GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.
Rural Colorado needs a broadband boost, and thanks to Governor Jared Polis’s signature on a broadband bill, at a signing ceremony at the Grand Junction Motor Vehicle Division, rural Colorado has a fighting chance. Governor Polis says, “It’s about telecommuting, it’s about giving rural businesses the connectivity they need to compete in a world economy, it’s about a lifeline for first responders, it’s about access to healthcare through telemedicine. So, it’s really about so many things, and we’d be glad to do our part to move the ball down the field to get Colorado closer to 100% connectivity.”
Governor Polis signed the bill, but State Representative for District 54, Matt Soper raised the concern for the internet speed need for rural communities of Western Colorado. “Right now, there’s a debate between served areas and unserved areas and a lot of that is from how the law currently is. It’s based on census tracks, and so, if just one household within that census track is served, then legally the entire area is served,” says State Rep. Soper.
Bill HB20-1137 is now law in Mesa County, and will give local governments a stronger voice before the Broadband Grant Board to get their communities the money that already exists, to get a stronger, essential internet connection in the midst of the pandemic. Governor Polis says, “It doesn’t set up a new pot of money, but it makes it easier for underserved communities and rural communities to be able to access those grants. It reduces the amount of paperwork they need to complete to be able to make sure they are able to compete for those grants.”
This broadband bill is making sure rural Colorado has the connectivity needed to compete in the global market, but more importantly, helps our future leaders just in time for the Fall. “It’s more important than ever before because while we expect schools to be back most of the time, more or less in a normal way, it’s also possible there might be outbreaks that might require schools to go to an online format for a period of time,” says Governor Polis. State Representative Soper says, “We learned a lot during the pandemic. Everyone jumped online, and especially if you’re in Collbran. The bandwidth just flattened out immediately when all the school kids jumped online.”