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Erie, Colo., to Ask Voters for Freedom from State Broadband Rules

State law currently limits whether a city can own and operate its own fiber-optic network, though several communities have taken steps to opt out of the restrictions.

(TNS) — Erie, Colo., will ask voters in November to free the town from Senate Bill 152, the law passed in 2005 that restricts local governments from using taxpayer dollars to build expensive broadband networks.

If voters say "yes," Erie would join a slew of Colorado communities to date that have opted out of the statute via voter-sanctioned ballot measures, according to Community Broadband Networks, eschewing what advocates call the confines of traditional, costly Internet options.

Erie would be the last of its east Boulder County neighbors to opt out of SB-512; Lafayette and Superior did so in 2016, and Louisville joined them in November.

Leaders say they have no immediate plans to usher in a town-provided Internet service, though a system of sophisticated fiber-optic cables could take shape in a variety of ways throughout Erie, according to a report compiled by South Dakota-based consulting firm, Vantage Point Solutions.

According to the report's findings earlier this year, Erie should not move forward with a traditional "fiber to the premises" network to all homes and businesses throughout the town, a system that allows between 70 mbps and 1 gbps of broadband to each customer and is capable of serving customers that are more than 12 miles from the central hub location.

Instead, the report — commissioned by officials last year to gauge citizen interest and answers on how to best implement a broadband structure in Erie to the tune of $65,000 — suggests that the town would be better off building a "middle-mile network:" a system that serves community anchors such as schools and libraries and government buildings, rather than directly to homes and businesses.

A resident survey conducted last year indicates that alternative broadband options may not be as sought after in residential areas — where satisfaction in services still remains higher than most — but instead, in the town's growing business community.

©2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.