Government & Politics  August 16, 2016

Larimer County refers broadband-law exemption to November ballot

FORT COLLINS — Larimer County would be able to participate in bringing high-speed internet to its residents and businesses if voters approve a ballot issue in November.

County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a recommendation to refer a question to the Nov. 8 general-election ballot that would request an exemption for Larimer County from Colorado Senate Bill 05-152. That measure, passed in 2005 at the urging of a telecommunications industry worried about government competition, prohibits local governments from involvement in broadband efforts, and also restricts governmental entities from actively partnering for grants, planning or implementation of Internet connectivity.

However, support for skirting that law has grown among citizens and businesses that feel the private sector hasn’t adequately responded to their desire for high-speed Internet connection. Voters in Estes Park, Fort Collins, Loveland and Wellington passed ballot measures opting out of SB 05-152 restrictions in recent years,

The measure referred to the November ballot on Tuesday would create a countywide exemption and also will impact those municipalities that have already passed the exemption because it would enable Larimer County to support broadband efforts within these cities and towns.

Commissioners made it clear that Larimer County isn’t planning to start its own broadband service, but passage of the ballot issue would let it help extend high-speed connections to areas with lower population density where a private company might find running lines economically unfeasible.

A citizens group has been gathering support for the exemption, and county staff members recommended referring the question to the ballot during Tuesday’s commission meeting,

“The SB 512 exemption would open up the options for the county to partner with our local communities,” said Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, “and we are very excited for this opportunity to help all citizens of Larimer County to move into the 21st century.”

Elsewhere along the northern Front Range, Boulder, Lafayette, Erie, Superior and Firestone also have been considering creating municipal broadband services or engaging in public-private partnerships. Leading the pack among regional cities has been Longmont, which passed a measure allowing for municipal broadband in 2009. That city is building out a municipal broadband service called NextLight that offers 1-gigabyte speeds to customers.

FORT COLLINS — Larimer County would be able to participate in bringing high-speed internet to its residents and businesses if voters approve a ballot issue in November.

County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a recommendation to refer a question to the Nov. 8 general-election ballot that would request an exemption for Larimer County from Colorado Senate Bill 05-152. That measure, passed in 2005 at the urging of a telecommunications industry worried about government competition, prohibits local governments from involvement in broadband efforts, and also restricts governmental entities from actively partnering for grants, planning or implementation of Internet connectivity.

However, support for skirting…

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