For Immediate Release
Date: March 4, 2013
Members of Savannah City Council have joined elected officials from across the State in opposing House Bill 282, which would severely limit a community's ability to provide advanced, affordable broadband Internet service to its citizens.
The bill, which is being pushed heavily by national telecommunications providers, would require a local government wanting to directly provide or enter into a public-private partnership to provide broadband services to its citizens to prove to the Public Service Commission that each census block it wishes to serve has no existing broadband service, regardless of the speed. This definition of "unserved" is so narrow that virtually no community would ever fall under the exception.
"Access to high-speed, affordable Internet access is crucial to enhancing economic development and boosting employment, and will become even more important in the future," said Mayor Edna Jackson. "This bill decreases a community's ability to address these critical needs."
While HB 282 does not threaten any current projects under way in Savannah, it would decrease the City's ability to address broadband needs in the future by preventing public broadband providers from investing in advanced broadband infrastructure that is so crucial to local business development. The impact would be felt greatest in Savannah's smaller rural neighbors with smaller customer bases that don't often fit the business model of private telecommunications companies.
"This is an effort to protect the profits of large companies and ignores the economic development challenges many communities face," said Alderman Mary Ellen Sprague. "Many of our neighbors are at a competitive disadvantage because of slow or no Internet access. This bill tells those communities that Georgia does not care about them."
HB282 is also inconsistent with America's National Broadband Plan, which calls on states to remove existing barriers to community broadband initiatives.
"If there's one thing we have learned over the past year, it's the need for strong, fair and open competition to ensure that users can enjoy the widest range of choices," said Alderman Tony Thomas. "We urge the citizens of Savannah to tell their State legislators that HB282 is a bad deal for the people of Georgia."