WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives voted on a convincing and bipartisan basis against an industry-sponsored bill to limit community broadband networks. With a 94–70 vote against, the deceptively named "Municipal Broadband Investment Act" lost despite backing from Windstream and other phone and cable companies that seek to control broadband access statewide.
Nineteen other states have already passed statutes that either hamper or outright ban efforts to build municipal broadband networks. These restrictions have passed thanks to the efforts of incumbent phone and cable companies and organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which have provided the template for these harmful bills. Against this flood of corporate lobbying, the Free Press Action Fund generated calls to lawmakers this week from its Georgia activists, joining opposition led by state and regional leaders, Georgia businesses, elected officials and groups like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and ColorofChange.org.
Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
"The more people learn about these state bills, the more they speak out against them. The people of Georgia should be proud of their win today. It’s a tremendous victory for communities across the state and the country. The win preserves Georgia residents' rights to build their own broadband networks, and it's a shot across the bow for ALEC-backed bills in other states. Everyone is tired of waiting on incumbent providers to connect rural and low-income communities. Municipal broadband can provide better service at lower prices, and the phone and cable giants should stop strong-arming state legislators to prevent local communities from making that choice for themselves.
"The victory in Georgia should send a signal to Washington. The American people are ready for federal legislation that would keep broadband choices local and protect community broadband networks."