Municipal Wi-Fi Actually (still) Exists?

I was under the impression that municipal Wi-Fi was a dead idea that municipalities had abandoned a couple of years ago.  Apparently, Coshocton, Ohio didn’t get the memo, because it’s municipal Wi-Fi network has been shut down by the MPAA.

Well, that’s what Gizmodo’s saying, based on a BoingBoing report.  Apparently, the town’s entire network was shut down due to a single user downloading something that was copyrighted.

But really?  How did this happen?  The way things are written, it sounds like the MPAA discovered the illegality and pulled the plug on the network.  Can things actually go that way?  Hmmm… even as powerful as private entities are, surely they don’t have the power to summarily wipe out a public service.  Right?  More digging is necessary!

BoingBoing got the tip from the Coshocton Tribune, which carries a headline: “Illegal Movie Download Forces Shutdown of Free Wi-Fi.”  Apparently what happened is that the ISP (OneCommunity) was notified by Sony Pictures Entertainment that a movie was illegally downloaded over the network.  In turn, the ISP notified the county’s IT Department.  And I guess the IT Department yanked the plug?  It isn’t clear from the article; after explaining the chain of events, it goes into how piracy is bad.  So don’t pirate things, kids, okay?!?!?!

I’m not entirely sure why the decision to pull the plug was made.  ISPs were given safe harbor protections under the DMCA to protect them from the infringing activities of their customers.  (See 17 U.S.C. § 512; see also this Chilling Effects FAQ.)  The requirements for staying in the safe harbor are many, but suffice to say, if the ISP keeps its hands off stuff, then it’s pretty much in the clear. And that means that the town overreacted by pulling the plug, and–based on the scant information I’ve seen on this–I’d say it’s as much to blame as the MPAA is in this situation.

Oh well, I guess that’s why we’re not allowed to have nice things.