Weighing In on Municipal Wireless

Opinion: Kutztown, Pa., thought it was helping private companies set up broadband and wireless services in its market. But a new law could place its future in the hands of providers that previously were not eager to serve it.

Somewhere between politics and protests, practical solutions usually can be found. Those who prefer practicality to rhetoric can often avoid the slings and arrows of political fortune and chart their own course to a desired end.

My request for responses to my column on how a controversial Pennsylvania law will impact municipal wireless turned up one such solution in Kutztown, Pa.

The missive from Kutztowns IT director was the first in what became a strong majority of reader responses that strongly favored municipalities rights to provide connectivity services to their residents, without first submitting them to the veto of the big broadband companies they would compete with.

They thought the obstacles that Pennsylvanias House Bill 30 (now law) places on wireless services—actually, on all of broadband—are too many, are too high, and play too much into the hands of monopolies to be palatable.

Still others echoed the keep-government-out-of-business argument that brought about HB30. In between, there were folks who liked the idea of municipal wireless but worried about its implementation and about markets where muni-wireless would replace private carriers, rather than add to the competitive landscape. (Stay tuned for a more detailed report on reader responses from both sides.)

Then, there was the missive from Frank Caruso, director of information for the borough of Kutztown, Pa.

Next page: A model in the municipal wireless debate.