As legislators in Virginia and Missouri consider bills attacking municipal networks, two Colorado legislators have introduced a bill to repeal its restrictive state law.
Take It Away
Democratic Senators Kerry Donovan and Lucia Guzman’s bill, SB 42, calls for “the repeal of existing restrictions on the ability of a local government to provide certain electronic communications services.” The bill is now in the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee.
The bill would eliminate the need for local communities to hold expensive referendums to ask voters to opt out of SB 152, a bill passed in 2005 and lobbied heavily by national providers. When SB 152 passed, it effectively stole local authority from local communities who wanted to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to invest in local Internet infrastructure. By opting out, communities reclaim local telecommunications authority.
Donovan represents several counties that have already opted out of SB 152, such as Pitkin, Gunnison and Eagle, in addition to several others that are still under the control of the law. Guzman is the Senate Minority Leader and represents Denver County, which has not yet addressed the opt out question. Together they represent bother urban and rural regions.
Voters Want Out
Since 2008, ninety-five communities in Colorado have held expensive referendums and all chose to opt out. Opting out of SB 152 does not necessarily mean that a municipality or local government intends to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure. A number of communities have expressed that their intention is to simply reclaim a right taken away from the state in 2005 so they can have more flexibility and local control. Other communities, like Rio Blanco County, Estes Park, and Centennial, have taken steps to work independently or with a private partner rather than wait for national providers who may never commit to better services.
We’ll follow the progress of SB 42 as it works its way through the legislative process.
For more on Colorado communities that have opted out of SB 152, check out our Building Local Power podcast episode 5. Christopher and Lisa discuss the referendum requirement and how local communities have chosen to reclaim local authority.