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Support the Broadband Investment Equity Act!
An Open Letter to the Georgia Legislature:
February 8, 2012
On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union's (NTU's) nearly 8,300 members in Georgia, I urge you to support Senate Bill 313, the Broadband Investment Equity Act. SB 313, sponsored by Senator Chip Rogers, sets basic rules for competitive fairness between government-owned broadband networks and existing providers in the private sector. Unfortunately, Georgia is rife with examples of cities and towns that invested in expensive and redundant networks, exposing taxpayers to millions of dollars in unnecessary risk.
SB 313 would implement vital safeguards to protect taxpayers from the creation of duplicative and wasteful municipal broadband networks. For example, the bill would address the issue of hidden costs by requiring more accurate assessments of the burdens associated with government-owned networks and specifically ensuring that they must be self-sustaining ventures. It would also facilitate greater citizen involvement by stipulating voter approval before any city could advance a municipal broadband network, thus making certain that the people who underwrite these projects have a direct say in their creation.
Marietta provides a stark example of the government-owned network nightmare. In the late 1990s, city officials issued $35 million in bonds to construct and maintain a network called FiberNet. From its inception, the venture was intended to be a direct competitor with incumbent cable and Internet providers. However, by 2005, after only luring away 180 customers from the private cable companies, FiberNet was sold at a loss of $11 million.
Most communities across the state have several existing competitors from which they can purchase high-speed Internet service. Local officials should not be dreaming of ways for government to intervene in an enterprise filled with private competition. Governments exist to protect citizens and to provide public goods and services, like roads, that are not commonly offered by the private sector. They certainly do not exist, on the other hand, to underwrite flashy adventures in entrepreneurism with taxpayer money.
Georgia taxpayers face enough burdens as it is. SB 313 would ensure that they do not also bear the weight of municipal broadband networks unless they choose to do so. We urge you to give this important legislation your full support moving forward.
Sincerely,Andrew Moylan Vice President of Government Affairs