Back on September 1st we wrote about the city of Philadelphia’s project to provide wireless Internet service to all residents, predicting that more cities will soon do the same. Well that won’t be happening, at least in Pennsylvania. That state’s legislature just passed a law prohibiting cities from building their own high-speed Internet networks. Who’s the beneficiary of this legislation? It’s the big telephone companies, particularly Verizon. The “good government” fig leaf that it’s governmental supporters hide behind is a requirement that the dominant telephone company of every region must provide region-wide high-speed Internet service throughout their territories – but they have a decade to do this. If cities could build their own taxpayer-financed networks, it would be a lot cheaper for users and would therefore cut into the phone company’s profits. We hope this anti-consumer, protectionist mentality does not descend upon the Massachusetts statehouse. High-speed Internet service in 2004 is the same as sewage, running water, and paved roads were in 1904. If municipal government had been barred from providing this basic infrastructure, we’d still be using chamber pots and drawing water from a well in the backyard. Today, having government provide Internet service is the best way to bridge the “digital divide” that deprives the less affluent of a prime ingredient for upward mobility. Hopefully, this shortsighted move by the Pennsylvania legislature won’t start a national trend.