Georgia's Deregulation Helps Consumers

The hits just keep on coming! In the waning days of its regular session the Georgia Legislature passed SB 120, the “Competitive Emerging Communications Technologies Act of 2006.”

The bill declares that the “Georgia Public Service Commission shall not have any jurisdiction, right, power, authority, or duty to impose any requirement or regulation relating to the setting of rates or terms and conditions for the offering of broadband service, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or wireless service.” Simple, clear and efficient! (How often does THAT happen in legislation?!)

State legislatures are increasingly refusing to wait on Congress to remove the anti-competitive regulatory structure that inhibits the deployment of emerging communications technologies. Texas and Indiana, for example, have already passed video franchise reform that allows telephone companies to directly compete in providing video service to consumers. And now Georgia has joined the club.

The states have always considered themselves the laboratories of democracy. They move quicker, respond faster and are more sensitive to direct constituent preferences. That’s in part why the Founding Fathers created a federalist system, where all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government belong to the states.

In this latest experiment in states’ rights, the Georgia Legislature said that removing Public Utility Commission authority over rate setting and entry and exit into the market—whether in broadband service, Voice over Internet Protocol or wireless service—is clearly in the best public interest.

Moreover, SB 120 recognizes that market based competition, unfettered by regulatory interference, provides more accurate information about the actual cost and levels of delivered service. Thus the Legislature is allowing Georgia’s consumers to make their own informed choices about competing offerings in emerging technologies.

Yes, it takes courage for a state legislature to “expressly remove” regulations. And, yes, there are political risks to deregulation. But continued regulatory restrictions pose even greater risks to consumers.

So when other states are looking at eliminating regulations among competing companies (and industries) that offer a range of new products such as broadband, video and VoIP, they might want to take Ray Charles’ advice and have Georgia on their mind.