Colorado State Senator - District 6

 

Don in the News

The importance of reliable internet in rural Colorado
May 26, 2018

Somewhere in Colorado, a farmer can lose tens of thousands of dollars in one day, a broken hip can take a week to get the right diagnosis, and children flock to schools at night. Not because they want to and not for after-school activities. They flock to the schools because they live in rural Colorado, and the only internet reliable enough to finish their work is at school. The stories prior also take place in rural Colorado, they too were caused by poor internet.


We have been fighting in the Colorado General Assembly for the better part of a decade to help rural communities get broadband. What we have come forward with is not a handout, but rather a high-cost fund helping underserved areas. A fund that provides much-needed help to rural broadband providers in areas where the costs would be too high otherwise. That is of course if 92 percent of it isn’t going to a single company that already receives hundreds of millions in subsidies from the federal government.


The high-cost fund has been restricted by a company being granted the power to refuse other companies bids if they believe they can serve an area. This power was granted after a lengthy court case and has since been used irresponsibly to consume up much of the funds. In the end, the high-cost fund was not being used for its original purpose.


I come to you today to let you know that Senate District 6 and all of rural Colorado have scored a major victory. Senate Bill 2 has passed and is on its way to the governor as I type. This bill redefines what an underserved area is under the high-cost fund and will allow for funds to reach much-needed areas of Colorado.


This has not been easy. Companies have used large phone banks to call constituents and tell them that their phone bills will be going up. Immediately after they transfer them to their Legislators office. This is done in an attempt to pressure legislators to vote against fixing the high-cost fund. A fund that’s purpose was not to subsidize phone bills but to provide much-needed funds to broadband infrastructure in rural areas.


This has done less to pressure legislators from doing the right thing and more to panic individuals on fixed incomes.


The fight for rural broadband is not over though. Rep. Catlin and Rep. McLachlan have introduced HB 1099 which would level the playing field. HB 1099 would change stipulation on how companies would be able to use their power to refuse bids if they can serve underserved areas. Instead of just refusing the project, the company refusing must propose a project that can be completed in the same amount of time and provide the same internet speeds before they can refuse a project. They would no longer be able to refuse a bid, run a few wires out, and call it service.


Rural Colorado and the western slope have gained some major victories this week. I will continue on the back of this momentum to make southwestern Colorado’s voices heard.

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