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Content tagged with "colorado"
Colorado Repeal Of Community Broadband Ban A Turning Point Decades In The Making
Colorado state leaders have voted to eliminate long-criticized state barriers to municipal broadband networks. Community broadband advocates hope it will be a beacon for other states eager to bring more reliable and affordable high-speed Internet service to a market long dominated by monopoly providers.
The Colorado decision, made after years of citizen backlash to the counterproductive restrictions, is the latest inflection point in a retreat away from monopoly-backed state laws stifling creative efforts to bridge the digital divide.
On May 1, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183. The new law formally eliminates an older 2005 law backed by regional telecom monopolies, which imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.
“SB23-183 removes the biggest obstacle to achieving the Governor’s goal to connect 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027,” Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter said of the decision. “Each local government is in a unique position or different phase of connecting residents to high-speed internet, and this bill allows them to establish broadband plans that meet the needs of their communities.”
Colorado state leaders say the repeal puts them in a prime position to capitalize on numerous digital equity programs designed to address Colorado’s digital divide, as well as the more than $42 billion in broadband subsidies soon to be distributed courtesy of the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
“With large amounts of federal funding coming from the IIJA bill, we wanted communities to be ready to receive this money,” Colorado Representative Brianna Titone told ILSR.
Last year, Governor Polis signed an executive order formally setting a goal of connecting 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027. Colorado state leaders have previously stated they expect their share of IIJA/BEAD funding to be between $400 and $700 million; money that can now be used more broadly on a diverse array of creative broadband solutions.
Capital Construction of a Municipal Broadband Utility 101
*This piece was authored by Brieana Reed-Harmel, manager of the municipal-owned Pulse fiber network in Loveland, Colorado. It was originally published by Broadband Breakfast with permission to republish here. We have extensively covered the Pulse network in Loveland examples of which can be found here and here.
I am the manager for Pulse, the municipally owned broadband utility in Loveland and parts of Larimer County, Colorado. We made strong choices early on that put us on a path to success.
Having broken ground fewer than six months before the start of the pandemic, I am continually impressed with how smoothly our work has progressed. Put simply, I want you to be as successful as we have been.
Define the Plan, Assess Your Skills and Determine What You Need
Documenting the plan makes it easy to share the vision. The plan needs to include the high-level vision and strategy, but also delve into the granular, tactical details as it establishes your success criteria. What does success look like in terms of customer take rate, time to rollout and network documentation?
Include details related to long-term maintenance, and what operations will eventually look like as it will affect the network design, construction methods and the type of materials you decide to use. Understanding these details can greatly change cost models, as some choices have lower upfront costs but higher longer term maintenance costs, and vice versa, which can make or break a business model.
Boulder, Colorado Gets Ready to Roll on Citywide Fiber Network
With the construction of its 65-mile dark fiber backbone nearly complete, city officials in Boulder, Colorado are now ready to move into the next phase of their plan: test the waters for a partnership with private or nonprofit Internet service providers (ISPs) to build out a citywide fiber network to deliver last mile service to the city’s 104,000 residents and businesses.
Last week, the city issued a Request for Information (RFI) “to gauge the interest of for-profit and nonprofit entities in forming a public–private partnership (PPP) with the city to make Gigabit per second-class bandwidth available to all Boulder homes and businesses.”
“As we prepare for further City Council discussion on a future community broadband operating model, it is imperative that we understand the market potential for a PPP (public-private partnership) to meet the city’s goals related to connectivity. We look forward to responses that consider a variety of business models to share technological and operational responsibilities and financial risk with the city in innovative ways,” Innovation and Technology Deputy Director Mike Giansanti said in a press statement when the RFI was issued.
The city is looking for a partner or partners that will come to table with new ideas, create competition, and either fully fund or share costs.
Having prioritized a city-wide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build, city officials have identified two main goals: serve the growing demand for “affordable, reliable, and sophisticated broadband technology; and support a thriving business environment.”
Responses to the RFI are due by May 19 at 4 pm MDT.
City officials say they will consider a range of construction and operation designs as well as a variety of ownership models as the City Council will likely vote on the path forward and the execution of a contract sometime this year.
New Bill Could Make Colorado Friendly State for Municipal Broadband
Earlier this month, a new Colorado bill was introduced that, if passed, would rid the state of a law designed to protect monopoly Internet service providers (ISPs) from competition.
SB-183, titled “Local Government Provision Of Communications Services,” seeks to gut a law Big Telecom pushed state lawmakers to pass in 2005. That law, known as SB-152, prevented any of Colorado’s 272 municipalities from building and operating their own telecommunication infrastructure unless local voters first passed a referendum to “opt out.”
End of ‘the Qwest Law’?
Known also as “the Qwest law,” Qwest (now Lumen but more recently CenturyLink), with the help of Comcast, leaned on legislative allies to pass SB-152 to protect their monopoly profits. On our Community Broadband Bits podcast, Ken Fellman and Jeff Wilson, prominent telecom attorneys, recount how lobbyists for the monopoly ISPs were instrumental in pushing two false, but effective, narratives we’ve seen many times before: that SB-152 only sought to “level the playing field” so that private companies could compete with municipally run networks, and that SB-152 “protected” Coloradoans from irresponsible local governments, as if there were no such things as local elections.
But, if passed, the new proposed legislation (SB-183) – co-sponsored by a bipartisan-ish group of state legislators (10 Democrats and 2 Republicans) – would neuter SB-152 and allow local communities to decide for themselves if they wanted to pursue municipal broadband without needing special permission from the state.
121 Colorado Communities Have Opted Out of Anti-Muni Broadband Preemption Law
More than 121 Colorado cities and towns have now opted out of SB152, a 17-year old state law backed by telecom monopolies greatly restricting the construction and funding of community broadband alternatives.
And the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Colorado’s SB152, passed in 2005 after lobbying pressure by Comcast and Centurylink, prohibits the use of municipal or county money for broadband infrastructure without first holding a public vote.
Election Day 2022: Broadband on the Ballot
As voters went to the polls yesterday, broadband-focused initiatives and candidates could be found up and down the ballot all across the country.
Alabama voters cast their ballots to decide on a state Constitutional amendment known as the Broadband Internet Infrastructure Funding Amendment. The measure sought to amend the state's constitution "to allow local governments to use funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and award such funds to public or private entities."
That measure passed, garnering a “Yes” vote from nearly 80 percent of Alabama voters. With 73 percent of the vote counted late last night, 922,145 “Yes” votes had been tallied with 251,441 “No” votes.
Also in Alabama, Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell won her re-election bid to represent Alabama’s 7th congressional district. Sewell, whose district covers a large swath of the Alabama Black Belt, “spent much of her past two years in office bringing American Rescue Plan Act funds to rural Alabama, dedicated to healthcare, broadband access and infrastructure building,” as noted by The Montgomery Advertiser.
The Centennial State is not listed as one of 17 states in the nation with preemption laws that erect barriers to municipal broadband because nearly every community that had a vote has passed it to nullify it. But more communities had to go through that unnecessary process yesterday due to the law known as SB-152 that bans local governments in the state from establishing municipal broadband service absent a referendum.
Glenwood Springs, CO Says Fiber Expansion Ahead Of Schedule
When last we checked in with Glenwood Springs, Colorado, the city council had voted 6-1 to replace and expand the reach of its existing, municipally-owned fiber system. Two years later and the city, long at the vanguard of community-backed broadband solutions, is working on shoring up access to affordable gigabit fiber to harder to reach parts of the city.
“Having broadband available to all of our customers and to our city is important infrastructure,” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said at the time. “Even more so over the past few years and highlighted by this pandemic that we’re in right now.” The city was featured in Episode 206 of our Broadband Bits Podcast.
The public access portion of the network, the Glenwood Springs Community Broadband Network (CBN), currently offers local residents symmetrical broadband speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $70 a month with no usage caps.
The effort actually began 20 years ago when, frustrated by substandard broadband service from regional incumbent CenturyLink, Glenwood Springs began the process of building its own citywide fiber backbone. As with most such projects, the effort first prioritized connecting key community anchor institutions including local churches, schools, and municipal operations.
Avon, Colorado Will Join ‘Project Thor’ Middle Mile Coalition
Avon, Colorado will soon be joining Project THOR, an open access middle mile fiber alliance of 14 communities spearheaded by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG).
The network, which feeds into NWCCOG’s Point of Presence in Denver, has dramatically benefited state anchor institutions and boosted network reliability across large swaths of Northwest Colorado.
We detailed Project Thor and talked with NWCCOG Executive Director Jon Stavney in episode 406 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. “The image of the hammer and breaking down roadblocks and breaking down barriers really worked,” NWCCOG officials told the Colorado Sun when asked about the project being named after the Norse god of thunder.
A recent broadband assessment (page 50) of Avon conducted by an outside consultant found that Avon locals were annoyed by limited broadband competition, high prices, and a lack of reliability from current private sector broadband offerings. The survey also found locals would be supportive of a city-run broadband initiative if it meant lower prices and faster service.
“We believe the installation of a fiber optic network to enable improved broadband service is appropriate and beneficial in Avon and deployment should commence in the near term so that Avon does not fall too far behind peer communities,” the report found.
PCMag Fastest ISPs 2022: Municipal Broadband and Local ISPs Outperform Major ISPs Once Again
For the past four consecutive years, community owned and/or operated broadband infrastructure has proven to be a key ingredient in the makings of some of the fastest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the nation.
As was the case last year, PCMag’s recently released Top 10 list of “The Fastest ISPs of 2022” feature operators that are either municipal broadband networks or use city-owned fiber or conduit to deliver service across whole or parts of their footprint (with the exception of this year’s ninth-place finisher). Another way of saying that is: not one of 10 fastest networks in the nation are owned or operated by the major national ISPs, many of whom have embarked on an aggressive lobbying campaign to misinform public officials in particular and the public in general on the viability and successes of municipal broadband and local partnerships.
After ranking the major ISPs in their own slower category, PCMag turns to “talk about real speed.”
For that, you don’t go to the big guys … Higher speeds are found in smaller, localized ISPs.
Need for Speed? Look to Local ISPs and Munis
After PCMag compiled a year’s worth of speed tests to analyze which ISPs offer the fastest download and upload speeds, Sonic – a California-based independent ISP – came out on top this year, having “posted the highest number we have ever seen in our test results. Because the uploads this company offers are, on average, eclipsing download speeds—by a lot.”
Catapulting to the top of this year’s list (from 10th place last year), Sonic is a privately-owned company that uses publicly owned conduit in Brentwood, California.
Colorado Springs Embarks on Citywide Network with Ting as Anchor Tenant
Back in January, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) announced it was going to begin building a city-wide, open access fiber network owned, and that Ting would be its first anchor tenant. Construction of the network is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, with a target completion date of 2028 (originally planned for fifteen years). The network will provide multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes as well as city businesses and anchor institutions. It’s still early in the process, but projections at the moment have the utility spending $45 million to $100 million a year for the next six years to complete the project. The first phase will see 225 new fiber route miles laid.
CSU Has Long Used Fiber
For thirty years CSU has built fiber across Colorado’s second-largest city. CSU’s dramatic expansion of this existing network directly benefits the utility by reducing overall costs, improving infrastructure monitoring, and boosting overall utility network resiliency. And it all will come with no rate increases to CSU electric customers.
But the company’s decision to lease access to this fiber expansion also directly aids the local community by lowering consumer utility costs, and delivering universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access. It’s a significant boon to Colorado’s second largest city that’s now an attractive, high-tech growth market.