Stemming Anti-Muni Network Tide with Economic Development Wins

Last Thursday, the forces for truth, justice and the community broadband way scored a major victory, rallying a <gasp!> bi-partisan coalition of Georgia state legislators to defeat the anti-muni broadband bill that would have left the state a broadband backwater. 94 Democrats and Republicans united to kill House Bill 282, which would have prevented municipalities from building networks anywhere incumbents offered at least 3 Mbps.

“With this vote,” states Catherine Rice, President of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors, “Georgia has drawn a line in the sand, stating for the rest of the country that no one in the United States should be denied high speed broadband. The bipartisan majority that voted down House Bill 282 also demonstrates that having access to gigabit infrastructure is NOT a partisan issue, it is an infrastructure issue.”

Pretty amazing for a statehouse that’s locked up by the GOP. Want to know what the secret of defeating this back-assward bill was? Economic development. That’s right. The only thing that seems to counterbalance the lure of big telco bucks to vote against constituents’ best interests is the lure of potentially saving their economically frayed constituencies. I have nine success stories for you to boost your legislative efforts.

Ms. Rice informed me Friday that this interview about Thomasville, GA’s use of public broadband to help eliminate property taxes became a key talking point when meeting with leggies all across the state. People – play the economic development card and play it with gusto in your state every time incumbents and their legislative allies threaten your right to local self-determination! The card is only getting stronger as more success stories emerge.

To help in that next big fight, I developed a graphical concept that visually puts the legislative battle on our turf, and asked Golden Shovel Agency to develop a flag using this visual that you can copy freely to use to rally the troops. All we ask is that you give our respective businesses a little shoutout when you do.


Below is some ammunition for when you need to get all up in leggies’ space with a strong message about broadband’s impact on local economies. I wrote eight stories for the Kauffman Foundation, each highlighting a different community’s success using broadband as an economic development tool. There’s a lot of good stuff here you can put to work, both in your community and in the statehouse.

1.  The World Wide Wait is Over In Pulaski, TN

One of the on-going discussions regarding broadband and economic development is, do we focus more resources initially on trying to attract new business, or on improving the businesses we already have. The media tends to give more coverage to attracting new companies, probably because a company bringing 1,000 new jobs is big news. … continue reading »

2. One Community’s Garbage Is Another One’s Broadband Adoption Program

Riverside, CA started building its citywide wireless network in 2006, and it went live in 2007. It began providing computers to low-income families before the network buildout when residents only had dial-up service as a free option.  … continue reading »

3. My Old Kentucky Home Page Delivers Economic Benefits

A lot of the articles you read on broadband and economic development give the impression that fiber is the only broadband technology that matters. While it is true that a lot of the highspeed horsepower for online computing tasks such as videoconferencing, moving huge data files and voice calls over the Internet (VoIP) comes from fiber, wireless still has a vital role to play.  … continue reading »

4. Danville, Va. Rises From the Tobacco Ashes, Embraces Fiber Network

In a story typical of the southeast United States, much of the economy in Virginia was agriculture driven, with the tobacco industry being a main employer. As tobacco farming died out in the state, towns shrunk with the withering employment opportunities. Those in the population who remained faced serious challenges using their skillsets in other industries. … continue reading »

5. The Beach is Nice, but the Network is Driving Business in Santa Monica

Seeing an opportunity to save money and also drive economic development, the City of Santa Monica, California pushed through adoption of high speed fiber and wireless networks, as Craig Settles details in this post. … continue reading »

6. Fun and Games Drive Small Business Broadband Adoption in Vermont

In this post, Craig Settles tells how the Vermont Council on Rural Development has used contests to encourage local businesses to get online. … continue reading »

7. Chattanooga’s Gig Network Creates Economic Development Pressure Cooker for Success

Chattanooga, Tennessee uses its new fiber network to power a smart grid and for traditional economic development. However, as Craig Settles details, it is the 48Hour Launch program that may hold the most potential to boost the region. … continue

8. With Broadband, Better Perspective Leads to Better Vision

In this post, Craig Settles looks at a Three Lakes, Wisconsin and concludes that even with a limited population base and modest access speeds, a well-planned broadband network can yield big results. … continue reading »

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