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Georgia Bill would ban muni broadband if one home in census tract gets 1.5Mbps


Incumbent broadband providers are pushing legislation that would restrict Georgia towns from building municipal broadband networks. Under the proposal, if a single home in a census tract has Internet access at speeds of 1.5Mbps or above, the town would be prohibited from offering broadband service to anyone in that tract.
State-level restrictions on municipal broadband networks are not a new idea. Last year the South Carolina legislature passed a similar proposal with the support of AT&T. North Carolina passed similar legislation in 2011. The idea has been shot down in Indiana and a number of other states.
The argument against municipal broadband networks is straightforward: in a free-market economy, private companies, not the government, should build broadband networks. That argument makes sense in areas with healthy broadband competition. There’s no reason for the government to get involved if the private sector is already getting the job done.
But many towns, especially in rural areas, aren’t in this happy position. Many have only one option—usually the local telephone company—for residential service. Speeds may be slow, and with no local competition the incumbent has little incentive to invest in upgrades.
A town in that position might logically decide that the only way to get a modern network is to finance it itself. In recent years, medium-sized towns such as Lafayette, LA and Chattanooga, TN have decided to do just that.
People disagree about how well those experiments are working out, with some observers lauding these projects and others criticizing them. But this seems like a case where the conservative principle of local control should carry the day. If taxpayers in a particular Georgia town want to spend their tax dollars on a fiber network, that should be a decision for their local elected representatives to make.  MORE

Short URL: http://www.newsnet14.com/?p=120669

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