Bill That Would Have Banned Public Broadband In Georgia Has Failed

Remember that legislation in Georgia that would have forbidden municipalities from building public broadband networks if just a single person in a census block already had access to a so-so DSL connection? The lawmakers have voted — and said thank but no thanks.

As originally written, the Municipal Broadband Investment Act — so called because it would actually stop municipal broadband investment — set the bar for “broadband” at 1 Mbps downstream, which may have been considered high-speed in the days when you had to download porn in 30-second chunks.

The bill was later revised to allow for 3Mbps downstream, which is still slower than the FCC’s most recent minimum standard for broadband as “4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.”

If just a single person in a census block had private internet access that meets this standard, the municipality would be prevented from building out a new broadband network in that area.

It’s believed that, like in the case for similar bills in North and South Carolina, this legislation was supported by both the large wireless companies — which pay lip service to serving rural and small communities but have done little about it thus far — and regional ISPs that don’t want to see their de facto monopolies broken up by municipalities who choose to provide a better option to residents.

The state legislator who crafted this bill claims it is unfair to allow cities to spend their huge tax coffers to compete against telecoms that only have a few billion dollars to invest. He also apparently resides in an alternate reality where local municipalities are flush with cash and unicorns grant wishes.

Another state representative who opposed the bill tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his town could not get a private ISP to set up a broadband network “because they knew they didn’t have to. They provided whatever crumbs from the table they wanted.”

In the end, the vote went 94-70 against the legislation.