March 12, 2005

New HB789 bans mom from watching son earn eagle scout badge

From Debbie Taylor, manager of Taylor CNET:

Duane Whitaker was receiving his Eagle Scout designation. But his Mom was working with Texas A&M in Doha, Qatar and could not attend the Court of Honor Ceremony.
We were able to take mobile videoconferencing equipment and she was able to participate in the whole ceremony (3 hours). They were also able to stream the event to a server so relatives of all four Scouts were able to view the ceremony in real time. One Scout's brother who was stationed in Alaska at the time was able to view it. Again, impossible with no broadband access.

The videoconferencing was done as an Eagle scout project. The scout spent over 230 hours a room in a 1923 High School building to accomodate videoconferencing for TaylorCNET.

The new version of HB789 prohibits cities and towns from offering any sort of video service. So, if the bill passes, it will be illegal for this Eagle Scout's mom to watch him earn his scouting badge.

The boy scout project is a fabulous example of the innovation and education that community networks make possible. PCs and video software have become so cheap and flexible that smart high school kids are able to pull together a video conferencing system.

The new version of HB789 makes this innovation illegal. Even though a high-school kid can build a videoconferencing system from cheap parts, the only legal way to get videoconferencing is going to be from a monopoly provider, whenever they get around to providing the service.

The latest version of HB789 exempts library premises. So Taylor wouldn't have to shut down network in the library. Taylor's network is also deployed in low-income housing, where new immigrants and senior citizens learn computer skills.

The community benefits, keeping families in touch, and the innovation a kid can do after school are banned by this meddling, micromanaging, monopolistic piece of legislation.

Texas can do a lot better than HB789.

Posted by alevin at March 12, 2005 02:27 PM