Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "boulder county"
Local Authority Wins Across Colorado; Comcast Loses In Fort Collins
Voters in 18 19 Colorado communities chose local telecommunications authority with an average rate of 83 percent. In Fort Collins, voters weren’t swayed by rivers of cash Comcast threw at them in the final month leading up to a ballot issue to pave the way for local fiber optic Internet infrastructure. By a comfortable margin, ballot measure 2B passed, allowing the city to proceed as it examines ways to improve competition and connectivity.
Fort Collins Voters Say Yes To 2B
Voters chose to amend the city charter in order to give the city council the ability to authorize the municipality to offer telecommunications services as a utility, rather than taking the issue to the voters in a separate referendum. The measure passed with a comfortable margin: 57 percent of voters approved the proposal.
The city has been investigating ways to improve connectivity for several years now because CenturyLink and Comcast are only providing a patchwork of substandard services. As a forward thinking community, Fort Collins wants to be sure that they don’t pass up any economic development opportunities. City leaders also feel that a municipal network is best positioned to offer affordable Internet access as a way to create an environment that is equitable and inclusive, especially for Fort Collins schoolchildren. The city is home to Colorado State University, which needs high-quality connectivity for research purposes. When considering the city’s social, economic, and development goals, the future ability to invest in Internet infrastructure makes sense. Comcast sees the measure as potential competition, the ultimate threat.
In order to allow the City Council to, at some date in the future, authorize the city municipal utilities to provide telecommunications services, Fort Collins needs to amend its city charter. Without this amendment, the City Council will need to take the issue to the voters, rather than by granting permission via ordinance. If Fort Collins decides to work with a private sector partner to deliver services, these same restrictions apply.
More Colorado Towns Put Opt Out Question on The Ballot
This November, more Colorado towns and counties will be voting on whether to opt out of the 12-year-old SB 152, a state law that restricts broadband development.
Sweeping Out the Old
Senate Bill 152 has hindered communities’ ability to invest in Internet infrastructure and provide service themselves or with private sector partners. Many communities are realizing that national carriers can’t be relied on to provide high-quality Internet access. To date, at least 98 communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority by opting out of SB 152; a handful are considering actually pursuing a publicly owned network.
Opening the Door for Options
For some towns and counties, the ballot question is simply a way to keep their options open and to reclaim local authority that the state took away in 2005. As we’ve seen in Westminister, Maryland, public-private partnerships can be a great option for communities. Being out from under SB 152 will allow these municipalities to explore high-quality network options if the opportunity arises. Additionally, when towns give themselves the ability to explore new providers and different models, current ISPs tend to take notice and adapt accordingly. Beyond these options and ripple effects from shedding SB 152, some towns simply want autonomy and freedom from sweeping state regulation.
In Eagle County, they recognize climbing out from under SB 152 will allow them to consider more substantial steps for taking back local power and implementing a high-speed network. They’ve yet to conduct any feasibility studies but in their yearly Legislative Policy Statement they made it clear that they’re motivated to improve connectivity.
Ushering in the New
Boulder Releases RFP For Broadband Feasibility Study
In June, Boulder released a Request for Proposals (RFP) as it seeks a consultant to conduct a broadband feasibility study. A PDF of the RFP is available online.
The city currently has 179 miles of fiber in place serving 60 city facilities; there is an additional 36 miles of empty conduit. This network interfaces with the Boulder Valley School District's network within the city and in other areas of Boulder County. It also connects to Longmont's network and to a colocation facility in Denver.
The city is also home to BRAN - the Boulder Research and Administration Network. The city, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Department of Commerce Laboratories share ownership of the BRAN fiber network which interconnects their facilities.
Last fall, Boulder joined a number of other Colorado communities whose voters chose to reclaim local telecommunications authority, revoked in 2005 under Colorado State Bill 152.
The city established a Broadband Working Group earlier this year to investigate ways to bring better connectivity to Boulder. They created a draft vision, included in the RFP:
Draft Vision: Gigabit Broadband to Boulder Homes and Businesses
(May 21, 2015)
Our vision is to provide a world-class community telecommunications infrastructure to Boulder for the 21st century and beyond, facilitated by new access to the public’s local telecommunications assets. We acknowledge that broadband is a critical service for quality of life, as is the case with roads, water, sewer, and electricity. Every home, business, non-profit organization, government entity, and place of education should have the opportunity to connect affordably, easily, and securely. Boulder’s broadband services will be shaped by the values of the community.
Colorado Town Plans Residential Survey For Community Owned Network
The town of Erie, Colorado, is conducting a residential survey as it considers a community owned network. Erie has about 18,000 residents and straddles Boulder and Weld Counties.
The concerns facing Erie's community leaders were recently summed up in a John Aguilar article in the Boulder Daily Camera. According to the article, four companies were to be screened to complete a $50,000 feasibility study. The community owned broadband approach has both strong supporters and some doubters in town.
From the article:
Trustee Jonathan Hager, who has spent the last dozen years managing fiber-optic networks for a Westminster-based wholesale electric power supplier, championed the idea for Erie from both a local control perspective and an economic development one.
"If I'm a company and I'm going to relocate here with 100 employees and I need 100 megabits per second of speed and the town can provide that, I think that would be something I would look at," Hager said. "If we can make Erie stand out as a good place to live because we offer broadband, that puts us in a good position."
Internet access, he said, has become so ubiquitous and necessary that it could be seen as just another municipally provided utility, like water and electrical service.
"We can provide it ourselves and cut out the middle man," Hager said.
Those who are not sold on the idea of funding a study, express resignation at entering a challenging industry:
"I'm very sensitive to the speed of technology's progression," Mayor Joe Wilson said. "By the time we cut the ribbon on this technology, it's old news."
Wilson also voiced concerns about whether it is government's proper role to be providing broadband Internet service or whether that is better left up to the private sector. He said there hasn't been an outcry from residents to pursue such a service.