In July, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., a member of the Republican High Tech Task Force, introduced the Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act. If passed, the bill would severely hamper cities' ability to build and manage wireless networks. Ensign and his ilk believe that private industry and not government is the cure for what ails us. Of course, they also believe that states should be able to govern themselves without interference from Washington. Is it a coincidence that Ensign has received more than $125,000 in political action committee donations from AT&T, Verizon, SBC, Sprint/Nextel, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Qualcomm, Qwest, Comcast, and Cingular?
In response to Ensign's bill, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., have introduced legislation that gives municipalities free rein to offer broadband. Who will win is anybody's guess. But with all this money carpeting the halls of Congress and state legislatures, don't expect municipal wireless to take root without a big fight.