A breathless e-mail came in today from IP Media Monitor, hyping a story from Cynthia Brumfeld claiming Google's San Francisco WiFi play "changes the legislative landscape." (No link, it's behind a firewall.)
Does this really open the door to open source communication? (Illustration courtesy the Web site of Karl and Kathy Swartz.)
Well, it could. San Francisco could giggle and give in, letting Google set up a citywide hotspot, giving everyone with an 802.11 client instant broadband. Rose petals could fall from the sky, SBC could go bankrupt, and Osama Bin Laden could walk up to Abu Ghraib prison of his own free will, hands in the air.
Ain't gonna happen.
What is going to happen is this thing is going to be picked apart. Privacy advocates are going to bring all their Google-angst to the table, and demand answers. SBC is going to say that city approval is tantamount to sponsorship, and sue. The state legislature is going to get involved. And on and on and on.
What is preventing the age of open source communication from happening is, in a word, regulation. Not just regulation that protects the prerogatives of private companies, either. But regulation in its broadest sense.
Should pedophiles and terrorists get free broadband? How do you keep this from happening? So, now that everyone has to "sign up" for this service, what other controls must we put in place? Can't have the kids seeing Paris Hilton naked, right?
In other words, as Walt Kelly's Pogo said so long ago, we have met the enemy and he is us. You're not like that, and I'm not like that, but someone is like that. And in a democracy, all those someones have a right to be heard. It often turns out that they're the majority.