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Corporate Bitches or Public Interest?

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Should cities be allowed to chart a course for their future without fear of legal action? Should big business be allowed to control what city officials do to enhance their future growth prospects? Can it be legal for large corporate entities to deploy massive lobby efforts to derail cities from making progress? Should politicians side for the public interest or get in bed with their corporate bitches?

Well that’s what is happening today and we need to stop it.

“We looked at it as a way to be a city, literally, of the 21st century,” said Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street. “We wanted to bridge the digital divide for residents who wouldn’t have access to the Internet, particularly schoolchildren.”

In an attempt to bridge the digital divide and enhance their economic prospects, cities across the nation, including Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia, are planning to deploy universal low-cost wireless Internet access. Meanwhile, moneyed telecommunications corporations and their army of lobbyists are doing everything in their power to ensure it doesn’t happen.

In Pennsylvania, for example, the legislature passed a bill with a deeply buried provision — inserted after intensive lobbying by Verizon Communications — which would make it illegal for any city or other “political subdivision” in the state to provide low-cost Internet access to its citizens unless a corporation like Verizon gave them permission. Gov. Ed Rendell has until midnight tonight to sign or veto the legislation.

Email Gov. Rendell and tell him he should stand up to corporate lobbyists and veto the bill.

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