Google is joining a coalition of companies, communities and activists encouraging Georgia state Senators to vote against a bill that would effectively limit municipal broadband in the state. The was introduced by a Republican lawmaker who claims that government networks unfairly compete with private providers.
The bill SB 313 introduced by Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers, would prevent public broadband providers from paying for communication networks with tax or government funds and from offering their services at below-cost prices. The Senator claims that the measure is needed to “level the playing field,” for broadband providers.
But, Google and others disagree. In a letter to officials the company writes, “…this bill, if enacted, will harm both the public and private sectors, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, hamper work force development and diminish the quality of life in Georgia.”
Representatives from several rural cities and counties in the state went before lawmakers last week to argue against the bill. Advocates for the bill say that the state’s needs are being met by private companies and state budgets shouldn’t pay for services already being provided. However, as CivSource reported last month, private providers have refused to build networks in many parts of the state.
Rural officials argued that in the face of those refusals, they should be allowed to provide the service themselves as it is vital to municipal infrastructure.
Representatives from broadband providers have said the bill encourages more fairness. Debate over the measure will continue with the potential for a vote expected in the coming months.