New Georgia Legislation Could Expand Broadband Service

About 16 percent of Georgia households lack high-speed Internet access, but a new bill would allow power and telecom companies to start selling service in rural areas where they already provide other utilities.

by Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / January 18, 2019

(TNS) — Power and phone companies could begin selling internet service in rural areas that lack high-speed access, according to bills introduced this week in the Georgia General Assembly.

The legislation would allow electric membership corporations and telephone cooperatives to also provide broadband internet service.

Expanding internet service to rural areas is a priority this year for many state legislators who are trying to revitalize communities that have been gradually losing businesses and population. They say high-speed internet is essential for companies, hospitals and schools.

About 16 percent of households in Georgia lack fast online access. Electricity cooperatives provide power to 4.5 million customers in Georgia, many of them outside metropolitan areas where broadband service is prevalent.

“By enabling EMCs to deploy these services to areas of the state that have limited or no broadband access at all, we can create a competitive marketplace,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega who introduced Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 17.

On the House side, state Rep. Penny Houston, a Republican from Nashville, introduced House Bill 22 and House Bill 23 to allow phone cooperatives and electric membership corporations to provide internet.

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©2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.