September 24th, 2009

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

by Philip Baruth

Burlington is the largest, most metropolitan city in the state of Vermont. Church Street is the undisputed heart of Burlington. And VDB is currently coming to you from a coffee shop ranged along the western side of that pedestrian marketplace. Here’s what the MacBook senses in the morning air, by way of wireless possibility:

It’s a pretty good emblem for the state’s wireless situation, generally speaking: extremely small wireless zones, locked by their owners, with a major multi-national providing the only “open” web access through another major multi-national.

That is, if you want to surf the web on Church Street, you ask Starbucks to put you in touch with At&T, and they’ll hook you up, for a fee. A fee for each of them.

Why isn’t Burlington Telecom, launched and sustained with public money, providing a three-block zone of free wireless access the length of Church Street? Why aren’t they advertising it as one of the many benefits of their new model of telecommunications?

Why aren’t we insisting that they give back, in that way, to the community that created them?

If any downtown should be digital, in the state of Vermont, it should be Burlington’s downtown. That we leave access to the tender mercies of AT&T is ludicrous. We have the means and the money to make Church Street a digital enterprise zone; and if we extended that zone to Pine Street, we’d do more to promote small business there than has been done in the last ten years. Period.

Time to start asking why we can’t get online, when we can’t. Time to start asking why we need to pay, every time, when we do manage to find a provider.

Most highways aren’t toll roads, after all. And the various information superhighways shouldn’t all be pay-to-play either.

Because among other things, VDB doesn’t want to have to read about the new pumpkin spice latte every time we post. That way lies madness.

2 Responses to ' What’s Wrong With This Picture? '

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  1. on October 21st, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    […] 4) Announce plans to provide free wireless access for the length of Church Street, a concept we’ve spent the summer and fall talking about, but one that now looks doubly attractive for a company seeking to restore faith in its public mission. […]

  2. Vermont Daily Briefing » Honest to God Movement on WiFi Access said,

    on November 3rd, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    […] Since we began the State Senate campaign back in May, we’ve been jawboning anyone who would listen about a very simple idea: the digital downtown. Every Vermont town and village with working downtown district should have free wireless access the length of that district, starting with Burlington’s Church Street as a model. […]