Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, we're getting a free citywide municipally sponsored city-wide Wi-Fi system. Components of the system, which is being built by California-based MetroFi, are already in place.
Yet unlike other cities, we are not planning to install filters that will block our system's users from accessing porn sites and other potentially offensive URLs.
City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, (one of five Portland City Commissioners, and pictured at right) a long-time proponent of free Muni Wi-Fi, tells Brittany Schaeffer of local newpaper Willamette Week that "filtering is something that's inconsistent with our views about access to the Internet in Oregon."
Saltzman's statement is consistent with the stance of other institutions in metro Portland. For example, the Multnomah County Public Library (which serves all of Portland plus several close-in suburbs) allows unfiltered public Internet access and has fought for the right to continue to do so.
Good, I say. If you are an adult, you have a right to visit these sites. If you are a child that wants to visit such sites, ain't somethin' right with your raising.
But not every jurisdiction is as committed to free Internet access as we are.
Our burgeoning Muni Wi-Fi network's open access policy is not to be found in too many other municipalities. Corpus Christi's network restricts access to some sites.
You may say, "oh, that's Texas." But Culver City, California, which by no means is in Texas culturally and politically, also installs filters on its Wi-Fi network.
Other networks, including our own Personal Telco Project, adapt a middling approach. In some of the Portland-based WISP's nodes, part of the service agreement asks users to agree they won't use the service to access explicit or illegal content. But I'm not sure that every user who might want to watch porn over his wireless Internet connection has the ability to restrain himself (or to be fair, herself) from doing the end-run around honor systems and filters.
I mean, they probably are used to sneaking around with adult videos. Probably even hid magazines under the bed when they were kids. So circumventing a filter probably wouldn't be that hard.
OK, let me change that. Probably wouldn't be that difficult.