Big telcos have been waging a silent battle to outlaw towns and cities from building Wi-Fi networks, getting state legislatures in states including Florida, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania to curb or ban them. But now a U.S. Senate committee, in a rare moment of lucidity, is backing a bill to ensure that towns and cities can build their own networks.
The bill comes out of the Senate Commerce Committee, and it says that states are not allowed to prohibit their own municipalities from offering broadband services, wireless or otherwise.
It's an amendment to the massive telecommunications bill -- the same bill that doesn't call for network neutrality.
The bill is out of committee, heading to the full Senate, and it's hard to know what will happen there. There is so much controversy around the telecom bill, in particular around network neutrality, that it may not get a vote this year, especially because there's a competing bill coming out of the U.S. House.
The upshot? Congress should take the amendment allowing municipal Wi-Fi, and spin it into its own law. The amendment passed by 15 to 7, and has both Republican and Democratic backers. It's not nearly controversial as the rest of the legislation. So it should pass it now.