BellSouth Punishes New Orleans Over Free WiFi

    December 5, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

When officials for the hurricane ravaged city announced a plan to deploy wireless Internet across New Orleans, BellSouth rescinded a donation offer to the city in response.

Sony should be grateful that BellSouth has been eagerly vying for the post of “latest company to arouse the public’s ire.” After having made remarks about charging web sites for prioritizing their Internet traffic, BellSouth has managed to give its public relations staff more cause to reach for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

The Washington Post reported on a lively exchange between BellSouth and New Orleans officials. It seems that BellSouth was none too pleased over the prospect of the city becoming a municipal provider of wireless Internet service:

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According to the officials, the head of BellSouth’s Louisiana operations, Bill Oliver, angrily rescinded the offer of the building in a conversation with New Orleans homeland security director Terry Ebbert, who oversees the roughly 1,650-member police force.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

Broadband Internet access and the prospect of municipal governments taking the initiative to make it available at a minimal cost to citizens has become a zero-sum game to telecoms like BellSouth.

Efforts by telecoms and cable companies to derail that initiative have reached all the way to Capitol Hill, where former SBC executive turned House Representative Pete Sessions has attempted to push through the “Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act” and ban any municipality from offering “telecommunications, information, or cable services” except where private enterprises had not provided such services.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.