Telecom reform bills pass House, Senate

DENVER – A package of five bills that reform Colorado’s telecommunications laws and are intended to improve broadband service in rural areas was passed Monday by the House and the Senate.

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk where it is expected to be signed.

Among the five bills, three are focusing on supporting the expansion of broadband service into Colorado rural areas.

House Bill 1328 would redirect the “high-cost support mechanism” – currently a $54 million subsidy reimbursed for basic phone service – into a new fund to support the broadband service in unserved areas.

House Bill 1327 would expand laws to allow broadband providers to construct, maintain and operate facilities along any public highway, have equal opportunities to access to the state’s utility trenching projects, and grants tax exemptions for providers to build out broadband service.

House Bill 1329 would remove the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s regulations on Internet-based services, such as voice-over-Internet protocol services.

Besides those three bills, House Bill 1331 would remove the PUC’s regulation on basic local exchange service, which means that the basic phone service provider can determine the price for the service as well as whether to discontinue it. However, the bill says that if the carriers accept the subsidy distribution, the commission will retain the authority to designate providers of last resort.

House Bill 1330 would update technology terms, such as “exchange area,” and repeal outdated terms, such as “toll reseller.”

With those telecommunications reforms, the package will bring regulatory certainty, expand broadband internet in unserved communities, and protect public safety, according to press release from the Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office. “Broadband Internet is an essential piece of our state’s infrastructure. It is critical to maximizing Colorado’s chances for continued economic success and growth. Many rural areas of our state have gone without broadband internet access, or the service has not been what our rural residents deserve. These bills will go a long way to making sure everyone, regardless of where they live in this state, has quality and reliable broadband access,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.


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