In just a few days, we have seen many articles discussing how unwise and dangerous HB 282 is for the future of economic development in Georgia. This bill will revoke local authority to decide for themselves if any public investment in telecommunications is a wise choice.
CivSource, a news source for civic leaders, quickly wrote about the bill, placing it in national context.
Municipal broadband has been under steady attack nationwide by incumbent broadband providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. They contend that networks built by cities and counties that also offer subscription options for residents amount to unfair competition. They won this fight in North and South Carolina, but, following more coverage of the issue, fights in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Georgia have been harder to win.
Ars Technica’s Timothy Lee also covered the bill, including common pro and con arguments. But he gets something that many other reporters don’t notice,
Moreover, limiting which parts of town a municipal fiber network can serve might make it impossible for that town to cost-effectively reach under-served sections with broadband service. It’s often more cost-effective to deploy fiber to an entire town than to deploy fiber selectively to only certain parts of town. The neighborhoods being served by an incumbent are likely to be the wealthiest and densest parts of town. Banning towns from deploying fiber to those parts of town may make it impossible to cover the fixed costs of a municipal fiber project.
GamePolitics.com, a site focusing on that area where politics and video games collide, ran an article entitled, “How Georgia Lawmakers Are Working to Keep its Citizens’ Broadband Connections From Improving.”
But there’s a quiet movement – a greasing of the wheels, if you like – to put a stop to that by telcos and low-end broadband providers that rely on old infrastructure. The latest state to try and legislate limits on what towns and cities can do to improve broadband is in Georgia, where state lawmakers have introduced Georgia House Bill 282, or “the Municipal Broadband Investment Act.”
The Georgia Municipal Association intends to rally opposition to the bill. “Broadband is economic development,” Amy Henderson, communications director for the GMA, tells MediaPost. She adds that cities “don’t want the possibility of it being restricted.” Currently, 13 cities have created their own broadband networks in the state.
The municipal group points out on its blog that a recent report from the governor’s office said that rural parts of the state “are at a competitive disadvantage because of lack of access to broadband networks.