Tag: "colorado"

Posted March 18, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last week, Trustees in Estes Park, Colorado, unanimously voted to change the community’s municipal code in order to bring constituents what they want — a publicly owned broadband network.

Strong Support

It’s been four years since 92 percent of voters in Estes Park chose to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. By reclaiming local telecommunications authority through the opt out referendum in 2015, the mountain town of approximately 6,300 residents was able to explore possibilities for better connectivity. 

After several days-long outages caused by lack of redundant infrastructure in the area, local business leaders and town officials knew it was time to take control of the situation. Surveys in the community revealed that approximately two-thirds of respondents want better connectivity in the community and of those respondents, 40 percent consider it the most important service the town can offer. 

Recently, local editors from the Trail Gazette echoed the sentiments of the community and urged community leaders to end discussion and take action:

…Estes Park needs more action and less discussion for greater access to information and global connectivity. No longer is accessible, fast and reliable broadband Internet a luxury; it is a necessity in our digital world.

Prior to the March 12th vote, the Broad of Trustees opened up the meeting to allow comments from the public. In addition to Trustees’ questions about economic development, reliability, and potential capacity of the proposed infrastructure, residents stepped forward to voice their opinions.

Not one citizen spoke out against the project.

Town resident Michael Bertrand, who works as an asset manager for a real estate investment firm and works remotely, opened up public comment with a statement in favor of the project. "I need reliable internet," Bertrand said. "I've had fiber in other locations in the past and it's incredible. The speeds you get are just fantastic."

...

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Posted February 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Rio Blanco County Economic Development Department recently published their promotional video to share information about their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The video highlights some of the benefits the infrastructure is now bringing to the communities of Rangely and Meeker by offering interviews with people from different segments of the population. In addition to county administrators, people in the fields of education, real estate, and business leaders discussed how the open access network is positively impacting their fields.

Check out the video, that runs just under five minutes:

Rio Blanco County Broadband Initiative from Align Multimedia on Vimeo.

 

Getting Out the News

The video is an excellent tool to help Rio Blanco County spread the word about their publicly owned infrastructure that will help them stay competitive. One of the recurring themes in the video and from other rural communities throughout Colorado and elsewhere, remains the ability to live and work in an environment unspoiled by urbanization while still having access to connectivity that rivals or surpasses that in urban areas. As Rangely Town Manager Lisa Pierling states:

"You can have the best of both worlds. You can have all of the modernization you need to run your business, but you can still take a step back and just enjoy a little slower paced life than rush to work, rush home."

Learn more about the Rio Blanco County FTTH project by reviewing our coverage.

Posted January 31, 2019 by lgonzalez

It was one of telecom’s famous David and Goliath stories, and when it was over, the people in Fort Collins, Colorado, were ready to press on to invest in better connectivity for their community. That’s what they’re doing now and community leaders anticipate rolling out service as early as this summer.

Deep Pockets vs. Self-Determination

We shared the 2017 story about massive spending by large corporate ISPs in the Colorado town to prevent voters from approving a city charter amendment. Big incumbents wanted to prevent competition that might arise from public investment in high-quality Internet access and were willing to spend almost a million dollars to stop it.

Fortunately, people heading up grassroots efforts in Fort Collins had educated the public about the benefits of fiber, public ownership, and the risks of doing nothing. Voters supported the charter change and later Fort Collins residents and businesses went on to support the city’s efforts to develop a business plan for a municipal Internet access utility.

Connexion

Fort Collins started construction of the estimated $80 million project, dubbed Connexion, and they are hoping to connect the first subscribers in August 2019. They anticipate completing the network in 2021. The city’s light and power department is working with the contractor hired to deploy the network; construction began in November.

In May, the city issued approximately $142.2 million in revenue bonds in order to fund construction, cover the needed capital costs, and get the service on its feet. Bonds sold out in two days.

The city released a promotional video to introduce the service to the Fort Collins public:

According to their 2017 model business plan, Connexion will likely offer symmetrical 50 Megabit per second (Mbps) for $50 per month and 1,000 Mbps (1...

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Posted January 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

A total of 40 counties and 102 municipalities have now chosen local telecommunications authority by passing ballot measures to opt out of restrictive state law. Last November, 18 counties, cities, and towns voted to join the expanding list of communities opting out of SB 152, which revoked local telecommunications authority in 2005. We decided to update our map to get a new visualization of what the situation now looks like in Colorado. 

Take a gander:

map-2018-fall-SB152-small.png

Moving Across the State

The map, updated by Intern and Mapping Maven Hannah Bonestroo from an earlier version created by former Research Associate and Visualization Virtuoso Hannah Trostle, shows how the decision to opt out is sweeping from region to region. Earlier referendums centered in the Mountain and into the Western Slope and San Luis Valley communities. During this past election cycle, most of the counties bringing the issue before voters were in the Plains region.

In past years, mountain towns, often resort communities, were looking for better connectivity when big ISPs considered deployment too challenging and expensive in their geographies. Now, it appears that the rural and less populated Plains communities are seeing value in reclaiming local authority.

With fewer population centers in the Plains region, farms and ranges fill much of this section of the state. Large, corporate ISPs don’t consider this type of landscape profitable due to the lack of population density, however, farmers and rangers require high-speed Internet access for various reasons. Crop and livestock monitoring and realtime reporting are only a few of the ways 21st century agricultural professionals use broadband.

Colorado’s Free Communities

In Colorado, there are 271 active incorporated municipalities, 187 unincorporated Census Designated Places (CDPs) and other small population centers that are outside of CDPs or municipalities. To date, the 102 municipalities that have elected to opt out of SB 152 have all been incorporated municipalities, or approximately 38 percent.

The 40 counties where voters have chosen to opt out make up 62.5 percent...

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Posted December 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

In early December, the city of Cortez, Colorado, released a request for proposals in their search for a private sector partner to help bring last mile fiber connectivity to premises throughout the community. The city is seeking a way to bring high-quality Internet access to the entire community, but will not expand it’s municipal fiber infrastructure. They're looking for ways to overcome some of the same challenges other small communities face as they attempt to improve local connectivity to every premise.

At A Crossroads

Smith told us that the city is at a crossroads and community leaders think that a public-private partnership (P3) might be the quickest way to get the people of Cortez better services they’re looking for at the affordable rates they deserve. The city faces the challenge of funding the expansion. Approximately $1 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) funded the Cortez middle mile infrastructure and connections to community anchor institutions (CAIs), including schools, healthcare facilities, and municipal facilities. Cortez is not able to obtain more grant funding from DOLA for last mile expansion.

When we spoke with Smith in June 2018 for episode 310 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, he described how the city was contemplating a sales tax to fund the expansion, rather than the more common revenue bond funding. Smith explains that, if Cortez decided to go that route, their decision would trigger Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) regulations. Due to the time requirements, any ballot measure on such a funding mechanism could not be voted on before 2020. Once the measure is on the ballot, the city would not be able to promote it in accordance with Colorado law. If Cortez decided to ask local voters to support funding Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) with a sales tax, says Smith, the city would have to wait 4 - 5 years before they could promote the service. A survey in Cortez revealed that 64 percent of respondents supported a sales tax to fund expansion of broadband infrastructure to households and more businesses, but community leaders aren't comfortable waiting so long to bring better connectivity that is so desperately needed...

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Posted December 10, 2018 by lgonzalez

During the February 2015 referendum, approximately 92 percent who voted on the measure, chose to opt out of SB 152 in Estes Park. The mountain town of 6,300 has experienced catastrophic outages dues to ice and flooding, including in 2016 and in 2013 when telecommunications were wiped out for days.

Estes Park has their own electric utility and is part of a regional public power initiative that involves the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). As a result the town has a fair amount of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure in place. City officials hired consultants to offer recommendations and by 2016 had entered a design engineering phase of a possible Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) initiative. Experts estimated the cost to connect the community to be around $30 million and recommended a retail model.

At their recent November meeting, members of the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to allow Estes Park staff to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find broadband bond underwriters. To keep the momentum moving forward, the Trail Gazette published an editorial encouraging Estes Park leadership to continue the process and to bring better connectivity to the community:

…Estes Park needs more action and less discussion for greater access to information and global connectivity. No longer is accessible, fast and reliable broadband Internet a luxury; it is a necessity in our digital world.

Editors stressed that Longmont, Fort Collins, and Loveland have either deployed or are in the process of creating gigabit networks and that Estes Park will be left behind in many ways if forced to depend on the same slow, unreliable Internet access that has left them stranded in the past.

Estes Park, where tourism and the service industry drive the...

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Posted November 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

Until November 6th, community leaders in Loveland, Colorado, vacillated between whether or not to hold a referendum for final voter approval on a muni project. Asking voters to make the final call can remove political uncertainty, but there are times when elected officials have to make the call themselves. When the city opted out of Colorado's restrictive SB 152 three years ago, 82 percent of voters supported the measure. On November 6th, Loveland City Council vacated a previous order to put the issue on the ballot and decided that it's time to move ahead on establishing a broadband utility.

Special thanks to Jeff Hoel who provided additional resources to enhance our reporting!

A Steady Hike Onward in Loveland

Loveland’s population is around 77,000 and growing. The city rests in the south east corner of Larimer County, which is located along the north central border of the state. Located about 50 miles north of Denver as part of the Fort Collins-Loveland Metropolitan Statistical Area, the city is organized as a home rule municipality. Other towns we’ve written about are part of the same statistical areas, including Estes Park and Windsor. They’re one of several bedroom communities where residents who live there work in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins.

Like more than 140 other local communities in Colorado, Loveland has opted out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. Loveland voters chose to shed themselves of the law in 2015 and the city followed up with a feasibility study the following year. Since then, they’ve moved ahead carefully with support from the community, including editorials from local media. City leaders have stated that their constituents also vocalize support for a publicly owned project. Approximately, 82 percent of voters approved opting out in 2015. In 2016, 56 percent of residential survey respondents and 37 percent of business survey respondents stated that incumbents were not meeting their needs. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise the public appears ready for community...

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Posted November 12, 2018 by lgonzalez

There’s more than skiing stirring up Breckenridge, Colorado, this winter. Recently, the city released their Request for Interest (RFI) as they search for ISPs interested in delivering services via their future publicly owned fiber network. Responses are due November 26th, 2018.

Read the full RFI here.

Seeking ISPs

The town is working with Foresite Group to develop an open access network in order to bring the connectivity businesses and residents need. In their RFI, they state that the town wants to fill the role of “fiber infrastructure provider” by developing a dark fiber network that will extend to all premises citywide. Breckenridge’s model does not include direct retail services from the city to the public at this time. Community leaders want to create long-term relationships with ISPs, stimulate competition, and discover new uses for the infrastructure along the way.

The city has determined that they will deploy the network in two phases with phase 1 scheduled for completion in 2021; they hope to finish the entire project some time in 2022. The first phase will begin mid-2019 and will focus on the fiber backbone along with connecting approximately 1,000 to 2,000 end users by the first year. While Breckenridge doesn’t have cost estimates for phase 2, they have determined that phase 1 should run around $8 million. The Town Council recently approved funding for phase 1.

The second phase will connect remaining Breckenridge premises, but depends in part on the results of the RFI issue. The city won’t connect premises until they find ISPs to work with and have a more concrete plan of what areas those companies plan to serve and the terms of agreements between the city and ISPs. 

Flexibility Required

Breckenridge’s year-round population is only around 5,000, but visitors can make that number swell as high as 36,000 people. In addition to putting significant stress on wired Internet access in the mountain town, mobile service is overtaxed. The city hopes to use fiber to improve cell service for visitors in addition to smart city applications and niche services, such as home security,...

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Posted November 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

The march toward reclaiming local telecommunications authority throughout Colorado continued yesterday as eighteen more communities opted out of restrictive SB 152. As in prior years, voters passed referendums with high majorities in every contest.

It’s a Sweep

Once again, local voters emphatically expressed support to step out of the weight of SB 152 and put decision making for local connectivity in their own hands. The lowest passage for this cycle was 62 percent of the vote in Crowley County; the highest occurred in the town of Blue River where 90 percent of voters chose to opt out. Average passage for all 18 referendums came to just under 76 percent of the vote.

We’ve already reported on ballot measures in the municipalities of Aurora, Cañon City, Florence, Fountain, and Erie. Here’s how the “yes” votes shook out in those communities (please note that these numbers are considered “unofficial” and we round up to whole percentages):

  • Aurora: 75%
  • Cañon City: 73%
  • Florence: 83%
  • Fountain: 72%
  • Erie: 86%

Other cities and towns which we recently learned were taking up the issue also passed the opt out issue by wide margins:

  • Blue River: 90% (Wow!)
  • Las Animas: 70%
  • Wheat Ridge: 80%

Counties that we’ve been watching also came out positive. Thanks to Virgil Turner, who is the Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement for the City of Montrose, Colorado, (and our eyes in the state) we found out that this was a year when the majority of referendums happened at the county level.

  • Alamosa County: 70%
  • Baca County: 74%
  • Bent County: 70%
  • Chaffee County: 80%
  • Crowley County: 62%
  • Fremont County: 72%
  • Grand County: 78%
  • Hinsdale County: 89%
  • Kiowa County: 78%
  • Otero County: 63%

Within Colorado’s 64 counties, a total of 40 have brought the opt out question to their voters; all referendums passed. Now, 62.5 percent of counties in the state are free of SB 152, leaving only 37.5 percent or 24 counties subject to the harmful law.

Fixing Past Mistakes For Different Futures

In...

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Posted November 5, 2018 by lgonzalez

We knew that Longmonters loved their publicly owned network, but recent numbers show how many of them have shunned incumbents to switch. More than half of the market in Longmont has now signed up with NextLight. While NextLight subscribers enjoy fast, affordable, reliable connectivity from their network, benefits from competition are also creating a better environment for Longmonters who have stayed with the incumbents.

When Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) set out to serve the community in 2014, their goal was to reach approximately 37 percent of the market within five years. According to LPC’s Scott Rochat, they’ve blown away that goal and have already reached 54 percent.

No Tricks, Just Gigabits

While large national providers focus their efforts to capture customers with gimmicks such as reduced introductory rates that later increase, LPC has appealed to subscribers with a series of intelligent moves that show their commitment to the community.

At the start of 2018, LPC dropped the cost of their symmetrical gigabit Internet access from $99.95 per month to $69.95 per month. If subscribers have been connected for 12 continuous months, they’re eligible for a loyalty discount which brings the price down another $10 per month. During deployment, LPC created a special program in which folks who signed up for service within three months that service was available in their areas were able to cut yet another $10 per month off their gigabit rate for as long as they stayed connected. These Charter Members are able to take that $49.95 per month rate with them when they move to a different Longmont address where NextLight is available and the rate stays at the premise that they sell.

Approximately 93 percent of NextLight residential subscribers are Charter Members, Rochat told the Times Call. The network currently serves 17,400 premises.

Subscribers who referred friends were also able to get a free month of service for each referral and they had extended the promotion to digital voice service.

Competition=Better Rates, Better Services

The...

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