Winter Park, Fraser will put broadband question to voters
Winter Park and Fraser residents will get a say in whether the two towns reserve the power to establish municipal broadband networks.
Senate Bill 152, passed in 2005, prohibits local governments from providing broadband, including free Internet provided in public libraries.
Municipalities can vote to rescind that prohibition.
Winter Park and Fraser will ask voters to decide whether to exclude their towns from the law in November.
Similar ballot questions in other Colorado towns have put pressure on private broadband providers to improve their service, Durbin said.
The Denver Post opined last year that the law sheltered big broadband providers from competition and should be repealed.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners delayed putting the question on the county ballot at its Aug. 4 meeting.
Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer said county staff recommended establishing a committee to gather more information from the community.
The committee, which would be formed “under the umbrella of the economic advisory committee,” would include both community members and Internet service providers, Moyer said.
Moyer said the approach depended on the county’s plans for improving broadband infrastructure and filling in gaps.
If the county wanted to form a public-private partnership to fill in those gaps, it would have to opt out of Senate Bill 152, which prohibits such partnerships, Moyer said.
However, the county doesn’t have any such plans, Moyer said.
“The flip side of that you the commissioners, you have historically promoted private enterprise to provide those services and where does county government fit in that plan?” Moyer said.
During the meeting, Martin Woros, the county’s director of information systems, said one “could construe” that the free Wi-Fi currently provided in the county administration building and public libraries is illegal because it competes with other providers.
“I think it would be in our future to look at this and seriously consider putting this on the ballot,” Woros said.
Citing the county’s lack of a cohesive broadband plan, Woros said he supported establishing a committee to further explore the issue and possibly create a plan that could be shared with the community.
Commissioner James Newberry said he thought Senate Bill 152 was limiting the county’s ability to provide better infrastructure.
“Even if we never used it, if we voted it out and had options, I could see that pushing the private group to come in and be more involved,” Newberry said.
Newberry questioned who would oppose a move to opt out of Senate Bill 152.
Woros said he believed that people who didn’t understand the county’s intent might oppose it as well as service providers.
Commissioner Kris Manguso said she agreed with establishing a committee.
“I think it’s just too early,” Manguso said. “I think we don’t know enough yet.”
Manguso said she was comfortable with waiting as late as 2017 to deal with the issue.
Manguso also mentioned that Summit and Gilpin counties hadn’t yet decided on putting the question on their ballots.
Both counties have since elected to put the question to voters.
Commissioner Merrit Linke said he agreed with Manguso.
“I don’t think it’s a big rush to go into it right now,” Linke said.
It’s unclear how the delay will affect public Wi-Fi currently provided in the county.
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