20051017

Milwaukee WiFi - an open letter

We are completely confused as to the what, where, and how of the current proposal. We are, quite frankly, concerned because this announcement comes out a few weeks before we have an October 31st meeting set up with the Mayor on the same subject. We have been treated disdainfully by DPW in our efforts to get information on the city owned infrastructure and/or network. City Hall employees apparently believe that contractors and companies have more rights than citizens in access to government controlled information.

While Presidents from Washington to Truman have held the citizen as true ruler of the Republic; modern political systems seem to believe that the corporation has true right of rule. The corporate owner and operators have become for American governance what the lords and ladies of old Europe where to that continent in its pre democratic era.

One of the great hopes of the Internet is that it can be an enabling technology for class mobility. Politically, it is an enabler of open political discourse. Economically, it lowers the bar for new and small businesses to aggressively compete against entrenched incumbents.

America's strength is that it has traditionally supported a strong middle class, be it the yeoman farmer, the small shop keeper, the unionized factory worker or the young entrepreneur. Ours is the nation built on the economic and political power of the middle class.

We fear the old order is using lobbyist and inside influence to tilt the playing field that has been leveled by Internet technology. SBC and Time Warner Cable threaten to stifle any efforts at opening the city to a true open market system. They use heavy handed lobbyist tactics to maintain their respective market monopolies.

We can see the Midwest Fiber Networks' WiFi proposal as a distracting derivation of a "middle of the road" system that can offer true open access to multiple providers. We are leery of making Midwest Fiber Networks one of three entrenched gatekeepers to the Internet.

Midwest Fiber Networks has entrenched itself firmly into DPW and used inside access to leverage itself into its current position. A open review of the company's historic financial records will underscore the contention that it is highly leveraged. This is not to say that we favor large established corporations over startups, our criticism is derived from the discriminatory attitude expressed against our own efforts to act as an independent advocates for using the City of Milwaukee's DPW assets for economic development.

The truly valuable asset here is the DPW controlled right of way and conduit. We want equal access to DPW information. If security is the issue, then the city should perform a background check for any and all requesting entities rather than arbitrarily restricting access.

Please join us in our October 31st meeting with the Mayor and the November 1st meeting of the Public Works committee. Please support our effort to open the process to public scrutiny. We should insure that the City of Milwaukee's assets are used to preserve and extend open market competition rather than create conditions that allow further consolidation and control of our media and information networks.

Tue, November 1 9:00 AM PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE City Hall Room 301-B

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