Anti-municipal broadband network legislation seems to be a growing trend. Georgia last month became the latest state where legislators have proposed legislation to limit community broadband networks in the state.
According to a report from the Georgia Municipal Association, bill S.313 would require municipalities to hold a referendum vote before building a broadband network if a commercial network operator already offers Internet connectivity at speeds of 200 kb/s or above, even if the plan does not require taxpayer funding. In addition the bill would prevent such networks from operating outside the municipality and, according to the Community Broadband Networks website, would impose requirements that do not apply to traditional carriers.
But opponents of anti-municipal network legislation seem to be getting better organized. A wide range of heavy hitters including Google on Friday sent a letter to the chairman of the Georgia Senate committee on regulated industries, arguing that the bill “would impose burdensome financial and regulatory requirements that will prevent public broadband providers from building the sorely needed advanced broadband infrastructure that will stimulate local businesses development, foster work force retraining and boost employment.”
Signing the letter were representatives of Alcatel-Lucent, the American Public Power Association, Atlantic Engineering Group, the Fiber-to-the-Home Council, OnTrac, the Southeast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Utilities Telecom Council, as well as Google. Several Georgia state senators also have expressed opposition, the Georgia Municipal Association reports.
Typically local municipalities undertake public broadband network construction projects only after the local telco has declined to upgrade its network. But once plans for a local network get into gear, the incumbent telco often spends considerable money in advertising and marketing to oppose the community network, sometimes successfully defeating the project. And in North Carolina, some people argued that incumbent carrier donations to lawmakers helped ensure passage of anti-community network legislation.
“The same money could be used to upgrade last mile connectivity,” argued Karl Bode in a recent DSL Reports post.
In the past Telecompetitor readers have weighed in with strong opinions on both sides of the community broadband question. It would be interesting to hear their thoughts on what’s happening in Georgia.