With the Georgia General Assembly set to reconvene on June 15, the legislative agenda is expected to be tight, but broadband access still must be a priority to our state lawmakers. Luckily, the Georgia House passed Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act, 116-44 back in March and the Senate is expected to review and consider the bill when lawmakers return to the state house.
HB 244 will allow broadband providers to connect to existing utility poles and infrastructure at fair rates, making it possible for access to broadband to be expanded to rural, unserved areas of Georgia. A key part of the bill is assigning the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) with the task of ensuring the fair and reasonable rates. Many may wonder though, what is the Georgia Public Service Commission?
Dating back to 1879 and originally known as the Railroad Commission of Georgia tagged with the purpose of regulating railroad passenger and freight rates, services, and operations. Over time the PSC grew with the increasing population and commerce. In 1922, the Georgia General Assembly changed the name to the Georgia Public Service Commission to reflect the number of industries it had come to oversee which includes anything under electric, natural gas, or telecommunications.
According to the PSC’s website, the responsibility of the Commission is “to decide what are fair and reasonable rates for services under its jurisdiction.” Additionally, “The Commission protects consumers’ interests while abiding by legal standards in setting rates.” The PSC’s ability to set fair rates for broadband providers to attach to existing infrastructure is similar to what the Federal Communications Commission does for investor-owned companies like Georgia Power, the reasoning for its role in HB 244.
HB 244 would reduce costs for broadband providers, leading to thousands of unserved Georgians getting broadband access. Broadband providers have committed to providing broadband to over 30,000 new homes and businesses across Georgia within the next 3 years, creating an estimated $70 million in annual economic benefits to Georgians if the bill is passed.