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Your Victory: Georgia Legislature Shelves Anti-Broadband Measure We Helped Expose

Consumers and community leaders across Georgia can now rest a little easier knowing AT&T’s plans to throw up roadblocks against community broadband have gone awry.  SB313, a custom-written corporate welfare bill designed to protect cable and phone companies from competition, has reportedly been turned into a “study bill” — a graceful way to kill bad legislation without hurting too many feelings.

It wasn’t just the fact incumbent phone and cable companies wanted to stop community broadband projects from wiring communities they’ve ignored for years.  It wasn’t even the absurdity of the bill defining Georgia’s “broadband” speeds at just 200kbps (later ‘generously’ amended and increased to 758kbps).  This bill died because of consumer and community outrage — local officials working hand in hand with woefully under-served Georgians asking their elected officials why they seemed to care more about AT&T’s interests than those of the people who elected them to office.

Specious political arguments about “government/taxpayer involvement in broadband” and a sudden blitz of campaign contributions for the bill’s backers simply couldn’t overcome the reality of broadband-challenged rural Georgia.

According to the National Broadband Map, Georgia ranks 20th in the nation for broadband access. According to the forward of a report by Rich Calhoun, Program Director of the Georgia Technology Initiative, “As I traveled through the state to talk with leaders in municipalities, counties and community anchor institutions, I found that many places throughout Georgia indicated that they did not have access to affordable or sufficient broadband services. Telecommunications firms who have made significant investments in Georgia indicated that in some areas of the state the return on investment would not qualify for further investment at the present time.”

As Stop the Cap! exposed to our readers, AT&T isn’t interested in serving the broadband needs of rural Georgia and doesn’t want anyone else serving them either.

We exposed the well-financed propaganda campaign that maligned some of Georgia’s past experiences with municipal broadband, many projects derailed not by government ‘failure’ but through political interference and the private sector.  We showed readers how to follow the money to see the connection between campaign contributions and the sudden interest in effectively banning community broadband.  We exposed the fact this is a coordinated, nationwide effort by a corporate backed lobbying group (ALEC) that pays to wine and dine lawmakers and then sell them on a catalog of bills ghost-written by some of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.  Legislation that hamstrings competition and protects monopoly profits, while always conveniently exempting incumbent providers from the terms of the bills they effectively wrote.

But the real victory goes to readers who picked up the phone or sent e-mail letting Georgia legislators know you were watching them and paying attention to this obvious corporate welfare bill.  You made it more expensive for lawmakers to vote with AT&T, despite their campaign contributions, than to vote for -your- interests.  The next election is never too far away.

Why We Fight: These are the minimum speeds needed by some of Georgia's most important institutions. While state lawmakers have 100Mbps access in Atlanta, some are content to define 758kbps "broadband" as just fine for the rest of the state.

We also applaud the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  Their Community Broadband Networks project was able to educate, coordinate, and rally local governments who may not have been aware their broadband future was about to be indefinitely held ransom by AT&T and Comcast.

We never underestimate AT&T’s power and money.  But they continue to underestimate us and the communities they are supposed to be serving.

Common sense prevailed in Georgia.  South Carolina may be a different story.  Their own anti-broadband measure is still alive and kicking.  We’ll be holding additional “calls to action” on this bad bill shortly.

Stay involved in the fight.  The better broadband you protect may be your own.

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12 years ago

Thank You Georgia! Now please help us in South Carolina defeat H. 3508. If this passes, I will likely leave the state.

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