Voices From Colorado's Local Authority Sweep On PRX

Colorado voters overwhelmingly reclaimed local authority in 26 counties and municipalities on Tuesday, November 8th. The total number of Colorado communities that have now reclaimed local authority is 95.

Citizens chose to opt out of state law SB 152, which prevented local governments from offering telecommunication services or advanced services to the general public. The law also bars them from partnering with the private sector and since 2008, a growing number of communities have put the question on the ballot. 

We reached out to Sallie Clarke, County Commissioner in El Paso County and Brian Waldes, Director of Finance and Information Technology in Breckenridge for comment on their communities’ ballot measures; both passed with hearty margins. We also touched base with Virgil Turner who is the Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement in Montrose, which passed a similar initiative in 2014.

We’ve put together their comments and some information about SB 152 in audio form. The story runs for 4:37.

Hear the story on PRX...

Read more about the recent election results and how all 26 communities chose to opt out, as well as see a map and details on the results.

Colorado Voters Choose Local Control In 26 Communities

We didn't need a crystal ball, magic potion, or ESP to predict that local Colorado voters would enthusiastically reclaim telecommunications authority yesterday. Twenty-six more local governments put the issue on the ballot and citizens fervently replied, “YES! YES, WE DO!”

Colorado local communities that want to take action to improve their local connectivity are hogtied by SB 152, the state law passed in 2005. Unless they hold a referendum and ask voters if they wish to reclaim the right to do so, the law prevents local governments from providing service or partnering with the private sector. Since the big incumbents that pushed the law through aren't providing necessary connectivity, their only choice is to opt out and work with new partners or move forward on their own.

This year’s results include seven counties and 19 municipalities. Many of those communities simply don't want lobbyists in Denver dictating whether they can move ahead in the digital economy. Over the past few years, the momentum has grown and, as places like Longmont, Rio Blanco County, and Centennial prove that local authority can improve local connectivity, more local governments have put the issue on the ballot. 

The Big “Yes” In 95

Results from ballot initiatives varied by modest degree but all left no doubt that the local electorate want out of SB 152. Breckenridge came in with 89 percent. Montezuma County, where local media expressed support of the opt out earlier this month, passed the measure with 70 percent of the vote. The community with the highest percentage of support for opting out of SB 152 was Black Hawk with 97 percent of votes cast. The lowest percentage of "yes" vote was Woodland Park in Teller County with 55 percent. The average "yes" vote was 76 percent.

This election brings the total to 29 of Colorados 64 counties or 45 percent of counties. Sixty-six of the state's municipalities have opted out. In total, 95 local governments have restored their authority to create local Internet choice.

See the table and map below for a complete list of election results for this year AND to see where other communities have passed the law in years prior.

The State Law Coloradans Don’t Want

In 2005, the Centennial State passed SB 152, a law advanced by large incumbent providers aimed at limiting competition. Under the guise of a “level playing field” for big national companies, the state law prevents local government from providing “telecommunication service” and “advanced service” to the public. In places where those same big corporate providers don’t care to offer it either, residents, businesses, and governments are extremely disadvantaged. Economic development is at risk; school kids can’t learn how to use 21st century tools; healthcare is hobbled.

Communities can, however, hold a referendum and choose to opt out of SB 152, which many have already done. Before this election, 22 counties and 47 cities had already voted to shed themselves of SB 152. The majority of these communities did not gently reach out and pick up local authority - voters snatched it back with 70, 80, and 90 percent of votes cast. Clearly they want options beyond the national cable and DSL providers.

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Munis Or Partnerships, Opting Out Comes First

Colorado communities presenting the measure to voters and elected officials point out that, even where there are no current plans for towns or counties to establish a municipal Internet utility, opting out is a necessary precursor to partnerships with the private sector. In a recent Gazette guest column, El Paso County commissioner Sallie Clarke wrote:

It just makes sense that if public entities are building the "middle mile" infrastructure for public safety purposes, private companies should be able to use excess capacity to make it more efficient to extend broadband services. If those fiber optic lines to its facilities and those lines have excess capacity, it is more efficient for private providers to tie into those lines and build out service to homes and businesses.

El Paso County commissioners voted unanimously this summer to put the issue on the ballot. The situation is dire and incumbents aren't helping. There are a number of residents in rural areas of the county who complain about no access. "We can't get providers to give us service because there is no access to the 'middle mile,” said Chris Davis of the Canterbury Estate homeowners’ association.

According to a Cortez Journal editorial, the national providers have not honored their promises to connect rural Colorado, so they should let others give it a try:

Internet providers have cherry-picked the lucrative markets and left small communities and even more sparsely populated rural areas with substandard Internet services that are far from high speed. Now it is time for the public sector to step out from under SB 152 restrictions.

There were also two large forest fires in El Paso County this past summer and lack of connectivity made it difficult for emergency personnel to communicate. One plan is to install conduit to encourage private providers to serve the area.

Teller County and El Paso County are working together to search for ways to improve connectivity in the region. According to their broadband plan, average speeds in the region are 8 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1.7 Mbps upload, well below the FCC’s definition of broadband of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Before they make any investment, however, Teller and El Paso County had to opt out of SB 152. Ballots cast passed the measure by 56 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Hello, Denver! Your Citizens Don't Want This Bad Law!

During the past year, the avalanche of communities voting to opt out of SB 152 in fall and spring referendums sent a clear and persistent message to the state lagislature: the law is outdated and unwelcome. Rather than force local governments to spend public funds on an election burlesque to satisfy the powerful cable and DSL providers, state elected officials need to respond to constituent priorities.

They can start by restoring local authority to all of Colorado. This is a bipartisan issue with strong support on both sides. In Dolores County 76 percent of voters supported Donald Trump and in Boulder County 71 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton - both counties strongly supported reclaiming local telecommunications authority. The state legislature can repeal SB 152 so no other communities need to waste time and money on a vote to reclaim local control when they already know the outcome.

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Counties (numbers in parens correspond to position on map)

(1) Dolores County 78% (2) El Paso County 66% (3) Garfield County 73%
(4) Larimer County 72% (5) Montrose County 71% (6) Montezuma County 70%
(7) Teller County 56%

Municipalities

Arvada 72% Aspen 91% Basalt 91%
Black Hawk 97% Breckenridge 89% Carbondale 86%
Cripple Creek 61% Dolores 86% Golden 77%
Green Mountain Falls 70% Hudson 81% Lafayette 81%
New Castle 78% Palisade 78% Parachute 78%
Silt 66% Superior 90% Victor 66%
Woodland Park 55%

Madison Starts Muni Fiber Effort, Considers Citywide Effort - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 227

The second-largest city in Wisconsin and the home of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is pursuing a path-breaking municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) strategy. They have already started by deploying fiber to several low-income neighborhoods and working with local ISP ResTech to offer services.

Madison CIO Paul Kronberger joins us for Community Broadband Bits episode 227 to discuss their plan. We start by discussing how they decided to deploy FTTH as a digital divide strategy. Like more and more of the communities considering this approach, Madison does not have a municipal electric utility.

We also discuss how Madison plans to deal with the state law that limits municipal fiber network investments and why Madison has decided to work with a private provider even though the city will retain ownership of the network. Read more of Madison coverage here.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Bodacious."

Foundation Plans to Fund Municipal Broadband Infrastructure

Decatur is in line to receive a donation that will jump-start the community’s musings over publicly owned Internet infrastructure.

Foundation Support

The Howard G. Buffet Foundation recently offered the community several million dollars for a range of public projects, including $330,000 toward expanding the city’s existing fiber-optic network. Decatur deployed a fiber backbone to connect a number of its own facilities in 2014. Earlier this year, city leaders began examining the possibility of expanding the backbone to provide better connectivity to Richland Community College and possibly beyond in the future. 

The college is linked to the statewide educational Illinois Century Network (ICN). Like Merit in Michigan, the educational and research network crisscrosses the state, connecting a variety of educational institutions. Increasingly, these state research networks collaborate with local communities to expand publicly owned networks and improve connectivity in places where national providers don't offer the capacity necessary for modern life.

Early estimates of more than $700,000 cooled early enthusiasm for the Decatur project but revised costs estimates now are at approximately $435,000. With the Foundation’s contribution of $330,000 the city would only need to pitch in $105,000.

A Beginning

According to a recent Herald & Review article, a number of local government entities, nonprofits, and healthcare providers have already expressed interest in connecting to the new network as a cost-saving measure. The city also hopes to attract private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) interested in leasing excess capacity to offer retail services in Decatur. Community leaders see the opportunity as a way to improve economic development:

“We can show businesses from outside the community collaboration does exist,” McCrady said. “The broadband access is part of the infrastructure that is important for the community to have in place. We're working in a global economy now more than ever.”

Under the proposal, the city would lease some of its fiber to other users at a cost that could be more than 75 percent less than what is currently paid and offer what is expected to be faster internet service.

“The city will not be the internet provider,” Tyus said. “We think it's good for the community. We want to see people use it and benefit from the discounted rate we're able to obtain.”

Decatur, home to approximately 73,000 people is the county seat of Macon County in the center of the state. Industrial and agricultural processing dominate the economy as the city is home to Archer Daniels Midland and Caterpillar, Inc. As a growing number of farmers and agribusiness rely on high-speed connectivity as a critical component of the industry, Decatur's leadership is also trying to diversify its economy.

Foundation Support

The Howard G. Buffet Foundation has also provided funding to Decatur and Macon County to establish a regional economic development corporation. Clearly, the organization understands the value of high-quality connectivity to the region as they work to identify and pursue economic development opportunities.

Once the city council approves the gift and the project begins, the project should be completed by the spring of 2017.

Community Broadband Media Roundup - November 7

Colorado

26 Colorado communities will vote on building their own Internet networks by Jason Koebler, Motherboard Vice

Next Tuesday, November 8, 26 separate Colorado communities will vote on whether their local governments should build high speed fiber internet networks to compete with or replace big telecom internet service providers.

So-called municipal fiber ballot initiatives have become an annual tradition in Colorado, as roughly 100 communities have voted on measures that provide legal cover to governments who want to build new networks.

Broadband: A necessity for building our economy by David White, Montrose Daily Press (subscription required to view the entire article)

Municipal initiatives on marijuana, taxes, broadband also on Colorado ballots by Joey Bunch, Colorado Springs Gazette

Fort Collins considers municipal broadband by Russell Haythorn, Denver Channel 7 ABC

 

Illinois

In Illinois, rural co-ops see energy advantage with broadband by David J. Unger, Midwest Energy News

The smart grid is only as smart as an Internet connection is strong. As advanced meters, smart thermostats and other web-enabled energy devices spread across Illinois and beyond, so too does the need for reliable, broadband communications.

In cities and suburbs, there is enough infrastructure to make it a non-issue. But in rural communities outside Chicago and other cities, roughly 39 percent of residents lack access to high-speed Internet service, according to a study last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

 

Maryland

Westminster Smart Home project kicks off by Jon Kelvey, Carroll County Times

 

New York

Inside the battle to bring broadband to New York's projects by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Wired Magazine

 

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North Carolina

Gauging Greenlight's future: Martin, Farris both support Wilson broadband law change by Brie Handgraaf, Wilson Times

City ISP makes broadand free because state law prohibits selling access by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

A municipal ISP that was on the verge of shutting off Internet service outside its city boundaries to comply with a state law has come up with a temporary fix: it will offer broadband for free.

The free Internet service for existing customers outside Wilson, North Carolina, will be available for six months, giving users more time to switch to an alternative.

After North Carolina Republicans banned cities selling Internet, a town decided to give it away instead by Boing Boing

 

Oregon

Small town gigabit networks planned in Oregon and Mississippi by Joan Engebretson, Telecompetitor

 

Tennessee

Chattanooga's 1 Gbps service drives innovation, economic development - and envy by Sean Buckley, FierceTelecom

 

Washington

Marching slow for fast municipal broadband in Seattle by Josh Cohen, NextCity

The 10 protestors marched slowly through the pouring rain and downtown lunch crowds from Comcast’s downtown store to City Hall holding signs decrying slow internet and poor customer service. The slow marching speed — it took an hour to cover the mile-long route — was meant to illustrate the frustrations of slow internet. The group had to stop a few times en route to “buffer.”

 

General

Daily report: A $25 billion fiber merger by Quentin Hardy, New York Times

Another day, another $25 billion technology merger — and further evidence of how fast the industry seems to be preparing for an even bigger networking future.

Open sesame by Jason Axelrod, American City & Country

The AT&T-Time Warner merger must be stopped by Susan Crawford, BackChannel

ILSR finds 63 cooperatives offering gigabit services by Andrew Burger, GigCommunities

Photo of the Colt courtesy of logesdo via Pixaby.

Aspen Public Radio Digs Into Local SB 152 Ballot Measures

On November 4th, Aspen public radio news featured a story about local ballot initiatives to opt out of state law SB 152 in Aspen, Carbondale, and Garfield County. The western communities are three of 26 that have the measure on their ballots this election. El Paso County, Montezuma County, and the small town of Dolores are only a few others.

Justification

Reporter Wyatt Orme spoke with Jim English, head of IT at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) who described how, because of lack of redundancy, a single fiber-optic cut a year ago left the community isolated. "It took down all services between South Glenwood to Aspen, including 911 in Aspen. [It] got people’s attention," he said.

When English had the opportunity to ask the incumbent why they had never deployed another line for safety's sake, he was dismayed by the answer: “Well, how do we justify that to our stockholders?”

Freedom Found

CMC presented the opt out issue to voters last year, who handily supported the measure, giving the college the freedom to explore working with partners or on their own. SB 152, passed in 2005, was heavily lobbied by national incumbents and designed to prevent competition. It prevented CMC and any local government that had not opted out from tackling the problem of poor connectivity on their own with Internet infrastructure investment or seeking a private sector partner to solve the problem. To English - and to many of the local governments that have voted to opt out of the restrictive state law - choosing to opt out is a matter of local control and freedom:

[H]e thinks there’s historical precedent for local governments getting involved. "They built the interstate to move services and to move goods. And that’s sort of what the Internet really is. It’s...basically the new interstate," English said.

Listen to the entire story at Aspen Public Radio.

Research on Rural Connectivity Power from Electric Co-ops at BBC Mag Conference

In October in Minneapolis, Broadband Communities Magazine hosted the “Fiber for the New Economy” conference. The first day featured a set of four panels on the role of rural electric cooperatives in providing much-needed connectivity to far-flung communities.

We want to provide the highlights and give further context to some of the most fascinating stories. In this post, we’ll cover some of the latest research coming out of Ball State University’s Center for Information and Communication Sciences.

Indiana’s Electric Cooperatives 

Researcher Emma Green from Ball State University kicked off the track. Her presentation, “Rural Broadband: Technical and Economic Feasibility,” outlined the potential role of rural electric cooperatives in facilitating last mile (connectivity to homes and business) and middle mile (regional connectivity) deployment. 

Green's research centered on Indiana, where 14 percent of the population does not have broadband access (speeds of at least 25 Megabits (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload). In rural areas of the state, however, more than half of the population does not have access to those speeds. Green's research underscored how rural electric cooperatives can use their assets (such as Smart Grids, Right-of-Way access, and pole ownership) to facilitate middle mile connectivity. 

We previously noted some of this research from Ball State University in our post BBC Mag Spotlights Rural Electric Co-ops. Focusing on the middle mile is not always a pathway to long-term last mile solutions, and our Christopher Mitchell has often pointed out those pitfalls. Unless a provider is willing to invest in the critical last mile connections, middle mile networks have only a minimal impact.

Green, however, did not stop at the middle mile. She brought her presentation back to bear on last mile connectivity. Electric cooperatives are in a great position to partner with other entities to provide services. They could also simply move forward with last mile fiber projects themselves. Green’s research provides a model for how cooperatives could potentially serve a large portion of a state’s rural population.

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Conclusions on Co-ops

Electric cooperatives can indeed work together to solve the connectivity problem in rural communities. This is much like what we proposed in our report, North Carolina Connectivity: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Chris and I discuss our methodology and findings included in the report in this short interview on PRX.

We've seen similar activity in Michigan. Christopher recently interviewed two leaders at Midwest Energy Cooperative (based out of Cassopolis, Michigan) for episode #225 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Midwest Energy Cooperative is working with nine other electric cooperatives on a concerted effort to bring next-generation high-speed Internet service to rural homes throughout the state. 

Stay tuned for more on the role of rural electric cooperatives and the Broadband Community Magazine’s conference.

Jamming At DAPL Protest? Ask The FCC To Investigate

According to a 2014 Enforcement Advisory, cell phone and Wi-Fi jamming by state and local law enforcement is illegal by federal law. And yet, persistent allegations of jamming are coming from Water Protectors at the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota. Any jamming by law enforcement to monitor protestor cell phone communications is a serious breach of their Fourth Amendment rights as it amounts to unreasonable search and seizure. First Amendment rights of freedom of speech are also compromised when the method of transmitting reports is purposely blocked.

In order to pressure the FCC to determine whether jamming is happening in North Dakota, MoveOn.org has posted an online petition. From the petition:

Proving or disproving allegations about jamming is very difficult for anyone except the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]. Only the FCC can work with wireless providers, protesters, and local law enforcement to find out definitively what’s going on. The FCC is the only expert agency with authority to require law enforcement to disclose their use of any wireless devices and the only agency with the expertise to assess what is actually happening. If the FCC investigates and finds that there is no illegal jamming happening, then it can settle this concern. If the FCC discovers that there is illegal jamming happening, it has an obligation to expose the jamming and use its power under federal law to order local law enforcement to stop interfering with First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

As Harold Feld writes in his recent blog article, that the presence of IMSI catchers or Stingrays, leaves signs that the Water Protectors are experiencing at Standing Rock - sudden loss of a strong signal at inopportune times, cell phone batteries depleting quickly and inexplicably. Cell phones not only allow them to communicate with each other, but allow them to document law enforcement reaction:

In particular, the ability to upload streaming media documenting confrontations with authorities has been critical in proving whether local authorities have reacted with disproportionate violence or have acted appropriately. As a result, some law enforcement folks really hate that protesters use cell phones. Rather than solve the problem by modifying their own behavior, some law enforcement folks would much rather prevent protesters from using cell phones effectively.

Feld points out that the FCC is the only agency with the expertise and ability to resolve the allegations. If there is no jamming taking place, only they can restore confidence in the belief that local law enforcement is not breaking the law in that respect. If they are acting illegally, it is up to the FCC to stop it and to hold them accountable:

It falls to the FCC to protect that right and ensure the trust we put in our democracy. The FCC should not hesitate to send Enforcement Bureau staff to Standing Rock to find out what is really happening to wireless at #NoDAPL.

Sign the MoveOn.org petition.

FCC's New Privacy Rules Irk Big ISPs, Munis Mellow

Consumers should be able to expect a certain amount of privacy and recent rules adopted by the FCC are a step in the right direction. That step has also revealed some key differences between profit-driven national Internet service providers, smaller ISPs, and municipal networks. The different attitudes correspond with the different cultures, proving once again that small ISPs and munis have more than just profit in mind.

On October 27th, the FCC adopted an Order to allow ISP customers to determine how their data will be collected and used. According to the FCC, they made the decision in response to public comments about the concern for personal data protection.

The New Rules

Over the past few years, consumers have become savvy to the fact that ISPs have access to personal data and that they often sell that data to other companies for marketing purposes. Under Section 222 of Title II of the Communications Act, telecommunications carriers are bound to protect their subscribers’ private information. Because those rule are designed to change as technology changes, says the FCC and Congress, this same authority applies to private data collected by ISPs. 

The FCC decided to divide the permission of use of personal information based on type, categorizing information into “sensitive” and “non-sensitive.”

Sensitive information will require ISPs to obtain “opt-in” consent from subscribers, which will allow them to use and and share this type of information:

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  • Precise geo-location 
  • Children’s information
  • Health information 
  • Financial information
  • Social Security numbers
  • Web browsing history
  • App usage history
  • The content of communication 

Non-sensitive information would include all other information and customers would need to "opt-out" in order to prevent their ISPs from collecting such data. Examples of non-sensitive personal information include service tier information.

The new rules also require providers to follow “up-to-date and relevant industry best practices” in reference to managing security risks, take care to provide accountability and oversight regarding security, and dispose of personal data properly. These are only a sampling of the rules, which are not complicated but add another layer of undertaking to the role of provider. Check out this Fact Sheet from the FCC for more on the new rules.

Not All ISPs Are Big ISPs - Thank Goodness!

At first, we were concerned that these new rules might create more work for munis and small ISPs that are already heavily burdened with reporting requirements. For municipal utilities that provide other services as well, such as electric, gas, or water, another round of administrative requirements seemed especially taxing.

While national providers with thousands on their payrolls may have entire departments to deal with paperwork, municipal networks often exist in small communities and employ small staff. Regardless of the number of employees, they still must submit the same amount of information to the FCC. But we didn't hear any of them complaining about the new privacy protections.

Large providers began complaining about the new rules as soon as they were released, including David Cohen from Comcast, who said the new rules “will likely do more harm than good for consumers, competition, and innovation in the all-important internet ecosystem.” AT&T senior vice president described the rules as “illogical.” The rules, according to the big national providers are just too tough.

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Small ISPs and municipal networks are not known to sell customer data the way Comcast, AT&T, or CenturyLink do. In fact, we know of at least one, Xmission serving customers via the UTOPIA open access network, that has no problem telling the NSA to bugger off when they improperly ask for private data. On the other hand, AT&T is cozy in the NSA pocket, no warrant required. Local providers and munis are close to their customers, creating a higher level of accountability, which contributes to high scores in customer service.

We reached out to Xmission to get their opinion on the new privacy protections. Would they be difficult to implement? A burden? The company’s founder, Pete Ashdown told us it is “high time the government allowed individuals to take back their privacy” and that he supports the FCC ruling. We also talked with municipal networks in Iowa and Utah, but they did not report any potential problems with the rules.

If small providers have no problem respecting subscribers' privacy, why do big corporations like AT&T and Comcast complain so much? AT&T and Comcast see subscribers as numbers on a page to be transformed into dollar signs. Local providers and municipal networks consider them customers, community members, and neighbors.

El Paso County, CO, Commissioner Urges "Yes" On Local Authority

This has been a “loud” general election. The candidates, the campaign ads, and the supporters have all blasted their messages to voters in every state, drowning out some initiatives that are equally important. In Colorado, 26 local governments are asking voters to decide whether or not to opt out of SB 152, the state’s restrictive law passed in 2005 that looted local telecommunications authority.

In addition to seven counties, 19 municipalities have the issue on the ballot. Most of them use similar language from years past, when dozens of Colorado local governments presented the same question to voters.

El Paso County

There are about 664,000 people in the county, with approximately 456,000 living in the county seat of Colorado Springs. Rural residents and businesses typically struggle to obtain Internet access. County Question 1A reads:

Without increasing taxes, shall El Paso County have the authority to provide, or to facilitate or partner or coordinate with service providers for the provision of, “advanced (high-speed internet) service,” “cable television service,” and “telecommunications service,” either directly, indirectly, or by contract, to residential, commercial, nonprofit, government or other subscribers, and to acquire, operate and maintain any facility for the purpose of providing such services, restoring local authority and flexibility that was taken away by Title 29, Article 27, Part 1 of the Colorado Revised Statutes? 

Recently, El Paso County Board of Commissioners chairwoman Sallie Clarke published a guest column in the Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Gazette urging voters to support the measure. She noted that, even thought the initiative is important to the community, the local press has been quiet about the measure. With media filled by the Clinton/Trump race, there is little room for anything else, but she spells out why El Paso County needs to opt out of SB 152.

Staying Competitive

Clarke notes that dozens of other Colorado communities have already voted to opt out of SB 152. So far, 69 municipalities and counties have opted out. A few, including Longmont and Glenwood Springs, chose to opt out years ago and have already shown how to take advantage of publicly owned infrastructure to improve quality of life. Some, such as Centennial, are moving ahead with publicly owned infrastructure and partnerships with the private sector.

According to Clarke, El Paso County also has its sights set on working with private providers:

Initiative 1A permits, by public vote, an opt-out provision that allows commercial providers to tap into El Paso County’s existing or planned fiber and create partnership opportunities which are currently unavailable due to the restrictions imposed by state government. The measure restores local control over the future of our technology needs and resident accessibility, especially evident in today’s changing cyber world.

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She also notes that a “yes” vote can have ancillary benefits:

1A may also serve to lower the wholesale cost of broadband supply to commercial internet service providers, making it economically feasible for residential and commercial delivery and expansion of broadband services to more remote areas. It could make faster connections possible, improving business communications.

Collaboration And Opportunity

Clarke notes that several local communities in El Paso County and nearby Teller County are also voting on the opt out measure and considering ways to improve local connectivity. She writes that recent safety concerns have contributed to the county’s decision to ask voters to reclaim local authority:

Commissioners said, during the discussion on this initiative, that the lack of high-speed data and cellular communications were challenges during both the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. It just makes sense that if public entities are already building the “middle mile” infrastructure for public safety purposes, private companies should be able to use excess capacity to make it more efficient to extend broadband services. If those fiber optic lines to its facilities and those lines have excess capacity, it is more efficient for private providers to tie into those lines and build out service to homes and businesses.

Constituents in some rural areas of El Paso County have no Internet access because there is no middle mile close enough to make last mile investment worth their while. Like many of the other communities that voted to opt out of SB 152 in the past, El Paso County may not have solid plans in place, but they know they can't create those solid plans until after November 8th.

A “yes” vote on 1A is a vote for local partnership opportunities and incentives to provide high-speed Internet services for the benefit of our citizens.