Mancos, a rural community of about 1,300 in rural southwest Colorado, hopes to join over 50 other communities across the state that have reclaimed local telecommunications authority. On April 5th, the town will decide whether to exempt itself from SB 152, Colorado's 2005 state law that removed local choice from municipalities and local governments.
Located at the base of the Mesa Verde National Park, Mancos is best known for outdoor recreation and as the gateway to the park, home to the historic Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings. Rangeland and mountains surround the community.
The Pine River Times Journal reports that Mancos is looking to utilize 3,300 feet of fiber optic assets already in place. The fiber now connects municipal facilities but community leaders want to have the option to use the network for businesses, residents, or to provide Wi-Fi to visitors. SB 152 precludes Mancos from using their publicly owned fiber for any of those purposes without first opting out.
On March 9th, the Town Board of Trustees approved a resolution encouraging voters to pass the ballot initiative that will reclaim local authority. They have information about the ballot question and what it will mean for the community on their website.
“It’s an anti-competition bill [SB 152],” [Mancos Town Administrator Andrea Phillips] said. “[Exempting out] gives us a lot more leeway.”
Mancos has no specific plans to develop a municipal fiber network but, like many other communities that opted out last November, they want the ability to do so or to work with a private sector partner. Nearby Dolores is collaborating with Montezuma County; the two have contracted jointly for a feasibility study.
According a March 16th Pine River Times Journal article, Dolores and Montezuma County will put the issue to voters in November. Jim McClain, IT Manager for the county said:
“Opting out unties our hands in order to build up the system. It’s like we build the road, and then private companies provide the service on that road.”
“When people and businesses are thinking of moving here, the first thing they want to know is if there is broadband.”
In Mancos, the local Chamber of Commerce is considering the needs of visitors as well as residents.
“It’s all about economic vitality,” [Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce Administrator Marie Chiarizia] said.
Mancos potentially could make broadband service available anywhere in the town if it’s exempted from SB 152, Chiarizia said. Outdoor events such as Mancos Days draw temporary vendors, and broadband access would allow those vendors to be able to take credit and debit cards more quickly, she said.
The Mancos Board of Trustees voted to contribute $4,100 to participate in the feasibility study on March 23rd.
“To look to the future and become prosperous you have to look at the infrastructure of the town and offer these services...Mancos is a unique community unto itself, but this will help us promote our town better and place us on a competitive edge,” [Chiarizia] said.