Last week a coalition, led by Google, wrote a letter to the chairman of the Georgia House Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications urging him to not pass HB 282, the Municipal Broadband Investment Act. The bill, if passed, would require that municipal broadband networks serve only areas that are not being served by a private broadband provider. It also requires that the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) make a determination as to whether an area is unserved and to draft rules that specify violations of the Act.
Seeing Google and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) is scary enough. These two have nothing on common other than they represent content providers who would rather not directly pay to have their content distributed over the Internet. Both have been pro net neutrality, NATOA more so, because they don’t want to see their content throttled.
Scarier yet is the lack of support for the assertions made in their letter to the committee chairman. Most glaring is their arguments about how the bill would hinder economic growth in Georgia. What’s hindering economic growth in Georgia isn’t the lack of broadband, although the job creation resulting from construction and deployment of broadband infrastructure wouldn’t hurt. What is really hurting growth in Georgia is the lack of a more diversified economic base compounded by a loss of manufacturing jobs. Also, Georgia is trying to get from under a foreclosure crisis exacerbated by high unemployment.
Even if broadband deployment were the panacea for our economic ills, HB 282 would direct deployment where its most needed; in the areas that are unserved and could probably get a boost from the type of industry where a broadband connection is key.
Google and NATOA should spend less time playing carpetbagger and get to know the state before making unwarranted assertions about economic growth. That phrase has been bandied about to the point where it’s staring to lose value.
If Google and NATOA are so concerned about expanding broadband, they should support legislation that calls for an universal service assessment on cost causers like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, requiring that they pay a percentage of income made from advertisements and/or online retail. That would go long way toward getting the unserved online, whether they reside in an area serviced by multiple broadband providers or none.