Spring will be here before we know it. So will local spring action at the voting booth, which for the past several years has meant that communities in Colorado will ask voters to reclaim local telecommunications authority. This year, the folks in Firestone will address the issue on April 3rd.
The Pursuit Of Better Broadband Goes On
Back in 2015, the town located about 30 miles north of Denver commissioned a feasibility study to examine the status of connectivity in the community and provide recommendations moving forward. Being located so close to a large urban center, Firestone has experienced growth which promises to continue. Between the years 2000 and 2010, population jumped from around 2,000 to more than 10,000. Growth is a good thing, but community leaders want to have connectivity to match, so businesses and economic development progresses in a desired direction.
According to the Times Call, consultants who developed the 2015 feasibility study focused on smart city applications for a publicly owned network. The firm also suggested the city pursue a public-private partnership, but before they can pursue that option or provide services themselves, voters need to opt out of SB 152.
At a Board of Trustees meeting in January, Members voted unanimously to put the issue on the spring ballot.
Cities Reclaim Authority
Like more than one hundred communities before them, Firestone is asking voters to decide whether or not to reclaim local authority after the state legislature took it away in 2005. Lobbyists from the big telephone and cable corporations championed SB 152 in order to limit competition by preventing municipal and local governments from providing advanced services, including Internet access, to the general public. An escape clause was added at the eleventh hour which allows local communities to opt out through local referendums.
Since 2008, an increasing number of Colorado communities have held referendums and while some of them have developed and executed plans for municipal networks, such as Longmont. Others, like Fort Collins and Loveland, are taking steps toward publicly owned networks. Still others have no plans in place, but want the option if they need it in the future. There are many other local communities that simply don’t want state legislators making local decisions for them, regardless of the matter.
Comcast and CenturyLink provide Internet access to most of Firestone now and those in favor of passing the measure to opt out hope the ISPs take notice:
A supporter of passing the ballot measure, [Dietra] Porter acknowledged it could be years before the town acts to implement a high-speed internet option, but hopes restoring the ability to do so produces a positive result with private providers.
"We're not ready to jump right into municipal broadband, but ... by opting out of (the bill), if it encourages current providers to enhance their service or give better customer service, then that's a win-win for everyone," Porter said.
Firestone has provided a simple Factual Summary page on its city website to help voters understand more about SB 152, the pros and cons of passing the measure, and language of the measure.