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Watch Out Wireless Internet, the States Are After You!

Many of you have heard of Internet HotSpots, those places like Starbucks and Barnes-&-Noble where you can sit down, eat, and connect wirelessly to the Internet, but what comes next? Imagine, you are able to go to the park or sit at a bus stop and receive a wireless Internet connection; no this isn't some strange Sci-Fi fantasy, it's reality for many people in Europe and some select cities in America that have earned the name "HotCities". Basically, the city becomes a giant, wireless LAN zone where the citizens have the option to use the city Internet for free or at low cost. Central Florida sits on the cutting edge of technology and some cities like Orlando and St. Cloud have started mini "HotCity" areas, while other cities like Casselberry and Winter Springs are researching the availability.

While countries in Europe promote "HotCities" because of their ability to generate billions in profits; states like Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida have been working to ban "HotCities" from developing. Three bills currently sit in front of representatives in the Florida Legislature that will decide whether cities have the right to offer Internet as a service to their citizens, just like they can offer water, gas, and trash pick-up. Companies like Verizon and Sprint are heavily lobbying for these bills because "government has an unfair advantage, it doesn't have to pay taxes". City leaders, on the other hand, have come out against the bills with statements like "[wireless internet is] no different than providing ball fields." One of bills already received a 12-1 vote in the House utilities and telecommunications committee and soon moves onto the House finance and tax committee. Florida isn't the only state: Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, and others currently are debating bills already in affect or up for vote.

So what does this mean to you, and how will affect your city in the future? Well for starters, instead of taking a step forward to fill the ever-widening gulf between the United States and Europe in technology, we are effectively falling more behind. Studies show that as much as 80-90% of the population in a city have computers, but only 40-60% have Internet access (even dial-up). These bills could effectively slow broadband and Internet access growth. Finally, this bill truly invades a city's municipal rights of providing its citizens with vital services, which the Internet is becoming for business transactions and educational purposes.