Ars Technica, a technology news website, chronicled the swift change in Republican plans for WiscNet from Monday to Wednesday, resulting from the massive public outcry. UW-Madison economic development professor Andy Lewis told Ars that "Legislators said, 'please don't call us anymore.'" In fact, a previous Ars article and another technology news website, Slashdot, were instrumental in quickly spreading momentum against the changes.
As of Monday, WiscNet, Wisconsin's research and education network that provides high-quality Internet access to most of Wisconsin's schools and universities, was set to be killed in the budget passed early this morning. AT&T would take over the services provided by WiscNet, at higher cost and (as many of us experience at home) low quality. The reason, AT&T feels that WiscNet and UW-Madison directly and unfairly competes with it, but really, all AT&T wanted was another corporate handout.
The changes would have kept UW-Madison from participating in the ultra-fast research network called Internet2. Without such access, UW-Madison would not be able to compete as one of the world's top research universities. The changes also would have made WiscNet return the $30 million federal grant that it was awarded in 2010 to lay more fiber optic cable, something AT&T has been unwilling to do much of in Wisconsin even though their competitor Verizon is rolling out fiber to people's homes in its markets.
Thankfully, Wisconsin and the Internet and educational communities stood up against corporate influence by the thousands. So, many of these changes were removed before the budget was passed, but WiscNet is still on the Joint Finance Committee's chopping block for 2013.
This shows that we can reduce the influence that big companies such as AT&T have. We just all need to make sure we're voicing our opinions.
Don't forget The People vs. Scott Walker Capitol rally today noon - 6:30pm!