The latest version of HB 887, which shrunk from 46 pages to 16 pages Thursday, would allow local electric membership corporations to provide internet services, reduce fees EMCs can charge for internet providers to use their poles and set a policy for rural communities to qualify for potential future grant funding.
Powell said many lawmakers were willing to accept the communications services tax once he explained that it would replace existing franchise fees and eliminate sales taxes on communications equipment.
“I would prefer to have the funding in there, but at the same time it makes it so complex that I would rather get the framework in place and fund it later than to have everything in there and get bogged down so that nothing gets passed,” he said.
The tax on online products would have faced challenges if it had advanced to the state Senate.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Sen. Michael Williams, both of whom are Republican candidates for governor, have said they oppose the proposal to tax video streaming services.
The scaled-down bill is still "a great start" in the effort to expand rural internet access, said Georgia Cable Association lobbyist Stephen Loftin. He supports the communications services tax, saying it would tax all technologies equally.
“We were excited about the prospect of broadening the base so that we could lower the (tax) rate, which would be fair for everybody,” Loftin said.
The Georgia Cable Association’s members include Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox Communications, the cable and broadband internet subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, which also owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia's Speaker of the House Davie Ralston was in Washington, D.C., today. He was invited by the White House to be one of several state leaders participating in the President's infrastructure program rollout this morning.