Selective Examples

By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2005-02-03 Print this article Print

?"> But beyond the list, we werent given any information about the failures. And on looking more deeply into the NMRCs report online, I learned that most of those were municipal broadband projects and that the NMRC, like the rest of us, had little in the way of detail on Wi-Fi. Thats not to say that municipal projects dont have their problems. Im reminded of stadium-building frenzy in my hometown of Cincinnati, where the city funded separate stadiums for its football and baseball teams with cost overruns that will keep taxpayers digging into their pockets for years to come. But Im also reminded of stadium projects (Baltimore and Indianapolis come to mind) where the results were not abysmal. So, you do have to wonder if the NMRCs report is really serious analysis, or just a case of selective examples that support a conclusion someone might have wanted to put forth.
Who might that someone be? NMRC is a subsidiary of Issue Dynamics Inc. (IDI), which the Center for Media and Democracy describes as "a Washington-based consulting firm that organizes PR campaigns on behalf of clients."
"A number of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] have been partnered with corporations by IDI to advocate in support of causes that the companies support," the Center for Media and Democracy goes on. "IDI characterizes these arrangements as win-win solutions that bring together broad coalitions in support of the shared agendas of each of the organizations. "However, its work has angered some consumer activists, who say IDI often does not disclose whom it is working for. They argue that IDIs work amounts to astroturf PR." The NMRC made a point to say that none of the researchers who participated received any money from NMRC. But in case youre wondering whos paying the bills at IDI, take a look at its client list. If you dont want to read the whole huge thing, let me summarize those of interest in this issue: Ameritech, Bell South, Comcast, Pacific Bell, Qwest, SBC Communications, Sprint, U.S. West, Verizon and Verizon Wireless. These companies favor state legislation prohibiting municipal broadband (including Wi-Fi) projects or giving incumbent carriers veto power over them, such as Pennsylvania did. The NMRC did not call for similar legislation, although the various organizations whose experts participated in the report have done so. Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, urged state legislators in an article that appeared on the institutes Web site last month to get behind model legislation being circulated by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). That model served as the underpinnings of the Pennsylvania law and appears to be guiding similar proposals that have been introduced before the Illinois and Ohio state legislatures. Bast should take a cue from his own writing. He tells us at the top of his article: "On Nov. 2, 2004, voters in Illinois Tri-Cities (Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles) voted down referenda to approve a municipal broadband plan. It was the second time in as many years voters rejected the proposal." Note, it was the voters in Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles who voted it down. And theyre the ones to do it, not a bunch of legislators sitting in the state Capitol. The NMRC does have a number of good points to make about the efficiencies that private enterprise can achieve. There is a good argument that the telcos—with a depth of capital far greater than in a municipalitys coffers—are in a better position to build, maintain and upgrade local Internet access. But beyond the nitty-gritty of technology, if were really talking the American tradition (which those at the NMRC session were wont to do), shouldnt it be the voters in the municipality—the people who will have to pay for these things—to decide? Not ALEC, the Heartland Institute, the New Millennium Research Council, its parent IDI, or any of the many telcos on IDIs substantial client list pushing their own agendas through state legislatures. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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