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Fort Collins, Loveland Will Have Broadband Vote On The 2015 Ballot

Jim Hill

Voters in Fort Collins and Loveland will decide this November if they want their respective cities to pursue municipal broadband internet service. Recently both Fort Collins and Loveland city councils unanimously approved putting the initiative on their ballots.

According to a Coloradoan opinion piece by city manager Darin Atteberry, the city of Fort Collins currently “owns or has rights to many miles of unused fiber optic cable” but under most interpretations of state law the city can’t make that network available to the public unless voters give the city the go ahead.

There are 20 states that prohibit municipalities from constructing or operating broadband or telecommunications infrastructure or services. Colorado’s law, which was pushed by large telecommunications companies and passed by the legislature in 2005, came with an escape hatch. If a majority of voters in a municipality vote to override that law, SB05-152 [.pdf], municipalities are free to pursue their own broadband or telecommunications services.

However a yes vote doesn’t mean that broadband is a certainty.

“It’s important to note that voting yes on this issue would not commit the city to providing broadband service in Fort Collins, nor does it mean that we would have such service available immediately. …Most importantly, the ballot measure means that you would have a choice in what services your municipal government explores,” Atteberry wrote in The Coloradoan.  

If approved, Fort Collins and Loveland would join Boulder, Cherry Hills Village, Red Cliff, Wray, Yuma, Longmont, Estes Park, Centennial, Grand Junction and Rio Blanco County as communities who are looking into or have launched municipal broadband.

Many of these overrides passed handily, with margins of 70 percent or more in favor of giving authority to local governments to improve broadband access.

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