I’m responding to your Jan. 26 article “Bill would limit government Internet systems.” The article reports that local officials oppose Georgia Senate Bill 313, which was introduced recently by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. That opposition is shortsighted and, if allowed to prevail, would harm Georgia’s taxpayers and its economy.
S.B. 313 would not prevent public broadband networks from being built in areas truly underserved by the private market. All it would do is require lawmakers to hold hearings on their broadband plans, and put them up for a vote. If local taxpayers are convinced, the projects would move ahead. Public broadband networks are notorious for running over budget and providing service to few people. Georgians deserve to have some tough questions answered if they’re going to foot the bill.
Also, I want to correct the record. The article stated that S.B. 313 would require public broadband networks to charge the same rates as private networks. This is wrong. The legislation clearly states public networks may charge either the rate private providers do, or, if it is less than that rate, it may charge subscribers the actual cost to the utility for providing the service.
As the officials quoted pointed out, broadband is an important economic development tool. But not every policy for achieving access makes economic or budgetary sense. S.B. 313 merely would require local governments put additional practices in place to ensure their plans do. That’s good for the Georgia economy, and for taxpayers.