A Rights of way giveaway in Georgia

by DeeDee Halleck, Hand Held Visions

Georgia has just passed in both houses a bill which virtually eliminates local control of public rights of way. The telecom giants have been pushing this hard. One rep counted 47 lobbyists from ATT who had been pursuing her. This is happening in many states: the telcoms want to deliver video, but without the public interest safeguards and equity that cable has been forced to give. Cable access has been an important resource for many communities, with channels and funding for educational, government and public access.

Up to now Atlanta has had a good public access: The Peoples Channel. It is these "PEG" channels which have enabled Democracy Now with Amy Goodman to have a wide audience across the country. Without airtime, this resource will probably disappear.In the future they will probably have to share one channel with the other PEG entities: government and education.

State by state, access to local media has been getting harder as the suits call the shots in state legislatures. In Georgia they won for now. This means less air time for community members and less funding for the media centers that train and host neighborhood media. One of the consequences of this sort of legislation is that mayors and city councils lose the power over their own infrastructure. For example ATT will need to set up "street furniture" to house the computer equipment necessary to convert signals to video. Or they can put any man hole anywhere and paint it. The corporations can now control the municipal rights of way. See www.saveaccess.org for some potential scenarios. The bill is at www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/search/hb227.htm, euphemistically entitled "Consumer Choice for Television Act". It should be called the Public Rights Give-Away Bill.

article originally published at http://deedeehalleck.blogspot.com/2007/04/rights-of-way-give-away_30.html.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey