Broadband (High Speed Internet)
Where is Pitkin County in its Broadband Initiative?
Pitkin County completed a Needs Assessment in the spring of 2015. The summary of this assessment can be accessed here. The County was awarded $150,000 to complete Phase II by the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). Phase II includes a preliminary design that evaluates the costs to reach the unserved and underserved areas of the Roaring Fork Watershed. The County is currently soliciting bids from private vendors. The outcome of the ballot measure in November 2015 will help steer the direction of Phase II, which is expected to commence in early 2016.
Ballot Question 1A: Allowing Pitkin County to provide high-speed internet, cable and telecommunication services pursuant to Senate Bill 05-152 - PASSED
Shall Pitkin County, without increasing taxes, be authorized to provide, either directly or indirectly with public and/or private sector partner(s), all services restricted since 2005 by Title 29, Article 27 of the Colorado Revised Statutes described as High-Speed Internet Services (Advanced Service), Telecommunications Services, and/or Cable Television Services, to foster the expansion of such services, including but not limited to any new and improved high bandwidth service(s) based on future technologies, to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, non profit entities and other users of such services without limiting its Home Rule authority?Why is Pitkin County requesting an exemption?
While the importance of universal access to ample, affordable and redundant broadband is well-established, many parts of the United State are unserved, or underserved, particularly rural areas. Parts of Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Watershed lack basic service and even in relatively well-served areas businesses and residents lack redundant connections and pay more than consumers in Front Range communities. It is challenging for private providers to make a business case for extending service into sparsely populated and remote areas, and in mountainous terrain, yet SB 05-152 prohibits local government from entering into public-private partnerships that might allow government to leverage existing or new telecommunications assets (like radio towers, conduit, and fiber) to improve service to the general public.
What is SB 05-152?
Colorado Senate Bill 05-152 (SB 152) is a measure passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2005. Its intent was to limit governments from engaging in the provision of telecommunication, cable and high speed (broadband) services, directly or indirectly, including partnership with private entities.
SB 152 limits the ability of Colorado cities and counties to provide a broad spectrum of services. Under SB 152 local governments may not provide free high speed internet service in government buildings such as libraries, partner with private businesses, or leverage government-owned infrastructure with private businesses to assist in the provision of affordable high-speed broadband internet service.
SB 05-152 includes a provision allowing Colorado local governments to exempt themselves from the law’s provisions via a public vote. Without such approval, the law limits the ability of governments, such as Pitkin County from leveraging government infrastructure, partnering with private businesses to provide affordable and high-speed Internet service and providing free internet services in government facilities such as libraries and public meeting spaces.
What if SB 05-152 exemptions are approved?If voters approve the ballot measure, Pitkin County would be exempted from SB 05-152 and allowed to leverage existing infrastructure assets and collaborate with other private and nonprofit entities to provide, either directly or indirectly high speed broadband internet services.
An exemption takes back the rights Pitkin County had prior to adoption of SB 05-152. An exemption will allow Pitkin County to participate in actions such as partnerships with private telecommunications providers and leveraging publicly owned infrastructure assets that may be a resource expanding broadband access. Pitkin County does not intend to become an internet provider, but rather work with the private sector to expand access throughout our community. An exemption will not raise taxes or authorize expenditures by local government.
What if SB 05-152 exemptions are NOT approved?If the ballot measure is not approved, Pitkin County will not be able to continue its Broadband Initiative. The County is currently able to research and design various pathways to improve access to broadband. However, without an exemption from SB 05-152, the county will not be able to act upon any of the recommendations or accept grant funding from the state or federal agencies. The County will not be able to provide high speed broadband services directly to residents, share infrastructure assets (such as towers, utility lines) or partner in other ways with the private sector. The community will have to rely on the business models of providers, sometimes competing for the same funds (and net profit) as the front range communities. Have other Colorado Communities adopted SB 05-152 exemptions? Several communities across the state have approved exemptions, including the voters of Rio Blanco County, Estes Park, Montrose, Boulder, Cherry Hills Village, Longmont, Grand Junction, Centennial, Red Cliff, Yuma County, Yuma, and Wray. Additional communities have the question on this November's ballot, including Moffat County, Craig, Jackson County, Park County, Summit County, Fraser and Winter Park, along with Routt County, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek Yampa, the Steamboat Springs School District and Colorado Mountain College (system-wide).