Local governments may seek ability to provide broadband

Mt. Crested Butte may join county in ballot initiative 

By Alissa Johnson

The town of Mt. Crested looks like it might join the county in a coordinated election this fall regarding the right to provide broadband to the community. At an August 4 Town Council meeting, town manager Joe Fitzpatrick explained that Senate Bill 05-152, passed in 2005, prohibits governments from providing broadband to the public unless a community votes to opt out of the bill.

On a local level, Fitzpatrick said, “There may be an opportunity for the government to be involved in providing broadband because we have great need for improved broadband, plus the need for redundancy.”

Fitzpatrick indicated that the county might lead the charge to bring the issue to voters this fall, asking voters to allow local governments to provide broadband.

Opting out of the senate bill  “has been done in other communities in Colorado successfully,” Fitzpatrick said. Rather than have each municipality go to the voters separately, he said the county wanted to have a coordinated election. Fitzpatrick had received some indications in emails from county representatives that the county would pay for the process, but at the time of the Town Council meeting the county commissioners had not yet decided whether to move forward with the election.

Mt. Crested Butte mayor David Clayton clarified, “What it would do for us is we could put in community-based services and provide those services to our citizens ourselves or have a third party do so. At that point the [broadband] companies could not be able to come to the town and say you’re in violation of Senate Bill 152.”

Without a formal motion to act on, Fitzpatrick took a straw poll to determine whether the council would be interested in moving forward with the election if the county chose to do so. Councilmembers expressed interest provided that the county was paying for the election.

On August 10, the Board of County Commissioners voted to move forward with the ballot initiative, and the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council will revisit the issue at its August 18 meeting. The town of Crested Butte is looking at the same measure.

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