Muni broadband gets Colorado voter love, but projects slow to follow

5 April 2018 by Steve Blum
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But you never know what you’re gonna get.

I guess this is my week for Colorado stories. Tuesday, voters in six more cities voted to opt out of Colorado’s general ban on municipal broadband initiatives, as state law allows them to do. According to numbers collected by the Denver Post, at least 92 Colorado communities have decided to go their own way. Or at least served notice that they wouldn’t mind doing do. As the article points out, a landslide victory at the ballot box doesn’t necessarily – or even often – lead to shovels in the ground…

Voters in Severance, Lake City, Lyons, Frisco, Firestone and Limon voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing municipal broadband Tuesday, with margins of 347–92 in Limon and 222–18 in Lake City, for example…

Several communities have teamed up with local telephone companies or internet service providers to bring broadband service to residents and businesses, while Longmont, as well as Montrose and Delta counties, have taken on the task of providing internet service through their electric utilities.

Another Post article details an arrangement between Wray, a city on the western edge of the state, and a rural telecoms cooperative.

Longmont voted to leverage the credit rating of its municipal electric utility and go ahead with a fiber to the home (FTTH) in 2013. The most recent results published by the city – from 2016 – show that the enterprise has a 26% market share, although it claims a take rate approaching 60% – the difference being take rate only factors in homes and businesses where FTTH service is available. Presumably, market share is rising as the buildout is completed.

Gigabit-class muni systems were not on the minds of the Colorado legislature, though, when it passed – and governor John Hickenlooper signed – three bills establishing a broadband infrastructure subsidy program, not unlike the California Advanced Services Fund. The resemblance includes explicit and largely exclusive privileges for incumbent telephone and cable companies, and 1990s grade rural broadband service minimums – 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds (although that’s still better than California’s 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up standard).