According to this story in the Washington Post, BellSouth was none too pleased with the city’s idea to offer free Wi-Fi throughout the city.
Hours after New Orleans officials announced Tuesday that they would deploy a city-owned, wireless Internet network in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, regional 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.
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. Around the country, large telephone companies have aggressively lobbied against localities launching their own Internet networks, arguing that they amount to taxpayer-funded competition. Some states have laws prohibiting them.
Greg Meffert, the city’s chief technology officer and a deputy mayor, said he is saddened that BellSouth finds the city’s network so objectionable.
“It’s a once-in-a-century opportunity to truly show the entire world what can be, instead of just what is, and help write future history in the process,” Meffert said. “It’s a damn shame they don’t see that.”
I think it’ll be very enlightening to watch New Orleans’ attempts to rebuild itself after Hurricane Katrina. Companies and their brands have the opportunity to do lots of good and make a lot of money, too. Or they can look like shameless profiteers.
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