Working together to achieve a common goal is nothing new for local government leaders. It is when we are challenged to fulfill the critical needs of our shared constituents that we find solutions through collaboration. The collaboration often includes working with our neighboring counties or seeking partnership from other governmental entities such as our regional commissions or the state to address pressing issues.
One issue that has been very prevalent in our state level policy discussions and one that has become a critical need for our citizens in parts of rural Georgia is broadband access. Internet access and connectivity are the foundations of a vast majority of everything we do as today’s society is heavily dependent on technology. From work to recreation, connectivity has become a requirement of our daily activities.
This issue has larger implications when viewed from the perspective of a local government official. As the elected leaders of our counties, it is part of our duty to help improve the quality of life for our citizens through the services we provide. Services such as public safety, health, and education are evolving and they, too, are becoming dependent on adequate internet access. In addition to broadband being a major factor in helping to keep our constituents informed, healthy, and safe, it will help foster economic development and make our communities more vibrant and competitive. Thus, making them the ideal places for people to live, work, and play.
In my area of the state, the local regional commission has taken a step toward responding to this critical issue for the local governments and their citizens in our region. The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission formed a rural broadband advisory committee this spring to address the necessity of connectivity and plans to engage all stakeholders in forthcoming dialogue. On a statewide level, the Joint High Speed Broadband Communications Access Committee was created a result of Senate Resolution 876 of the 2016 legislative session. The study committee, which consisted of state senators and representatives, was created to evaluate the issues relating to broadband access in rural Georgia and to provide recommendations for solutions.
Other significant implications of broadband access extend beyond the service aspect and ACCG addresses those in its 2018 proposed policy position on the issue. ACCG understands that in order to expand affordable and reliable broadband access throughout Georgia’s counties, accommodating necessary equipment in the public’s right-of-way may play a critical role. However, a county’s ability to responsibly regulate its community’s right-of-way is of importance to ACCG and it will work with our partners in state government to ensure that ability is not unduly compromised. Also included in ACCG’s proposed policy position are many recommended measures to enhance affordable broadband deployment in Georgia. The recommendations range from a model broadband right-of-way permitting process to providing additional tools to facilitate the collocation of broadband equipment on existing poles in the local right-of-way.Though the efforts by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, the Joint Study Committee, and ACCG are of their own, they all have a common goal of addressing the critical need of broadband access in order to improve the quality of life for Georgians