Local government officials say Senate Bill 152 protects giant telecoms at expensive of Northwest Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

Local government officials say Senate Bill 152 protects giant telecoms at expensive of Northwest Colorado

Tom Ross

— Voters in //////seven CHECK////// jurisdictions in Routt will be asked in the November election to free-up local governments from the constraint of a state law that prevents them from providing services in the the telecommunications area. The constraints in Senate Bill 152, passed by the legislature in 2005, specifically constrains public institutions from taking measures to improve “high bandwidth services.”

Large telecommunications companies lobbied in favor Senate Bill 152,, saying competition from public entities would serve as a strong disincentive to private sector investment in infrastructure, particularly in rural areas of the state.

However, former Steamboat Springs city councilman Jon Quinn, chief operating of Northwest Data Services here, said he can’t point to a single positive outcome locally, resulting from SB-152.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan told the County Commissioners in June that Senate Bill 152 has essentially resulted in protecting major telecommunication companies like CenturyLink from any competition in rural areas of the state.

“The bill was written by the telecom industry and has solidified territorial practices of the telecom industry and what has essentially been a monopoly business in northwest Colorado,” Sullivan wrote in a memo to the commissioners. “Efforts to repeal the law at the state legislature have failed due to intense lobbying by the telecom industry.”

Those political entities asking voters to release them from the provisions of Senate Bill 152 include Routt County (Referendum 1A), the Town of Yampa (2B), Town of Oak Creek (2A), city of Steamboat (2C), Steamboat Springs RE-2 School District.

Some voters, who live within the different boundaries of several governments asking to be released from Senate Bill 152, will receive ballots with multiple referenda with similar language. For example, residents of Steamboat Springs will see referenda from the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County and Colorado Mountain College as well as from the city.

If the measures are approved by the voters, local officials say, they will enjoy more latitude to tackle the troublesome issues surrounding the high cost and limited capacity of Internet data capacity in rural Northwest Colorado.

Local governments won’t be able to fix all the broadband issues in the region on their own, but passage of of Referendum 1A in Routt County and 2C in the city of Steamboat Springs, would “empower the community to help itself,” Quinn said.

He is chairing a political committee registered with the Secretary of State, “Yes2Broadband,” at Yes2Broadband.com to advocate for the referenda.

One possibility is that the city and county might collaborate on securing grant monies allowing them to run their own fiber optic cable to a telecommunications tower of their own, Quinn said.

One of the most successful examples of local entities taking some control of the region’s telecommunications future was realized in May 2014 when Northwest Colorado Broadband, a co-op created several local institutions completed a “carrier-neutral location” was completed in a downtown building owned by the school district.

The carrier-neutral location initially is intended to enable the school district, the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County to pay far less for more connectivity, with the hope that the effects will trickle down to customers large and small across the region.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.