Providers might be threatened by Philadelphia's planned Wi-Fi network: A bill was introduced at the state level in Pennsylvania that would prohibit the kind of networks that Philly plans to build. Comcast and Verizon denied any interest in suppressing the plan, noting that the bill has been in the works for a year, and includes a revamp of educational telecommunications funding. The article doesn't look at draft of bills. I compared the early text of the bill from April 2003 with the current text, and it does, in fact, have the same language prohibiting municipalities from engaging in for-fee networks:
A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OR ANY entity established by a political subdivision, including a municipal authority, may not provide any telecommunications services to the public for compensation within the service territory of a local exchange telecommunications company operating under a network modernization plan.
Update: Great analysis from Esme Vos over at Muniwireless.com about how the Philadelphia situation might play out. As she notes, the legislation restricts compensated networks, not free ones, among other angles she explores.
More updates: An Associated Press story adds some details, including the fact that municipal systems in place by Jan. 1, 2006, are exempted--expect a speed-up on Philadelphia's plans. The bill gives the incumbents 10 years to offer broadband statewide, and requires contributions and discounts. The fact that the carriers get another 10 years of monopoly in exchange for offering schools 30 percent discounts (among other items) is a little like saying, "You can keep repairing this toll highway and keep the proceeds, but school buses pay less"--while preventing municipalities from building local arterials.