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In rural Georgia, Internet upgrades face potential hurdles

October 6, 2018

ATLANTA (AP) — Rural parts of Georgia need better internet access quickly, but internet companies won’t expand to rural areas if there’s too much red tape, state lawmakers say.

Lobbyists say their companies are spending too much time negotiating with each city and county for access to roads to install broadband equipment, WABE Radio reported.

The question of who has the right-of-way is a central part of the issue.

Cities want companies to install broadband access in their communities quickly, but how to make sure their assets and ordinances are respected at the same time is “the $10,000 question,” said Dublin Mayor Phil Best. He is also first vice president of the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents the interests of city governments in Georgia.

In Dublin, internet service can be spotty in some of the residential areas, Best said. The mayor said he welcomes internet providers, but he wants to keep local control of his city.

“If you have a home in a historic section of Dublin and one of the providers were able to come in and put a huge cell or pole outside of that home, that’s not good,” Best said.

Best is a member of the Senate Advanced Communications Technologies and Use of State and Local Government Right of Way Policy Modernization Study Committee.

Other members who are not Georgia senators include Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash; Chris White of the city of Thomasville; Suzanne Powell of the Utility Technology Association; and Patrick Turner of AT&T.

State Sen. Frank Ginn, who chairs the committee, said he’s looking to balance the need to expand quickly with concerns over local control.

“Local governments, they own that right of way. They own that real estate,” Ginn said. “And one of the things that we wanted to do was to come up with a methodology to value and appraise that right of way so those residents in that local community reap the rewards of their property ownership.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers pushed for Senate Bill 426 and House Bill 533 that would have expanded 5G broadband infrastructure and limited the power of local governments, but it failed to pass.

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Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/

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