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Boulder, Colo., To Light Up Fiber Optic Network

Although the college town already has over 100 miles of fiber optic cable laid, it has been ignored, however City Council members are looking to change that soon.

(TNS) -- Boulder has hired Maryland consultant CTC Technology and Energy to explore the feasibility of municipal broadband, and to weigh community demand for other, smaller-scale Internet service enhancements.

The city is home to a 100-mile high-speed fiber optic network that has long gone unused, but last November more than 83 percent of voters supported a ballot measure that gave the city authority to provide its own broadband service to the public, or to partner with private companies to expand access to the city network.

That enabled the city to move forward with free public WiFi in the downtown Civic area, but that is just one of many Internet-related projects Boulder can explore.

Members of the City Council have indicated they aren't interested in starting up a fully city-operated broadband utility as Longmont has. But there could be great potential to make use of all that fiber mileage in the local business community, Boulder Information Technology Director Don Ingle said.

At two community meetings on Monday, CTC and the city will solicit feedback on the network's potential in the private sector and beyond.

"We are now in a time when the Internet is no longer a luxury," Ingle said. "We encourage residents and businesses to tell us what types of services they currently use, what's working for them and what's not, so that we can fully understand our community's needs."

CTC will brief the City Council on public feedback and on broadband market options at on Thursday. Ingle hopes the study on which CTC has just embarked will be ready by the spring, which is when the council will be considering the following year's budget, as well as possible ballot measures.

The city and consultant also plan to meet with the Boulder Valley School District and the University of Colorado to gauge interest after those community meetings.

Though the city has done nothing to suggest it will follow Longmont's municipal broadband plan anytime soon, Ingle noted one potential snag down the road.

"If the city was successful in municipalizing" by separating from Xcel and forming its own electric utility, he said, "it would delay the roll-out of broadband for a while, while the city got the utility established."

Broadband is a hot topic across Colorado right now. Voters in 44 different towns, cities and counties — in Fort Collins and many other mostly rural places — on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the same sorts of exemptions that gave Boulder the exploratory green-light one year ago.

©2015 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.