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Taxpayer Group Applauds Georgia Legislature for Passing Telecom Choice

by Pete Sepp / /

(Alexandria, VA) -- Georgia legislators deserve a round of applause for putting consumer choice ahead of special interest monopolies, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The non-partisan citizen group has over 8,200 members in Georgia.

"The U.S. Congress has been slow to reform America's outdated video franchising laws and expedite competition in the broadband market, but Georgia's reforms give millions of consumers more options -- and with more choice comes more savings," said NTU Senior Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen. "The vote this week was not only an overwhelming endorsement of consumer choice, but an outright rejection of antiquated telecom laws that essentially created monopolies for powerful political interests."

The benefits that telecom customers will reap from this legislation are by no means trivial. According to the American Consumers Institute, Georgians will save, on average, $22.30 per month on cable services. In addition, the economic impact of deregulation is profound. Georgia could generate approximately 3,100 new jobs.

The bill, HB 227, which will become effective on July, 1 2007, would allow a dual approach to cable franchising, a process that grants sole-service rights to a provider in exchange for fees and other concessions to the local government. This coming summer, a provider will be able to get a franchise license from the Secretary of State, or negotiate with a municipal or county government. Any local agreements can be adopted in whole by another rival provider, and none of the franchising options are mutually exclusive. Georgia is one of eleven states that have streamlined their video franchise process since 2005.

"With Georgia's burgeoning population growth, the demand from cable providers to tap this emerging market will be strong," Rasmussen concluded. "By allowing incumbent cable providers an immediate opt-in to the statewide franchise, competition will be greatly increased and consumers will enjoy lower prices every month. Georgia's step forward on telecom choice just saved consumers $348 million and placed the state on the vanguard of cable choice and innovation."

Note: The 362,000-member NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. More information on consumer choice and telecom deregulation is available at www.ntu.org.

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