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Who Decides What You Can View on Houston’s Free WiFi?

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Last week, when

exploring

the City of Houston’s free downtown wifi system, we ran into the most dreaded of Internet obstacles: the porn filter.

After we recounted the harrowing experience, an anonymous commenter (is there any better kind?) suggested that we investigate just who makes the call as to what Web sites are acceptable viewing for the general public.

Staying true to our vow to always indulge random suggestions from anonymous individuals, we made a few calls and wound up talking to Janis Benton, head of the city’s IT department, and what she told us will shock you.

Okay, not really.

“We’ve got filters to keep certain things out so they don’t damage our network,” she told Hair Balls. The system is maintained by a company called Secure Computing, but Benton made sure we understood she wasn’t specifically endorsing the company’s services. (Not that she was hating on them either.)

“We actually are utilizing the filter we’ve had in place at the Houston Public Library in our library systems for many, many years,” she said.

“And if it can keep those perverted homeless guys from crashing the network, it’s got to be good,” she did not say, but we’re going to assume that was part of the city’s logic in picking that particular service.

Any more questions?

Keith Plocek

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

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