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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.
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
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.
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