As published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution
by Jim Galloway
“There is excessive frustration across the state. Not that they simply don’t have access to broadband, high-speed Internet, but they don’t have quality and reliable access,” Cagle said. “Rural Georgia is losing population. The Internet, broadband, is in many ways an equalizer.”
On Thursday, Cagle brought out the specifics of what he’ll pursue in the Capitol come January He wants:
— A sales tax exemption on equipment used to install fiber optic cable that would apply to Georgia counties lacking broadband capacity. Twenty-three states already have something like it.
— Expedited permitting for the use of public rights-of-way.
— A public-private partnership law that would allow local governments to partner with local firms on Internet expansion projects. The same effort would be intended to encourage private companies to consider broadcasting broadband internet over unused “white space” channels of the television spectrum — a technique currently being explored by Microsoft.
— An expanded Georgia Technology Authority that would be tasked with coordinating the expansion effort. That could include a project being contemplated by the state Department of Transportation, to lay broadband trunk lines along Georgia’s interstates that could be leased by private companies.
But the eye-opener in Cagle’s plans is this: The GTA would be “directed and funded” to monitor speed and reliability of existing broadband in rural counties. Georgia would have an Internet cop.
Last week, Collins, the congressman who lives in Gainesville, told of his frustration with federal programs that offer private companies the financial incentives to enter rural markets — but include no means of evaluating whether the funds are being properly used.
“What we don’t want to find ourselves in, is the situation we find ourselves in in north Georgia, where the government throws a lot of money at it, and then there’s no accountability on the back end,” Cagle said. “If we’re going to be putting public resources in, we want to make sure we’re getting what we’re expecting.