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Broadband Land

Nearly Half of Colorado Counties Have Formally Rejected a Comcast-Backed Law Restricting City-Run Internet

After Tuesday’s elections, a total of 31 counties have voted to be exempted from a state law against municipal broadband networks.

Kaleigh Rogers

Image: Erik Hersman/Flickr

A lesson for Colorado's state government: telling Coloradans they can't have something is a surefire way to make them do whatever it takes to get it.

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In Tuesday's Coordinated Election, two Colorado counties voted on ballot measures to exempt themselves from a state law prohibiting city-run internet services. Both Eagle County and Boulder County voters approved the measures, bringing the total number of Colorado counties that have rejected the state law to 31—nearly half of the state's 64 counties.

Senate Bill 152—which was lobbied for by Big Telecom—became law in Colorado in 2005, and prohibits municipalities in the state from providing city-run broadband services. In areas with lots of internet infrastructure and a competitive market, that's not a big issue, but for many communities in Colorado, high-speed internet is limited, expensive, or non existent.

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Some cities prefer to build their own broadband network, which delivers internet like a utility to residents, and is maintained through subscription costs. But ever since SB 152 was enacted, Colorado communities have to first bring forward a ballot measure asking voters to exempt the area from the state law before they can even consider starting a municipal broadband service. So that's what many of them have done.

In addition to the 31 counties that have voted to overrule the state restrictions, dozens of municipalities in the state have also passed similar ballot measures. Including cities, towns, and counties, more than 100 communities in Colorado have pushed back against the 12-year-old prohibition, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

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There are still hurdles for these communities to hop before city-run internet can actually be rolled out, but other Colorado towns have shown it's possible, including Longmont, where the city-run internet was rated the fastest internet service provider among US cities this year by PC Magazine. If the trend continues, Colorado may soon have a lot more cities at the top of that list.

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