiber for voice, video, and data) In short a way to grandfather in these communities and protect them against the terrible new rules this bill would impose. Good first concession. But not enough.

This is really bad news for Chapel Hill and even Carrboro. In order to be exempt from the bill the locality would have to be deemed a utility by the rules set in this bill and other laws governing utility regulation. To my knowledge Chapel Hill wouldn’t qualify. (I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Just one citizens interpretation.)

It appears the new parts of HB1587 will allow a local government to become a telecommunications services provider with strict conditions such as:

  • require municipality to hold 2 public forums
  • require municipality to create a business plan
  • require municipality to hold a special election (!)
  • prevent a municipality from subsidizing a service
  • the municipality must PAY ITSELF PROPERTY TAX as if it were a private company
  • must open up ALL of its property to private use for communications businesses (poles, right of way, conduits, facilities…)
  • must keep separate books on this venture
  • shall conduct an individual annual audit
  • the municipality must pay equal to or GREATER the amount of liability insurance as a private provider would pay
  • GRANDFATHER all localities that are defined as a “public utility” BEFORE the date this bill passes

From a business perspective this may seem fair. I mean this would make local governments have to put up with the same difficulties a private business would. Right? Wrong!

I certainly don’t disagree with the idea that community forums should be held or that any group entering into a venture should write a business plan. But these other requirements would seriously cripple cash strapped local governments. Especially ones like Chapel Hill which face IMMENSE growth in the coming years. (growth = expense)

The part that is REALLY wrong about this is that it would turn a locality who choose to become a telecommunications service provider into a entity with the restrictions of a private company. This bill could PRIVATIZE local government! A serious step in the WRONG direction.

Local governments are the most direct form of democratic government in the United States. (They ain’t perfect. That’s for sure. But it is fixable. 🙂 ) They need EVERY tool they can find to protect citizens and plan for their futures. By restricting local government in this way we would be hurting millions of people in North Carolina in a very direct way.

This new amendment is a big threat from the bill sponsors. It basically says go ahead and provide telecommunications. But we’ll make it so difficult for you to get into the business you’ll think twice.

These dirty tactics are the very definition of unfair business practices. Its clear the bills sponsors don’t work for the people but for big business.

Time to email some Representatives again!

PDF HB1587 5/29/07 3:46PM

PDF HB1587 Fiscal Research Report 5/29/07

Wilson, NC builds fiber network and fights HB1587

I found this cool blog called The Fiber Optic Files – Wilson, NC today. Its written by Brian Bowman, the Public Affairs Manager for the City of Wilson. He linked to my post about the bad bill NC HB 1587. From there I learned more about the fiber network Wilson is constructing and the wonderful resolution [PDF] the Wilson City Council passed in opposition to HB 1587.

This blog also pointed me two great pieces in the Wilson Times. One is a article called Fiber bill faces nays. Both the City Manager and City Attorney of Wilson were quoted in this article. Check this out:

Wilson city manager Grant Goings said local governments have a strong history of stepping up and providing critical infrastructure when the profit motivation is not high enough to entice private sector investment.

“I suspect that there were some unhappy well drillers when the city built a public water supply system, and I doubt our sewer system was good for the septic tank business. But to move communities forward you have to invest in infrastructure,” Goings said.

Exactly! There is a long history in the United States of attempts to block the creation of public infrastructure. Water is one good historical example, so is rural telephone, and now broadband Internet. Many important services are not always profitable but are still necessary. (not to say that providing broadband to everyone wouldn’t be profitable….)

City attorney Jim Cauley said the House bill was written and supported by the telecommunications industry and is “clearly designed to protect their pocketbooks at the expense of the public good.”

“In the interest of corporate protectionism, it will create such a barrier to the construction of municipal broadband infrastructure that many citizens will not have access to high-speed fiber-optic services in the foreseeable future, thereby making our economic development efforts that much more difficult,” Cauley said.

More good points! I’d love to hear more elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro speak to this.

Plus there is another Wilson Times editorial called Bill would protect monopolies.

The short title of the bill is “The Local Government Fair Competition Act,” but the honest title should be “The Monopolies Protection Act.”

The bill, which is in committee in the N.C. House, would establish a series of hurdles for local governments seeking to provide communications services, including telephone, cable television and Internet connections. While some of the provisions can be justified, others are transparently intended to discourage cities or counties from creating competing networks, such as the fiber-optic network the city of Wilson is already installing.

The bill, whose sponsors include House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman and former Speaker Harold Brubaker, would for the first time require the N.C. Utilities Commission to regulate a municipal function. None of the usual municipal utilities — water, sewer, electricity or natural gas — is regulated by the Utilities Commission, which was established to protect consumers against monopolistic corporate giants. Because consumers are also voters and can change leadership at the next election, municipal utilities have been considered self-regulating.

Great to learn about people in other municipalities fighting HB1587!

Stop NC HB 1587: Prevent Big Telecom from killing Muni WiFi

As I write this NC HB 1587 is before the Utilities Committee for consideration. Big Telecommunications companies want to prevent democratically elected bodies from bringing broadband Internet access to everyone.

Please ask your NC state Rep to vote No or ask their colleague to vote No!

Here is a Microsoft Excel document with a list of the Utilities Committee members. They are from the following counties: Randolph, Rowan, Rockingham, Nash, Hallifax, Mecklenburg, Onslow, Guilford, Iredell, Surrey, Yadkin, Davie, Iredell, Cumberland, New Hanover, and Pender Counties.

Here is what the NC League of Municipalities had to say about this bad bill:

Telecom companies want to restrict local government authority to provide communications services to citizens

Last session, the telecommunications companies pushed for and won statewide franchising of video services, claiming that the local franchising process hampered competition. That state franchising legislation imposed very little regulation and did not require companies to serve an entire community.

Now, the telecom companies are pushing HB 1587 ­ Local Government Fair Competition Act, which would place significant roadblocks and restrictions on any local government that wants to provide communications services ­ including cable, telephone, electronic voice, data, audio or video transmission and Internet access ­ to its citizens.

Access to high-speed broadband service is critical for the future economic development of our state as we attempt to replace our lost textile, tobacco, and furniture jobs. HB 1587 will effectively prevent local governments from bringing high-speed broadband to North Carolina communities, especially to rural and distressed urban areas. Through their opposition to build-out requirements, the industry has made it clear they have no intention of investing in such areas.

Municipalities are already subject to numerous public scrutiny and public accountability requirements for all infrastructure projects. These new Draconian requirements are simply designed to prevent deployment of local broadband networks, whether done alone or even in partnership with the private sector.

The League opposes HB 1587 because it seeks to undermine local authority to undertake enterprise activities ­ authority that has been upheld by the courts.

This bill was scheduled for discussion before the House Public Utilities Committee this week, but was not taken up. Please call your representatives and ask them to oppose this bill.

(cross posted from BlueNC)

Chapel Hill Town Council Receives WiFi Report

Cross posted from Orange Networking:
Last night the Chapel Hill Town Council received a report from the Chapel Hill Connectivity Working Group. (PDF) See the meetings agenda here. It contained very similar information the Town Technology board provided in a presentation last year. Absent from the Working Groups presentation was any mention of a scenario where a Non-Profit partnered with the Town and local business to help bring information access to all citizens. Its a shame that big potential partners like UNC don’t recognize the importance of community organizations in the success of a Town wide WiFi roll out. Customer service is so important. How will we know how to serve people if we don’t involve them?