Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BellSouth Kicks New Orleans While It Is Down

The total destruction by Hurricane Katrina of vast amounts of phone, cable, and other communications infrastructure in New Orleans opened the door of opportunity to try something that had never been tried: build a municipal Wi-Fi network using a Tropos Network System of easily replaced small wireless devices rather than traditional wires. The results were astounding: in the absence of even cell phone service, municipal officials "filed 110,000 inspection reports of flood-damaged homes in four weeks" using wireless internet.

Now New Orleans plans to make their emergency Wi-Fi the backbone of a permanent municipal wireless system to help "distinguish New Orleans from other large cities." They also plan to fight existing Louisiana legislation supported by the big telecommunications companies that restricted the internet connection speeds that municipalities could offer their residents.

The Crescent City's stride toward the future has apparently upset BellSouth, which withdrew an offer to donate one of its buildings to the city for housing police headquarters. So, not only is BellSouth opposing a Wi-Fi system that sped up recovery, but it is being petty toward those officers enlisted to serve and protect the community. How could impeding recovery and hampering the forces of law and order possibly help BellSouth get its telecommunications grid up any faster?

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