When talking with Denverites about the Denver Internet Initiative we get asked a lot of questions. Things like “does this mean everyone will get free Internet?” and “how will we pay for this?”. We wanted to take a second to drill down into what this initiative will accomplish in the short-term and what our focus is for the long-term.
Our story begins in 2005 with the passing of Senate Bill 152 (SB 152). This law limits the ability of Colorado counties to provide a broad spectrum of telecommunication services (for example Broadband internet service), including, free Internet service in public buildings, parks, and community centers as well as the ability to partner with private businesses to leverage existing infrastructure as a way to provide telecommunication services throughout the entire community. SB 152 also limits municipal governments from directly providing broadband services. Essentially it prevents us from doing anything that could cut in on the profits of companies like CenturyLink (Qwest), Verizon, or Comcast.
Fortunately, this story has a bright spot. SB 152 has an opt-out clause in it. This means that residents can vote to ignore this law and start actively participating in their Internet. If we are able to gather enough signatures to get on the November 2020 ballot (click here if you want to volunteer!), we will be asking residents of the City and County of Denver to vote “YES” to opt-out of SB 152. That’s the first step. Once that barrier has been successfully removed, we can start exploring the options for Denver’s municipal internet future and working on what comes next. Should Denver build Internet infrastructure that we lease out in a public-private partnership? Do we create our own utility? Which neighborhoods have the worst Internet and have been the most neglected by the telecommunications companies?
There are lots of questions that we still need to answer before we can design a solution that makes sense for Denver, but with SB 152 in place, we will never be able to answer them. In opting-out of SB 152, we can show Denver City Council that this is an important issue that their constituents care about. Forty of Colorado’s 64 counties (62.5%) have already opted-out of SB 152, and almost all of these initiatives have been driven by the counties themselves. It is time for us to make something happen.
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