Update 12.17.05: Note that a pending Senate Bill (S. 1294) would prohibit incumbent telcos from frustrating municipalities efforts to offer ‘advanced services’ such as free wireless broadband access.
The Washington Post reports that New Orleans will have a free high-speed Wi-Fi network up in the Central Business District as of today. Two interesting factoids: (1) Louisiana law prohibits municipalities from offering Internet service in excess of 144 kilobytes per second, and (2) much of the equipment to be used by the city was donated by Silicon Valley-based Tropos Networks.
The New Orleans system will feature 512-kilobit-per-second speed, which is the most the network can handle efficiently for now. And, because the city is under a state of emergency, it avoids the law limiting service to paltry speeds (144 kbps is about twice the speed of dial-up). Mayor Nagin is supposed to announce the new Wi-Fi system at an 11 am conference today.
Update: I want to talk about the Louisiana law that cripples municipalities’ effort to provide broadband access. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do that now. And, in any event it deserves a separate post. So I’ll get to that soon. Meanwhile, here is a link to the law. That link was to the main page; this link and this link are to the two statutes that create the 144 kbps limit. The law says it aims to ensure that when "local government provides to its inhabitants … telecommunications services or advanced services, … and competes with private providers whose activities are regulated by the local governmental entity, the local government does not discriminate against the competing providers of the same services." Advanced services, according to the statute, means, "high-speed Internet access capability in excess of 144 kilobits per second both upstream and downstream."