Since 2002, I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in building a free community wireless network. This initiative started with the Olympic games and has expanded to many other locations – gathering places, Salt Lake City Main Street, libraries, Liberty Park, Pioneer Park and an ambitious project in Ogden that will eventually cover most of the city. Unlike other many other municipal wireless projects, the installation and support of these systems has been done without tax dollars. The benefit to business, tourism, students and the public is clear and often spoken of to me.
This week, Representative Brad Daw wrote House Bill 139 which will effectively put an end to public XMission Free Wireless. Sourcing from a legislator who describes himself as being in favor of “limited government”, this bill introduces civil penalties if a minor is able to access pornography over public wireless Internet. With XMission wireless never earning one red cent in profit, the potential of a civil suit hanging over its operation immediately makes it not viable. The moment this bill is signed into law, I will shut down all XMission free wireless and cease expansion of this service.
Some may accuse me of packing up my “toys” and refusing to cooperate. When this plan surfaced last year, I had a long conversation with Representative Daw expressing my concerns of such legislation. In reading the text of this bill, I see those concerns were flatly ignored. XMission has provided free Internet filters longer than any other provider in the state, but I can never guarantee that a minor can not access pornography over an Internet connection. Nor do I believe government or business is the best parent of my children or anyone else’s.
While the corporatives at the Utah Legislature sharpen their knives to deal a death blow to the public infrastructure fiber-network UTOPIA to protect private interests, their cohorts effectively scribe business-burdensome legislation against XMission rolling wireless networks without public dollars. As the owner of the largest free public wireless Internet network in Utah, I see this bill as anti-XMission and anti-business to the core.