Going For The Opt Out, Funding Feasibility In Greeley, Colorado

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 connectivity for businesses and residents, city officials want to find a way to make public venues more attractive. According to Greeley’s Assistant City Manager, the town’s Family FunPlex and Recreation Center has had difficulty booking events due to poor Internet access.

For Our Citizens

With no plan in place at this time, the city is hoping discussion of publicly owned infrastructure will encourage better rates from incumbents. Often just talk of community network deployment will inspire better rates from existing providers. The City Manager has noticed the connection:

Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said Internet service providers have taken notice, with Comcast promoting higher-end Internet service across the state.

"To me, it's apparent that, from the votes and the things that have happened across the state of Colorado, it's making an impact in the marketplace because Comcast is trying to respond to that," Otto said. "At the very least we should be engaged in that conversation for our citizens."