UK Linux users are demanding Alcatel release drivers to allow its SpeedTouch USB ADSL modem to work with the open source operating system.
That, they claim, shouldn't be too hard: Alcatel already has Linux drivers but is refusing to release either binaries or source code.
Support for Alcatel's SpeedTouch USB is essential because it's the modem bundled by BT to subscribers of its home ADSL service, BT Openworld Home 500. That costs £39.99 a month plus £150 for installation; the alternative is an Ethernet-connected modem, which will work with Linux, but that costs £299.99 a month plus £260 for installation.
And since other ADSL providers are simply reselling BT's products, wherever you go, you're stuck for Linux support. No wonder Linux users feel they're being priced out of the ADSL market.
The issue for Alcatel appears to be concern over the open source nature of the OS - it presumably feels that if it releases Linux drivers they too must be open source. That's an understandable perception, even though it's incorrect. Alcatel can easily release Linux drivers without exposing its intellectual property.
Linux fans would naturally prefer the code to be released under a GNU-style licence, but that's by no means necessary. As Linux advocate Chris Jones notes: "This is a problem that many companies have been able to resolve amicably by releasing the driver in two parts: a closed source part that contains all the code relating to the IP they are unable to release and an open source part that interfaces with Linux. While not ideal this is preferable to not having a driver at all!"
To persuade the French company to change its mind, Jones has set up an online petition for users to make known their support for the driver release.
While we were awaiting info from Alcatel on the status of their Linux development efforts, we came across this site, which suggests the French company has been active in garnering the help of Linux coders to develop a driver. The page's author, one Johan Verrept, was clearly expecting an official statement from the company when he set up his driver development page - and is still waiting for it to come.
Why hasn't it arrived? Just before Christmas, he noted that permission to release key Alcatel data is awaiting "internal paperwork". Hopefully, the petition will help the company cross the Is and dot the Ts. ®