The town of Erie, Colorado Board of Trustees has commissioned a consulting firm to conduct a $65,000 Municipal Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study. The vote allocated funds to explore options for the town’s growing connectivity needs of residents, local businesses, and municipal services.
Planning For The Future
According to the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Municipal Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study, the consulting firm will conduct a survey to measure local support for the town to invest in a community owned fiber optic network. In 2012, Erie conducted a similar residential survey, which reported that “63% of residents supported or somewhat supported efforts” for telecommunications projects.
Erie is situated in both Weld and Boulder County and is just 20 minutes northwest of Denver. According to the Town of Erie’s 2017 Community Profile, the current population is approximately 25,000 residents with over 7,000 homes but local officials expect both to grow over the next five years. By 2020, community leaders expect the population to increase by 10,000 and the number of homes to increase by more than 50 percent.
Opting Out Comes First
Before Erie can make investments in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, voters must pass a referendum to opt-out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which prohibits local governments from either supporting directly or indirectly any advancement of telecommunication services to subscribers. Eagle County and the city of Alamosa are both putting forth an SB 152 opt-out question to a vote this fall.
During a July 12, 2017 meeting, the Erie Board of Trustees determined they would need to conduct another Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study before putting forth a referendum to opt out of SB 152 on the ballot as early as April of 2018.
Other Colorado communities are either in the midst of similar studies, or have released RFPs to find firms to conduct them. Larimer County recently received funds from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Broadband Program to fund a similar study.
If the residents of Erie vote to opt out in the future, they would join nearly 100 local communities that have passed similar SB 152 opt out provisions and reclaimed their local telecommunications authority. In 2011, the city of Longmont passed a opt-out referendum and has now built an award-winning NextLight fiber optic network. The network is currently delivering symmetrical upload and download gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses and municipal facilities.