In the wake of the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal federal network neutrality protections, more communities than ever are considering their role in local connectivity. As it turns out, their citizens are thinking about it, too. In the case of Larimer County, Colorado, almost half of respondents to their recent survey replied that they want their county government to play a part in rural broadband.
Surprising/Not Surprising Results
We spoke with Drew Davis, Jacob Castillo, and Mark Pfaffinger in June to get an idea of some of the results of the survey and hear more about the county’s plans. You can listen to episode 311 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to hear the conversation. Approximately 32 percent of those who were sent the survey responded, which is a higher than average response rate and shows that people in Larimer County feel strongly about the issue and want their opinions heard.
At a July County Commission meeting, Davis presented detailed survey findings. Results reflected that 49 percent of respondents want the county to play an active part in broadband deployment:
- 33 percent of respondents want the county to offer services directly to the public; and
- 16 percent want the county to deploy the infrastructure and lease it to private sector ISPs
Only 11 percent want the county to leave efforts entirely to the private sector, while 18 percent replied that they believe the county should try to encourage private sector providers to build a fiber optic network in Larimer County. Another 20 percent had no opinion.
In addition to using broadband for common applications, including social media, email, and streaming online movies and television, Davis, Castillo, and Pfaffinger were surprised to see the high numbers of people interested in exploring other ways to use high-quality Internet access. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they either work from home or would like to but can't due to the low-quality of their connections. There were also surprisingly high numbers of people who would like to use the Internet for entrepreneurial purposes. They were also surprised by the high number of people who want to use broadband for government purposes: 81 percent.
Trust in Colorado’s Local Governments
Larimer County’s survey results reinforce the changes happening in Colorado in recent years. Communities such as Fort Collins, Cortez, and Longmont are preparing to offer services, or have been providing broadband to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions. People in other Colorado communities see that municipal networks can jolt economic development, bring competition, and create options.
With a surge in referendums to opt out of the state’s SB 152 — a law restricting local authority — increasingly local voters are deciding to trust in their local government rather than state lawmakers. In 2016, Gallup released the results of a poll on governance that revealed trust in local government highest. Larimer County’s survey supports those results.