117 Colorado Cities & Counties Have Voted to Allow Locally-Created ISPs

Net Neutrality: Colorado citizens vote to create their own ISPs
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Net Neutrality: Colorado citizens vote to create their own ISPs
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Results from a November 2017 referendum on Senate Bill 152  in Colorado (source: Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

Tech giants, Democrats in Congress, and more than 22 states are fighting the FCC to protect net neutrality.  But the most powerful weapon could be municipal governments themselves.

The FCC has been criticized for gutting net neutrality despite overwhelming demand to protect it.  Even worse, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai has been assailed by accusations of cronyism and corruption, especially given his strong ties to mega-ISP Verizon.

But what if ISPs weren’t so easily controlled by the FCC?

Enter the State of Colorado, which could become ground zero for the net neutrality resistance.  Earlier this month, the municipality of Fort Collins, CO approved a $150 million budget to initiate a homegrown, locally-controlled ISP network.  That homegrown ISP, in turn, would determine rules like net neutrality, not to mention fees charged to its citizens.

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But that looks like the tip of the iceberg.

Fort Collins is just one of dozens of municipalities in Colorado that voted to protect their ability to create a local ISP.

Amazingly, municipal internet networks are illegal in Colorado.  Back in 2005, Senate Bill 152 was passed.  It made it illegal to use taxpayer dollars to construct a local broadband network.  Of course, that bill was largely created by the lobbying efforts of major ISPs like Comcast and CenturyLink, both entrenched Colorado broadband providers.

Now, a total of 117 communities within Colorado have successfully voted against Senate Bill 152.  As a result, they have protected their ability to develop their own broadband networks.

Last November, as the FCC prepared to gut net neutrality, another 19 joined the group (see diagram above).  Fort Collins is simply one of the first communities to seriously act on that right.

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According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the latest batch of votes were a landslide.  More than 83 percent of voters wanted out of Senate Bill 152 in the November round.  “These cities and counties recognize that they cannot count on Comcast and CenturyLink alone to meet local needs, which is why you see overwhelming support even in an off-year election,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

All of which spells a major problem for entrenched ISPs — in Colorado and beyond.  Instead of enjoying outright monopolies and elevated rates, the presence of a local ‘utility ISP’ spells serious competition.

The biggest reason is that a municipally-created ISP is designed to meet the needs of its citizens, both in terms of service and price.  That means that if a local community wants net neutrality and affordable speeds, then the locally-created network will strive to deliver just that.

It also means that citizens less capable of paying for internet access have a greater chance of receiving it.

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Actually, there’s another Colorado municipality that offers its own broadband.  Back in 2011, the town of Longmont started offering a high-speed, 1 gigabyte/second service for $49.95.  That crushed the next competitor, which offers a 20Mbps connection.

As of last summer, the Longmont service had 90,000 takers.   That’s more than half of all residents, according to the city.

So who’s next?

Importantly, voting against Senate Bill 152 merely gives cities and counties the right to build their own networks.  But given enough outcry over issues like net neutrality, bad service, and high prices, it’s likely a few other homegrown ISPs will appear in the coming months and years.




2 Responses

  1. Josie

    It’d be great if you mentioned why this matters to music. Not everyone is a daily follower.