Republicans Boot-Up Rural Broadband Bill
Denver — Senate Republicans yesterday took steps to make good on their pledge to help bridge Colorado’s “digital divide” this session, passing Senate Bill-2, a rural broadband expansion measure, through the Senate Business Labor and Technology Committee on bipartisan 7 to 0 vote.
SB-2’s major provisions include:
- Upping the definition of “broadband internet” service from at least 4 megabits per second to at least 10 megabits per second, and including in the definition of “unserved areas” places that are unincorporated, have less than 7,500 residents and do not receive federal broadband support
- Makes changes in the way “high cost support mechanism” funds are allocated and broadband grants are made
- Includes safeguards to ensure that funds are allocated fairly and dollars aren’t used to duplicate effort or “overbuild” in already-served areas
Introducing the bill were Senators Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), who stressed how important robust and reliable internet service is to improving almost every facet of life in rural Colorado. Sonnenberg has visited schools in his district where one group of students must pause their internet research while another group takes on online test. Coram told of constituents who have lost thousands of dollars on livestock sales because of a finicky and unreliable internet connections.
Rural broadband is important to promoting jobs and economic development, they told the committee, but it’s also about improving schools, opening new markets to agricultural products and access to telemedicine in parts of the state where medical services can be a long way away.
“Broadband is what will level the playing field, so rural Colorado can be a participant instead of spectator in a growing Colorado economy,” Coram said. “We need to get this done and we need to get this done tomorrow.”
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity if rural Coloradans aren’t going to be left in the dust as the Digital Age speeds ahead,” added Sonnenberg. “Our goal is to get broadband to areas of the state that have no service, or limited service.”
Rural broadband can also help Colorado’s urban residents escape high-cost, overcrowded conditions, said Sonnenberg. “If we want to reduce congestion in urban areas, we have to have a reliable internet so that businesses will locate in rural areas of the state,” he explained. “Today’s entrepreneurs require modern technology to create and expand their business. Without broadband, those opportunities are lost to rural Colorado.”