State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) speaks on broadband legislation in the General Assembly during Crossover Day, Feb. 28, on the Senate floor.

Georgia Senate passes broadband legislation

Two broadband expansion bills sponsored by state Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega), Senate Bills 232 and 426, passed the Senate on Crossover Day, Wednesday, Feb. 28. Each bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for joining me in support of these broadband expansion bills,” said Sen. Gooch.

“We have been working on these bills for a long time, and I am proud of our chamber for taking action. Expanding broadband access has long been a top priority of the Senate, and we have taken another step toward providing rural Georgians with the services they need for economic development, telehealth, education and quality of life.”

SB 232, also known as the Facilitating Internet Broadband Expansion (FIBRE) Act, allows Georgia’s 41 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) to deploy broadband, wireless and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services to rural Georgia.

The bill also sets the regulations for EMCs seeking to provide these services with a goal of creating a competitive marketplace for broadband expansion into rural areas.

SB 426, or the Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, streamlines the permitting and deployment of a new wireless technology known as 5g — or small-cell broadband — for private companies wishing to utilize public rights of way.

In addition, the bill also permits the construction of small wireless technology poles on certain existing structures and allows for construction of new utility poles in areas lacking current infrastructure, while protecting historic districts.

Times Courier

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