As predicted, more Colorado communities are opting out of the state’s restrictive SB 152 that removed local telecommunications authority in 2005. Two more communities have decided to put the question to voters this fall in order to take the reins and reclaim local control.
Eagle County, Colorado
There are about 53,000 people living in Eagle County, located in the northwest section of the state. The County Commission had considered taking the matter to the voters last fall, but considered the ballot too full with other measures. The town of Red Cliff within Eagle County voted to opt out of the law in 2014. County officials have included telecommunications in their legislative policy statement supporting their intent to reclaim local authority and bringing better connectivity to both urban and rural areas of the county.
Eagle County encompasses 1,692 square miles; much of that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are several national protected areas within the county. They haven’t established a plan to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, but first want to deal with the issue of opting out of SB 152.
City of Alamosa, Colorado
Alamosa, county seat of Alamosa County, is also planning on bringing the issue to voters this fall. Like many other communities that have voted to opt out, Alamosa doesn’t have specific plans to invest in infrastructure yet, but they want to have all options on the table.
They’re interested in using existing city owned dark fiber and conduit and exploring possible public-private partnerships, but they’ve not ruled out offering direct services. In a few of the public areas, Alamosa intends to offer free Wi-Fi while they look into possible solutions.
Alamosa is in south central Colorado and home to approximately 8,800 people. The climate is a cold desert where the Rio Grande River passes through town. More than half of county residents live in the city.
Joining An Ever Expanding List
Earlier this year, Central City and Colorado Springs voters chose to opt out of SB 152, bringing the list to nearly 100 local communities. In order to assist with local efforts, the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Communities, Inc., have created the SB05-152 Opt Out Kit: A Local Government Blueprint For Improving Broadband Service in Your Community. The kit includes sample ballot language, provides resources for educating voters, and shares outcomes in communities where voters chose to opt out.
In most case, support to reclaim local authority greatly outweighs votes against it, reinforcing research that reveals strong support for local choice and municipal networks. As in other Colorado referendums, the decision proved to be bipartisan with voters from all parties supporting the idea to reclaim local authority; clearly Coloradoans from across the political spectrum understand the need for high-quality Internet access.