Many people who want broadband service at home typically have few options other than their local telecom or cable provider. And that situation suits telecoms and cable companies just fine.
Just look at what's happening in Georgia, where lawmakers have once again introduced a bill, reportedly backed by Windstream, that would restrict cities from creating their own broadband networks. The Municipal Broadband Investment Act (House Bill 282) would effectively prohibit municipalities from building networks in any areas that aren't "unserved." The measure defines an area as unserved if no one within a census block currently has access to Web service of at least 1.5 Mbps -- a speed that's slower than the 4 Mbps standard used by the Federal Communications Commission.
The bill also would prevent local governments from continuing to build out existing networks, unless they would only extend to unserved areas. A similar measure was introduced last year, but died in committee.
The Georgia Municipal Association intends to rally opposition to the bill. "Broadband is economic development," Amy Henderson, communications director for the GMA, tells MediaPost. She adds that cities "don't want the possibility of it being restricted." Currently, 13 cities have created their own broadband networks in the state.
The municipal group points out on its blog that a recent report from the governor's office said that rural parts of the state "are at a competitive disadvantage because of lack of access to broadband networks.
Incumbent telecoms and cable companies have lobbied for similar restrictions in other states, arguing that they can't compete on fair terms with the government. Unfortunately, those arguments carried the day in North Carolina, which passed a bill in 2011 restricting municipal broadband.
That law drew a rebuke from Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, who unsuccessfully asked former Gov. Bev Perdue to veto the bill. "Many communities throughout your state have contracted with private businesses to build their own community broadband networks," he wrote. "Commercial broadband providers are not happy with this new competition....Rather than compete with better service and better prices, they secured a government-granted protection against competition."