There seems to be a lot of confusion over a state effort to rein in local governments attempting to establish broadband Internet service.
Republican State Sen. Chip Rogers, fueled by generous contributions from telecommunications companies, has filed a bill in the Georgia Legislature that, he claims, would protect private service providers from unfair competition by government-subsidized broadband systems.
Nonsensically, some in Columbia County welcomed the news as a slap at the county’s government. While we’re on record opposing the concept of the $13.5 million federal grant that allows the county’s entry into broadband, the fact remains that the project already is underway.
That federal program is designed to expand broadband Internet service to rural areas that, because of the up-front infrastructure costs, aren’t deemed profitable by private companies. Our county has plenty of those areas, served at best only by spotty, expensive cellular-based services.
Columbia County’s program wouldn’t compete with private companies. Instead, it uses the federal grant and local sale-tax funding to build that high-speed infrastructure, which private companies can then lease to provide Internet service to underserved areas.
Rather than undercutting local communities and sacrificing rural customers on behalf of the private companies, Rogers ought to look for ways to improve such public-private partnerships. Columbia County taxpayers had better hope so, too, unless they want all the money they’ve spent wiring the county with fiber optic cables to have been wasted.