Bill limiting cities’ ability to create broadband networks fails

The House on Thursday vote down an effort to limit local governments’ ability to create their own broadband Internet networks, an effort to spur greater private sector competition.

House Bill 282 failed 70-94 with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans who argued that private telecoms have failed to build reliable networks.

Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, the bill would have allowed local governments to enter the Internet marketplace if no private network provided at least 3 mega bytes per second of service.

Hamilton said allowing cities, with unlimited tax dollars, to compete with private companies erodes the free market and is a waste of taxpayer money.

But Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said his community was unable to get a private company to provide sufficient service and it cost them economic development opportunities.

“You cannot get it, you cannot keep it without high speed fiber,” Powell said. The provider, he said, “wouldn’t provide it because they knew they didn’t have to. They provided whatever crumbs from the table they wanted.”