The World Wide Web is a library. Internet-ready devices continue to plummet in price. Access to the Internet is expensive, worldwide. I believe that we have an awesome and compelling opportunity and civic duty to ensure that this library is--like the many great public libraries in the United States thanks to folks like Dale Carnegie--as freely-available to as many people around the world as possible. Government-provided internet service can be an economical enterprise, providing fast, wireless service to an entire region for pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of privately-owned and operated copper loops. But government-provided WiFi can also be mismanaged or abused for personal or corporate profiteering...

Recently, I came across this series of articles about munincipal Wi-Fi on Corante.com. The series, written by Russell Shaw and “Sponsored by EarthLink Wireless”, has me thinking twice about two things:

  1. Is munincipal Wi-Fi really the way to go? It might be right for Redmond but is it right for everyone?
    Does Earthlink see a niche for itself in actually promoting the adoption of munincipal Wi-Fi networks. That must be it. Government contracts are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for companies who see them for what they are: a stable, long-term revenue stream that requires little marketing, will pay more than they have to in order to close the deal quickly and easily, and whose employees are rarely as well-informed as and are almost never held to the same level of accountability as their counterparts in the private sector.
  2. In the age of RSS, will Internet sites like Corante.com turn away from on-page advertisements in favor of subtly commercialized content?
    I hope not. In general, I hold Corante.com in high regard. The site provides more content on the subjects that interest me than any other single site on the Internet, including Slashdot. They provide a soapbox to some of the most incisive, imaginative, and independent voices in the high tech industry.

    But when I recently came across the "vision/wireless" series about munincipal Wi-Fi, which is seamlessly intermixed with otherwise non-commercial content, I started to question the trustworthiness and journalistic integrity of Corante.com. This syndicated series is a far cry from on-page banner ads. Don't get me wrong, I still consider Corante to be reputable but I AM CONCERNED that they are injecting commercial content into my RSS feed without sufficient notification.

    I guess the lesson is that what you read in your RSS Reader isn't necessarily as trustworthy as an online article. Nevertheless, I hope that Corante.com and others plainly state potential conflicts of interests in the body of their articles so that I can continue to enjoy AND trust their content by RSS or another syndication format.