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How this legislation could improve Internet in rural areas
01142018 BROADBAND
A plan to bring high-speed internet access to 13,000 new customers in Hall County is now up in the air after the county and AT&T lost out on federal funding for the project. - photo by Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, introduced a bill Thursday that would help rural communities access broadband services.

The bill, named the Connect America Fund Accountability Act of 2019, outlines additional guidelines for the Connect America Fund, a Federal Communications Commission program that incentivizes broadband carriers to provide service to underserved or rural areas.

“For years, Northeast Georgians have consistently struggled to gain access to reliable broadband speeds. Congress has taken significant steps toward expanding rural broadband infrastructure in recent years, including securing federal funding to providers in rural areas,” Collins said in a statement. “However, some carriers – particularly in Northeast Georgia – have failed to provide adequate broadband speeds to consumers despite collecting taxpayer dollars.”

The bill would require recipients of fund dollars to provide additional information about how they test their services, mandating that the carrier report their testing method and choose a sample that is representative of their consumers.

“This legislation institutes specific tools to hold providers accountable for accurate reporting while ensuring households and businesses throughout our rural communities have access to the broadband services required to compete in the 21st-century economy,” Collins said.

In May 2018, Collins and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hosted a forum in Dahlonega to discuss the challenges of providing internet for rural communities.

“All of us agree on the importance of a free and open internet. Nobody wants to see blocking or throttling or other kinds of anti-competitive behavior,” Pai told The Times in 2018. “It would be great if Congress could speak, ideally in a bipartisan way, to enmesh those principles in legislation so it’s not this back-and-forth about the issue.”

Collins has also sponsored the Gigabit Opportunity Act, which would provide tax incentives to any business that provides high-speed service in rural areas. Versions of that bill are currently in House and Senate committees.

Doug Collins 2018
Doug Collins