Google, tech companies relaunch protests against Georgia bill curbing muni broadband


A large group of tech companies and trade associations sent a letter to Georgia lawmaker Don Parsons, asking him to stop moving a bill that would effectively kill off municipal broadband in the state. CivSource has been following this story since the first bill was introduced last year but ultimately failed to move through the legislature.

Republicans brought the bill again this year, and saw a quick protest response from local groups, that has now expanded to include companies like Google, Alcatel-Lucent, and Gigabit Squared. Trade associations are also in the mix, including the Utilities Telecom Council, and Telecommunications Industry Association.

In the letter, signatories write, “this bill 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. In particular, HB 282 will hurt the private sector in several ways: by curtailing public-private partnerships; by stifling the ability of private companies to sell equipment and services to public broadband providers; and by impairing economic and educational opportunities that contribute to a skilled workforce from which businesses across the state will benefit.”

Taking a different stance from the incumbent providers, the group notes that the private sector cannot be expected to build the nations public infrastructure alone. They note the positive initiatives happening at the federal and state levels, as well as the recent goal outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer one gigabit access nationwide by 2015. They say that limiting the ability of the government to provide critical support means that they are also limiting the ability of private sector providers to build out networks.

Despite this protest, the bill moved out of committee and will likely come to the floor for a vote. The bill is backed by AT&T, and CenturyLink, large incumbent providers who have already announced that they don’t see a business case to build in rural states.

Community Broadband Networks notes that some additional waivers for communities with existing networks have been introduced but, they do little to curb the chilling effect of the bill. The committee moved the bill, but only after those testifying against it had left the committee room.

The companies, trade associations, and local cities against the bill are pushing for nationwide pressure on local lawmakers. The full committee roster is available here.