Colorado has repealed a 2005 law that required towns to hold a referendum before building their own broadband networks. The law was backed by the cable industry and limited internet speeds to 256 kilobits per second, a fraction of what is considered broadband today.
The repeal, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Jared Polis earlier this month, aims to make Colorado more competitive for federal broadband funds and to spur local investment in fiber-optic infrastructure.Embed from Getty Images
Colorado is one of the states that could receive up to $1 billion from the $65 billion broadband package that is part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan. The Colorado Broadband Office wasn’t sure if communities that hadn’t opted out of the 2005 law would be eligible for the money.
“Now, there’s no question,” said Tony Neal-Graves, the office’s executive director.
The repeal also removes a barrier for towns that want to offer faster and cheaper internet service to their residents and businesses. Since 2008, 121 Colorado communities have voted to opt out of the law, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for municipal broadband.
Some of them, like Longmont and Fort Collins, have built their own fiber networks and are selling gigabit-speed internet service directly to customers. Others, like Lakewood and Boulder, have partnered with private providers like Google Fiber and Zayo Group to bring fiber to their homes and businesses.
“Fiber is a critical asset,” said Tim Scott, a project manager overseeing Boulder’s broadband backbone. “What the pandemic did is it brought the delivery of broadband services to the attention of every mayor.”
The cable industry, which had spent millions of dollars to oppose municipal broadband initiatives in Colorado, did not oppose the repeal. A spokesperson for Comcast, the state’s largest cable provider, said the company supports “policies that promote broadband deployment and adoption across Colorado.”Embed from Getty Images
The repeal was also welcomed by advocates for municipal broadband, who see it as a victory for local control and consumer choice.
“It’s a recognition that communities should be able to decide for themselves how they want to meet their broadband needs,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Colorado repealed law limiting municipal internet, making it easier for towns to build their own | Benton Institute for Broadband & Society | May 24, 2023
High-speed fiber booming in Colorado as voters continue to blow up limits on municipal broadband | The Denver Post | December 30, 2022
Colorado repeals law that limited municipal broadband | StateScoop | May 18, 2023