ATLANTA (AP) — Local utility cooperatives would be authorized to provide broadband in an effort to boost internet access in rural areas, under legislation that has won unanimous support in the Georgia House.

But critics warn that the narrowly drawn bill sidesteps some thorny questions about competition among providers.

Republican Rep. Penny Houston of Nashville said Monday that the proposal is key to education and business development in rural areas.

The plan would authorize Georgia's electric membership cooperatives, called EMCs, to offer broadband to their customers.

Many supporters believe that allowing EMCs to provide internet is important because they already serve many rural communities where broadband access is needed.

But some critics argue that the bill as written could give the EMCs an unfair advantage over traditional cable providers.

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