Jon Quinn: Vote ‘yes’ on broadband
This November, voters will have the opportunity to facilitate delivery of public-private solutions to improve broadband service and reliability in Routt County. Without raising taxes, we can exempt local governmental entities from the provisions of Senate Bill 05-152.
In 2005, the Colorado Legislature passed this bill, which took away the rights of local governments to provide telecommunications services such as broadband, directly or indirectly, including partnerships with private entities.
This protectionist legislation was passed under pressure from lobbyists in the telecom industry who were concerned that if (then) Qwest, Comcast and other national Internet service providers had to compete against public dollars, it would put them at an unfair disadvantage against, for example, a city that decided it wanted to provide Internet service directly to its residents.
Well, it seems very appropriate that we are considering these ballot initiatives on the heels of some of the most terrible Internet outages we have seen as a community in some time. The major telecom companies that primarily benefit from this legislation have had 10 years to operate under its protectionism, but overall, our community has not seen universal service throughout the county or improvements to service reliability, and there is very clearly still a problem with providing redundancy and failover for most of our residents and businesses.
Certainly, it is easy to see how precarious our hold on this connected world really is after a summer and early fall plagued with significant Internet and communications failures in our community, including several documented outages that even brought our county E-911 services down. Let’s open up the possibilities for effective public-private solutions.
This November, you will have your first opportunity to vote to improve upon the status quo. SB 05-152 includes a provision allowing Colorado local governments to exempt themselves from the law’s provisions via a public vote, which is exactly what is being brought forward on the ballot in November.
The following local authorities, and many other communities in Colorado, are asking for a public vote on SB-05-152 exemptions:
■ Routt County
■ City of Steamboat Springs
■ Town of Hayden
■ Town of Oak Creek
■ Town of Yampa
■ Steamboat Springs RE-2 School District
■ Colorado Mountain College
So depending on where you live, you may be asked to vote on the issue up to four times, and it is important that you answer all of the questions that appear on your ballot. For example, voting “yes” to the Routt County question does not exempt the city of Steamboat.
Does this mean our city or county want to become Internet service providers? No. Instead, they would like to leverage existing public infrastructure and access to available grant programs to engage in public-private partnerships, which help create more options and ultimately help build capacity and redundancy.
The Yes2Broadband Committee has built a website to help get out information about this effort to the public, which you can find at yes2broadband.com.
I think all citizens recognize building reliable, redundant and cost-effective broadband solutions for our region is critical to our business community, our governments and to our local healthcare and educational institutions. The override of this restrictive legislation is just one piece of the puzzle, and I hope you will join us in supporting this effort in November.
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