The newest measure to make it on the upcoming April municipal election ballot will ask voters if they want to opt out of a 2005 regulation barring Colorado city governments from investing in public broadband capabilities.
Grand Junction elected leaders said local government has the ability to bring faster internet to more people, but currently it’s against the law to utilize their services in this way.
“Even every traffic light has fiber going into it, but we can’t share it with anyone,” said Grand Junction mayor Phyllis Norris.
Norris said she believes internet providers like Charter and Century Link have invested less money in smaller cities and rural areas because they’ll make less profit. As result, Grand Junction is vexed by below average download speeds, business parks lacking broadband access and accordingly, the area has become less appealing for relocation of outside businesses and families.
The notion of opting out of the law is becoming more and more popular among municipalities and counties. Just last year, about 75 percent of residents in Montrose voted to override SB 05-152. Montrose innovation director Virgil Turner said his city has now adopted a resolution making development of fiber optic networks as a priority.
“Five to ten years from now, we expect to have every premise that wants to have gigabit service [1,000 Mbps] to their premise have that option at a competitive and reasonable rate,” Turner said.
In Grand Junction, only 34 percent of the population has access to speeds greater than 10 Mbps. This is equivalent to 4G cell phone data speeds.
City Council said they’re not trying to provide broadband as a utility, and they’re not trying to compete with existing internet providers. But they believe overriding the law will allow for broadband speed growth in areas that have been neglected by private investment.