As the city of Fort Collins prepares for a November ballot issue seeking to reclaim local telecommunications authority, local business leaders are articulating their support. Walt Lyons, the owner of a Fort Collins-based video production company and member of the Fort Collins Citizens Broadband Committee, believes slow broadband access should be a central priority for this city of more than 150,000:
“This is more important than widening I-25,” Lyons said. “This is not going to make much difference to me because I’m getting ready to retire. But it will make a difference for my kids and my grandchildren. The kinds of places they will work and what they do will depend upon it."
The city has access to many miles of fiber optic networks as Fort Collins is connected to a ring that the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) built to connect its four partners: Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park and Longmont. At present, only government-owned facilities in Fort Collins can use the fiber network. Because Colorado State University is among the places that can access the PRPA network, the school’s vice president of IT and dean of libraries, Pat Burns, sees firsthand the enormous gap between the broadband speeds he gets at home versus those available on campus:
“The best service you can buy from the private sector, like to a residence in Fort Collins, is not as good as the crappiest service we deliver on the CSU campus,” Burns said. “It just cripples what can be done.”
A number of Colorado communities have voted to reclaim local authority in the past year. A few places, like Rio Blanco County and Firestone, have moved forward with feasibility studies or are already planning for public investment. An increasing number of Colorado communities like Fort Collins realize that they need better connectivity to retain existing businesses and attract new development.