This November, more Colorado towns and counties will be voting on whether to opt out of the 12-year-old SB 152, a state law that restricts broadband development.
Senate Bill 152 has hindered communities’ ability to invest in Internet infrastructure and provide service themselves or with private sector partners. Many communities are realizing that national carriers can’t be relied on to provide high-quality Internet access. To date, at least 98 communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority by opting out of SB 152; a handful are considering actually pursuing a publicly owned network.
For some towns and counties, the ballot question is simply a way to keep their options open and to reclaim local authority that the state took away in 2005. As we’ve seen in Westminister, Maryland, public-private partnerships can be a great option for communities. Being out from under SB 152 will allow these municipalities to explore high-quality network options if the opportunity arises. Additionally, when towns give themselves the ability to explore new providers and different models, current ISPs tend to take notice and adapt accordingly. Beyond these options and ripple effects from shedding SB 152, some towns simply want autonomy and freedom from sweeping state regulation.
In Eagle County, they recognize climbing out from under SB 152 will allow them to consider more substantial steps for taking back local power and implementing a high-speed network. They’ve yet to conduct any feasibility studies but in their yearly Legislative Policy Statement they made it clear that they’re motivated to improve connectivity.
The town of Greeley is moving more decisively. Ahead of the November election and vote on SB 152, Greeley has agreed to fund a joint feasibility study with neighboring Windsor. Avon Mayor Jennie Fancher authored an op-ed urging citizens to support the ballot question, saying:
Many communities around the state have already passed similar ballot initiatives in order to provide or partner in the provision of broadband services, and a “yes” vote also enables residents to make the best decisions based on the needs of our own community, without raising taxes.
Fancher notes the success of neighboring Red Cliff after opting out of the restrictive law two years ago and working on fixed wireless solution for the rural mountain town. In the nearby Colorado towns of Fort Collins and Longmont, the communities have also moved forward after opting out of SB 152. This election cycle Fort Collins voters will decide whether high-speed Internet should be categorized as a municipal utility, and Longmont has created a community broadband network to support their buzzing city.
Photo Credit: Citycommunications at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.