Boulder County, Colo., Considers Putting Municipal High-Speed Broadband on November Ballot

The county has no immediate plans to provide such broadband services, but voters' approval would permit the county to do so in the future.

by John Fryar, Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo. / August 4, 2016

(TNS) -- The Boulder County commissioners on Thursday will consider whether to ask voters' authorization for the county to provide high-speed internet and other telecommunications services to schools, libraries, residents and businesses.

Boulder County has no immediate plans to provide such broadband services, but voters' approval — approval that a 2005 state law requires of local governments and school districts — would permit the county to do so in the future, according to Michelle Krezek, the commissioners' staff deputy.

Voter approval also would clarify Boulder County's legal ability to continue providing free public WiFi to people visiting or attending meetings in county government buildings, Krezek said.

Andrew Moore, the Boulder Valley School District's chief information officer, suggested that Boulder County consider putting the question on the ballot, although the school district itself isn't specifically requesting that the commissioners do so, according to district spokesman Briggs Gamblin.

The idea, Gamblin said, is that if more government entities in the county are able to provide high-speed internet, the more those governments can collaborate "on reducing the digital divide."

Commission Chairwoman Elise Jones said Tuesday that after getting Moore's suggestion, "we wanted to give it a fair hearing."

The commissioners' public hearing on the idea is set for 11 a.m on the third floor of the Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder.

If the commissioners decide to advance the question to November's ballot, and if county voters approve it, Boulder County would join the Boulder Valley School District and the cities of Boulder and Longmont in getting authorization to provide internet and telecommunications services.

The school district's voters OK'd such a ballot question last year, as Boulder's city voters did in 2014 and Longmont's did in 2011.

While the county attorney's office on Tuesday was still preparing a potential resolution with the broadband question's likely ballot language, a draft indicated that the measure would include asking voters to allow the county to provide cable television services, and any new and improved high bandwidth services based on future technologies, as well as high-speed internet and telecommunications services — either directly or indirectly with public- or private-sector partners.

Jones said one such possible partnership might be with the Boulder Valley School District.

Superior's Board of Trustees also is considering whether to ask town voters a broadband authorization question this fall.

©2016 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.