Muni Broadband: The Idea that Won’t Die

The state of Georgia is looking to stop further development of taxpayer funded broadband projects with a new bill that would require cities to solicit commercial service providers and hold a special election before creating a city-owned cable-phone and Internet service operation.

According to Government Technology:

This bill [SB 313], sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, would also mandate that local governments not pay for a community broadband system using tax revenue or any other revenue attained through a government service. Municipalities would also be prohibited from raising taxes or fees levied on private broadband providers to cover the costs of a public network.

“This bill will allow for robust competition in the communication marketplace and encourage continued economic growth throughout our state,” said Rogers in a statement. “By extending our long-standing commitment to policies that encourage private investment and market-driven competition, we are putting the needs of our citizens above those of government.”

It’s not surprising to see Georgia moving in the direction. Many states, includign Pennsylvania and North Carolina, already have. That’s because state legislators have watched how cities, for which the state is ultimate loan guarantor, sink loads of borrowed funds into these projects only to have them fail to pan out. What is surprising is that it took this long. Georgia is home to the nation’s biggest municipal broadband debacle, in Dalton, Ga., which lost $171 million, or $5,320 per capita, on an ill-fated plan to build it’s own cable system. Newnan and Marietta, Ga., also made the top 10 list of muni failures, costing taxpayers in those cities $48.1 million and 25.9 million, respectively.