New Orleans to offer first-in-nation free muni-WiFi

Talk of a silver lining: The city of New Orleans is about to deploy the nation's first municipally owned wireless Internet system which will be free for all users. The deployment is part of the effort to accelerate the city's recovery by making living and doing business in New Orleans as appealing as possible. Telephone and cable companies have opposed such muni-WiFi systems in other cities as unfair, taxpayer-funded competition; moreover, Louisiana prohibits any locality from offering Internet connection speeds of more than 144 Kbps. But because New Orleans is under a federal state of emergency, it can ignore existing state laws.

The system will also be used by law enforcement and for other city government functions such as speeding approval of building permits. Much of the equipment to run the network was donated by various companies, but New Orleans will own the system and operate it. The system will begin operating today in the central business district and the French Quarter.

For more on New Orleans muni-WiFi:
- see Jonathan Krim's Washington Post report

ALSO: Tempe, AZ, claims it is the first free muni-WiFi US city. Article

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