Policy implications of municipal investment in Georgia's wireline broadband networks
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The Community Broadband Investment Act, introduced in the Georgia legislature in 2012 and 2013 is a reflection of a broader national debate over the role of government investment in broadband infrastructure. The bill would limit local governments' ability to invest in broadband infrastructure for their communities because of arguments that government entry into the telecommunications sector crowds-out private competition, does not serve the public adequately, and lacks a comprehensive business model or best practices. A closer look at the history of utility regulation and various economic perspectives on the proper government role in utility provision reveals that government has had an extensive historical role in utility infrastructure investment and regulation, and several economic doctrines support the conclusion that government can be helpful in facilitating effective broadband service to their communities. Case studies of different models of municipal broadband networks in Georgia reveal that government entry can facilitate private sector competition, often provides quality service, and has a set of best practices. The success of municipal broadband reveals an evolution in the approach to telecommunications regulation from a regulated monopoly approach to a public-private cooperation approach which considers public participation with private entities on a dynamic scale. Government-entry into the broadband market was a rational decision for several Georgia communities due to their unique set of circumstances, and while municipal broadband may not be the answer to many communities' problems with meeting public demand, communities should be allowed to maintain flexibility in their decision-making about how to best serve their residents, effectively allowing them to decide which combination of public and private advantages they can leverage to meet the demand of their communities in relation to their unique local characteristics.
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