Loveland may ask voters for permission to override SB-152, the state law that prohibits municipal governments from creating their own broadband networks. The bill was passed in the 2005 after heavy lobbying from private sector providers.
City staff says that a local broadband network could provide residents, schools and businesses with high-speed service. In addition to the direct benefits to businesses and customers, broadband installation could provide a technological skill-based sector of employment and promote regional growth through the creation of jobs for the installation, operation and maintenance of the broadband infrastructure. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) broadband access is a key driver of economic growth in Colorado. According to DOLA, counties that offer broadband services are associated with approximately 1.8 percent increase in employment rates.
The City hasn’t done any research to determine what kind of broadband model it might want to pursue and there are many options to consider. For example, Loveland could build its own network, like Longmont did, or create a public/private partnership.
While some observers have voiced concerns over asking the voters to free to the City from the constraints of SB-152 without specifying a model and cost estimates, that strategy has been used effectively in other cities around Colorado. Staff is just beginning to do public outreach. The Council must approve ballot language by August 18 if the decision is made to proceed with the vote.
Fort Collins is also considering putting a similar measure on the fall ballot. Unlike Loveland, $300,000 has been allocated to research the issue. Boulder received approval to free itself from SB-152 last fall. Longmont is at the forefront of the municipal broadband effort. Its NextLight service is already available in select areas and the cost for residential service is $50 a month. NextLight