Tag: "referendum"

Posted June 26, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

In August, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, will decide whether or not they want to approve a plan to invest in publicly owned fiber optic Internet infrastructure.

It’s All In The Mills

Voters are being asked to approve a millage increase of 2.9 over a 20-year period. In other words, property taxes will increase approximately $2.91 per $1,000 of taxable value of a property. Those funds will be used to fund a bond to finance the project; city leaders have already determined that the principal amount of the project will not exceed $7 million.

Once the infrastructure has been completed, the community plans to partner with one or more Internet Service Provider (ISP). Estimates for monthly millage bond costs and monthly cost for Internet access at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) are approximately $57 for Lyndon Township’s average homeowner. Gigabit access will be available and will cost about $25 more each month.

If funding is approved, the community expects to finish the project and be using their new Internet infrastructure by the end of 2018.

Supported By Citizens

The issue of better connectivity in Lyndon Township isn’t a new one. At a meeting in March 2016, Township Board members voted 5-0 to fund a feasibility study. The Board had approached providers about improving connectivity in the area, but none considered an investment in Lyndon Township a good investment. 

At the meeting, members of a broadband initiative started by local residents shared their stories. As is often the case, local residents described driving to the library or Township Hall to access the Internet because their own homes were unserved or connectivity is so poor. According to a Chelsea Update article, when the Board approved the feasibility funding, “[t]here was a vigorous round of applause from the crowd.”

seal-michigan.png About 80 percent of the community does not have access to FCC defined broadband at 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. In the summer of 2016 when property owners received a survey about Internet access with their property tax bills, 83 percent of those who replied and were registered voters described...

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Posted June 12, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

Greeley, Colorado, will likely ask voters to consider opting out of state law SB 152 this fall. City Council members from the city of 100,000 people decided on June 6th to join with nearby Windsor (pop. 18,500) to fund a feasibility study, which will be completed this fall.

Almost One Hundred

Ninety-eight communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority via the ballot box. In 2005, the state legislature passed SB 152, which discourages public investment in Internet network infrastructure. Even if local communities want to work with private sector partners, they need to present the question or risk running afoul of the state law. 

As an increasing number of towns and counties realize that high-quality connectivity will not come from national providers, they are choosing to present the question to the voters. Whether they have immediate plans or simply consider the matter a question of local authority, all have chosen to free themselves from the confines of SB 152. This spring, Central City and Colorado Springs held referendums and both passed the measure to opt out.

Taking It Slow

Greeley isn’t in a rush as it considers a publicly owned solution to their connectivity problems. In September 2016, city leadership decided to take incremental steps and directed staff to research options. According to a Greeley Tribune article at the time:

Councilman Robb Casseday said he was talking with a business considering a move to Greeley recently, and that Internet access was first on its priority list.

"Internet is going to be more and more of a future commodity that is going to be as important, I think, as water and sewer to a municipality," he said.

That's what got him on board with considering making high-speed Internet a city utility.

In addition to improving...

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Posted May 24, 2017 by Kate Svitavsky

After tentative plans to work with a private sector partner fell through, Fort Collins is still moving forward. The city wants the option to provide residents and businesses with gigabit connectivity as a municipal service, necessitating a ballot initiative in November to change the city charter. The ballot initiative would allow the Light and Power Utility to provide Internet services and may also ask voters to consent to use municipal bonds to fund the Internet network infrastructure project.

The city estimates the project will cost between $125 million and $140 million and will cover the entire city and its “growth management area,” which is land that is expected to be annexed in the future.

A Long And Winding Road

In 2015, voters in Fort Collins reclaimed local authority by opting out of SB 152, which discourages cities from investing in Internet infrastructure in order to offer services themselves or with private sector partners. The pro-local sentiment was so popular that 83 percent of voters supported opting out.

From there, the city pursued a partnership with Axia. However, the Canadian company pulled out of discussions with Fort Collins and a similar deal with Bloomington, Indiana. Axia’s parent company, Partners Group, was reportedly hesitant to enter the U.S. market and compete with large, incumbent providers Comcast and CenturyLink. Axia Networks USA was operating MassBroadband 123 in Massachussetts and filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, leaving the state searching for another company to manage the statewide fiber-optic network.

The city is still open to partnering with a private sector partner, but is leaning toward providing services through their existing Light and Power Utility. We've seen other deals between municipalities fall apart when they seemed like sure things, which indicates that municipalities must always take care when establishing a relationship with a potential partner.

Santa Cruz and Cruzio were well on their way to entering into a partnership, but the project did not...

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Posted April 7, 2017 by Hannah Trostle

This spring, two more communities in Colorado reclaimed the authority to build municipal networks. Colorado Springs and Central City voted to opt out of SB 152, a state law that removed local telecommunications authority in 2005.

Voters overwhelmingly chose to restore local authority to make decisions for themselves. Now the cities can discuss if a community network is right for them.

Quick Count

The Denver Business Journal covered the outcome of these April votes - noting the strong showing in rural Central City. The referendum to “opt out” of SB 152 easily passed in the small community; of the 182 ballots, 162 folks voted yes for local control [pdf]. That means 89 percent of the voters were in favor of the measure. 

In the much larger, urban community of Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Independent described a much tigher vote: 61 percent to 39 percent in favor of local authority. That’s about 50,000 yes votes to 32,000 no votes. Voters also decided another related ballot initiative concerning the sale of city infrastructure. Assets related to city utilities, such as water, electricity or telecom, now cannot be sold without the approval of a supermajority of 60 percent of votes cast in a referendum. 

Nearly 100 Communities Say YES

These two communities join the nearly 100 communities that have already restored local authority. Last November, 26 other communities also voted to opt out of the law. More communities may join this growing movement this fall. 

 

Posted February 14, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

On Monday the Colorado Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee heard SB 42, a bill to repeal the state’s requirement for referendum to reclaim local telecommunications authority. The committee of seven Senators voted 4 - 3 to postpone the bill indefinitely, leaving it in legislative purgatory. We've provided the audio above, but we missed the first minute or so of the recording.

Ample Support

A number of testifiers came to Denver to support the bill and also testified remotely from several locations around the state. Several testified that local investment in Internet infrastructure is the only hope they have for necessary high-quality connectivity. 

Elected officials from communities that have already invested shared stories of how they had approached big national providers and were dismissed. They went on to describe how the state imposed referendum causes missed funding opportunities and the ability to partner with private providers is also at risk when communities have to jump through hoops.

Overwhelming Opt Outs

Sponsors of the bill pointed out that all communities that have held the required referendums have chosen to reclaim local authority by huge margins. Nevertheless, several lawmakers continued to attempt to tie the referendums to community debt and competition with local providers. As our readers know, passing the referendum is an opt out of state law and a number of communities don’t take any other steps.

For some, their purpose is only to have the ability to work with private providers because national providers have already denied the services local communities need. As several testifiers stated at the hearing, local communities don't typically invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure because they want to be providers - they invest because no one else will do it for them.

It Wouldn't Be A Hearing Without Them

Big providers opposed to the competition and the bill sent lobbyists to testify also. In true form, they advanced the false narrative that local publicly owned network infrastructure competes unfairly with big providers. What they really mean is that they don’t want new entrants to partner with local governments and establish a new model that would threaten their standing as...

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Posted February 9, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

A Colorado Senate committee will soon hear SB 42, a bill to repeal the requirement that local communities hold a referendum to reclaim local telecommunications authority. SB 42 is on the calendar in the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee for Monday, February 13th.

Supporting This One

In preparation for the hearing, a grass roots effort to pass the bill has taken shape. In January, the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties, Inc., prepared a fact sheet and talking points and asked their members to disseminate the information. They also sent out information on how interested parties can testify remotely if they can’t get to Denver.

The Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC) drafted a letter to the Chair and members of the committee. The letter pointed out that publicly owned networks can fill in the gaps left by national providers that don't bring service to every business and residence in the state. The Council also described how SB 152, the 2005 bill that put the referendum requirement in place, limits the rights of local communities and increases prices in Colorado.

The EDCC’s letter also pointed out the importance of high-quality connectivity to a 21st century economy and how local communities will lose people and businesses when it isn’t available. The EDCC encouraged the members of the committee to pass the bill to repeal the cumbersome and onerous referendum requirement:

As a part of the EDCC legislative platform, we believe that it is our role to help ensure access to utilities and broadband for predictable and reliable services to businesses in rural and urban areas. SB17-042 would be a significant and important piece of legislation that will help Colorado achieves that imperative economic development goal.  

Check out the full text of the EDCC letter and the talking points that support SB 42. 

Give 'Em A Call, Send 'Em An Email

If you live in Colorado and want to contribute your voice to support this bill, a list of the committee members is available...

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Posted February 4, 2017 by Hannah Trostle

The Colorado Senate Business, Labor, & Technology Committee will soon consider the proposed repeal of the state’s restriction on municipal networks. Under current state law, known as SB 152, local governments are not permitted to pursue a municipal network without first holding a referendum.

The Senate Business, Labor, & Technology committee will hold a hearing on the bill on February 13, 2017 at 2 p.m. The full text of the proposed repeal can be found on the Colorado General Assembly’s website.

Accepting Remote Testimony

Folks around Colorado can make their opinion heard without having to trek to the capitol. The committee will accept remote testimony on the issue. Those who wish to speak must register online in advance and choose from specific locations that have reliable connectivity. All of the remote testimony locations are colleges: Adams State, Mesa State, Fort Lewis College, Otero Junior College, and Trinidad State.  

Save Money, Restore Local Control

Senators Kerry Donovan and Lucia Guzman proposed SB 42 to repeal the onerous requirements of SB 152 and to restore local control to the city and county governments. Several communities that Senator Donovan represents have already held expensive referenda on the issue, and all have reclaimed local authority.

At this point, more than a third of all counties in the state have “opted out” of SB 152. To learn more about the state restriction and how almost one hundred communities have restored local authority, listen to the the Building Local Power podcast Episode 5

Posted December 8, 2016 by Scott Carlson

Summit County in central Colorado is exploring how to bring Gigabit connectivity (1,000 Megabits per second) to homes and businesses in its region. 

The County recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to participate in a public-private partnership to bring a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to local businesses and residents. The County is also looking for a private partner to help deploy wireless broadband service. The deadline for submitting RFI responses is Jan. 9, 2017.

In its RFI, the County said it:

“[R]ecognizes that it may be economically challenging to deploy fiber-to-the premises infrastructure throughout the County and thus understands that early investments may focus on population centers in the County. The County’s hope, however, is that world-class networks will eventually expand to the less populous areas of the County.”  

The county indicated it is seeking proposals from a potential private sector partner who would be interested in establishing a long-term relationship. 

Summit County’s RFI comes a year after citizens voted in a referendum to opt out of Colorado SB 152, the state law that prevents local governments from providing service or partnering with private sector partners. More than two dozen local communities opted out of SB 152 this past fall, bringing the total to 95 Colorado communities, which have chosen to reclaim local telecommunications authority. 

Summit County Overview 

Summit County (pop. 29,000) is nestled among the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies and is about an hour’s drive from the Denver metro area. About 80 percent of the county’s 630 square miles are federal public land; its governmental roots date back to...

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Posted December 1, 2016 by Nick Stumo-Langer

On November 8th, 2016, 26 Colorado cities and counties joined 69 of their fellow communities in opting out of the restrictive, anti-municipal broadband state law, SB 152. For years, we at ILSR have been covering the developments in Colorado as voters reclaim local telecommunications authority.

The media, both locally and nationally, took notice of our efforts.

Here's a roundup of stories in which national, state, and local outlets cited our work and provided information to ensure this vital issue gained coverage. Read more in our story covering the votes and in our podcast about the election.

MEDIA COVERAGE - "26 Colorado Communities Opt out of Restrictive State Broadband Law"

Pre-Election Coverage: 

26 Colorado Communities Will Vote on Building Their Own Internet Networks by Jason Koebler, Motherboard Vice - November 2nd, 2016

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Colorado is the only state in the country that has a ballot measure requirement for locally run networks; 22 other states have different laws that restrict local broadband efforts. With so many cities overwhelmingly voting in favor of local government-run broadband, Mitchell says that Colorado’s law hasn’t quite had the effect CenturyLink would have liked.

“If this is the worst barrier we had to deal with, I don’t think anyone would be complaining,” he said. “It’s not as bad as Nebraska or North Carolina, where cities basically can’t do anything under the circumstances of their laws.”

How Election Day Can Shape States’ Community Broadband Laws by Craig...

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Posted November 30, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

On November 8th, 2016, local voters in 26 Colorado communities chose to reclaim telecommunications authority. They voted to opt out of the state’s 2005 SB 152, the law lobbied heavily by national cable and DSL companies that prevents local governments from providing advanced services and telecommunications services to the general public. There are now 95 local communities that have opted out of SB 152.

To understand the situation in Colorado and to get a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of municipal networks, Tom Merritt and Justin Robert Young from the Daily Tech News Show (DTNS) spoke with Christopher.

The online news show streamed live on November 10th, 2016, but it is now available for you to watch. The guys get into the law, how it limits local Colorado communities, and why these local governments are asking voters to opt out. The show runs for 38:23.

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