Another Set Of Colorado Counties Vote To Toss Restrictive Law, Permit Municipal Broadband

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

Part of the reason broadband competition is so dang hard to come by for millions of us? Protectionist, industry-backed laws that make it either obscenely difficult or outright illegal to start a public network. Colorado is one of the states with such a law on the books, but voters in the Centennial State are once again saying they’d rather municipal networks had a chance.

MuniNetworks, which supports and advocates for communities to be able to build networks when they choose, reports that every single one of the 26 local municipal broadband networks on ballots in Colorado Tuesday passed with flying colors.

Colorado law SB 152 [PDF] is the statute that blocks the development of municipal networks in the state. But it has a catch in it: “Before local government may engage or offer to engage” in providing cable or internet service, the law reads, “an election shall be called on whether or not” it should do so. Those ballot referenda have been popping up all over the state, in election after election, and dozens have passed in recent months.

On election day 2015, 44 localities voted to give those local authorities the ability to explore broadband options. They were joined by another nine communities in April of this year.

Add the 26 measures that passed this week onto that total, MuniNetworks points out, and now 45% of all Colorado counties — and another 66 cities — have opted to be able to start their own network if they choose.

That doesn’t mean that 29 counties and 66 cities are about to start digging or laying cable, of course. It only means that, should residents and local leaders feel that starting a publicly owned or public-private local network is in their best interest, they will have the right to do so.

For the most part, MuniNetworks points out, the numbers are not just in favor of opting out of the state law, but overwhelmingly so: 23 of yesterday’s 26 initiatives passed with approval rates of 66% or more.

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