DENVER (AP) – Frustrated by slow or expensive Internet connections, voters in cities, towns and counties across Colorado backed allowing their local governments to get involved in the broadband business in Tuesday’s election.
Rural and mountain communities like Durango, Craig and Pitkin County as well as Loveland and Fort Collins on the Front Range were among the 43 places where the issue was on the ballot. That’s the most in the decade since the state barred local governments from getting into broadband without a public vote.
All of the measures passed, most by wide margins, according to the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties, Inc.
The executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, Sam Mamet, said many communities want to explore boosting economic development while some want to provide service in libraries and hospitals. “It’s no longer a luxury, it’s a utility, like turning on the water tap or the light switch,” he told The Associated Press.
In Durango, where voters also approved a broadband measure, 30-year-old Zach Watkins told the Durango Herald that the broadband question on the ballot drove him to the polls. “It’s knowledge. It’s how we communicate. That access is as democratic as it gets,” he said.
Colorado is one of 19 states that have laws aimed at preventing governments from competing with telecommunications companies by providing Internet access. However, local governments here successfully lobbied for an opt out from the law that passed in 2005.
Up until now, voters in 10 cities and three counties have opted out but not all have become Internet providers themselves.
Longmont is providing Internet access through a fiber optic system that is part of its municipal electric service and funded by a $40.3 million voter-approved bond. But the Denver suburb of Centennial is working with an outside company to jointly operate a broadband system there.
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