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Texas moves against public Wi-Fi porn

Rest stop prudery will hit truckers hard

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An illuminating posting on Slashdot today reveals that Texas is moving to prevent the dissemination of net porn via public Wi-Fi networks. The act "relating to prohibiting wireless Internet access to obscene materials on public property" declares: "A state agency that provides wireless Internet access on state property may not allow access to obscene materials through the use of that wireless access."

It adds: "The department shall assist a state agency that requests assistance in prohibiting access under this section, including prohibiting access by using a filter or other software."

In 2004, Texas became "the first state in the nation to provide free wireless Internet access at its safety rest areas". The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) kicked off with Wi-Fi "at twin rest areas on US 287 in Donley County" and "free wireless service at two rest areas on the same highway in Hardeman County."

The whole thing was heralded as a roaring success. Andy Keith, Safety Rest Area Program Manager for TxDOT’s Maintenance Division, said: “The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive. Texas’ highways are seeing an increasing number of business travelers, truckers and RVers and access to email is important to them. They have really responded favorably to our four ‘hot spots’ on US 287.”

Sadly, though, Texas' hotspots will from 1 September be considerably less "hot" than at present. This will doubtless enrage "business travelers", and especially truckers. The latter will certainly view the right to surf Wi-Fi porn at rest stops as a fundamental tenet of the US constitution.

They can, however, take some solace from the fact that the legislation also states: "Wireless Internet access to obscene materials is prohibited at a correctional facility that is owned by, or operated by or for, the state." It's good to see that hardened Texan lags will also be deprived of net smut when they should be breaking rocks or something equally correctional.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The legislation doesn't apply to "a university system or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code." Quite right too. The very nature of education means unrestricted access to the broadest spectrum of research material - even if it's dressed like a cheerleader entertaining a couple of enthusiastic and butt-naked quarterbacks.

And yes, we are going to address the fundamental question here - how is this filtering actually going to work in practice? Well, it almost certainly won't, unless travellers on US 287 are restricted to accessing a simple holding page stating: "Nudity is sinful. Go read the Bible. Have a nice day." ®

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