Surf's up for Georgia municipal broadband

8 March 2013 by Steve Blum
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A Grand Old Party for elephant seals too.

When the best thing you can say about a proposed new law is that everyone who’s really mad about it is exempt from it, maybe it’s time to fold your hand. Georgia representative Mark Hamilton, the sponsor of a bill to effectively prohibit local governments there from pursuing municipal broadband projects, decided to play it through to the end. And he lost.

The George house of representatives, the (structural, if not intellectual) equivalent of the California state assembly, spiked the bill yesterday with a vote of 70 in favor and 94 against.

There’s no public discussion of similar legislation in California right now. However, two companies that Hamilton specifically mentioned and his bill would have protected – AT&T and Comcast – are the big dogs of California broadband. So it’s a fair guess that it’s crossed somebody’s mind somewhere in our state.

The California Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying group that represents cable companies, is certainly thinking about it. They asked the California Public Utilities Commission to include steep restrictions on local governments if eligibility for California Advanced Services Fund subsidies is expanded.

Yesterday’s result in Georgia, though, makes me think a similar municipal broadband ban wouldn’t get much traction in Sacramento. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the bill was defeated by “a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans”. Which leaves urban and suburban Republicans to support it.

If we were talking about any other mammal, Californians would declare them endangered and start closing off beaches so they could reproduce in peace. Our freedom to surf – web or waves – is safe for now.