(May 9) – The House closed in today on final agreement on a significant telecomms reform intended to spur the expansion of broadband internet service in rural Colorado.
Lack of broadband service hurts rural schools, hospitals and residents and makes rural communities less competitive in their economic development efforts. SB17-306, sponsored in the House by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, would increase broadband in underserved areas of the state by allowing transfers from the High Cost Support Fund, a surcharge on every landline that currently supports only basic voice telephone service in sparsely populated areas.
Legislators from rural areas – from both parties — paraded to the mic to support the bill.
“I represent the people in Delta County, Gunnison County, Pitkin, Lake and Summit,” Rep. Hamner told the House, “and I have represented them for seven years and I still can’t give them a good answer why they can’t have better broadband services.”
“If you cut rural Coloradans off from the internet, you cut them off from economic competitiveness,” said Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs.
Majority Leader KC Becker, whose district stretches from Boulder to the Wyoming line, got right to the point.
“I don’t want to be held to some archaic formula that’s unchanged from years ago, when we only worked on phone lines,” she told the House. “We should be governing for the people of Colorado, and what they are asking from us year after year is enhancing rural broadband. It’s time that the legislature catch up with the rest of the world so rural Colorado can catch up with the rest of the world.”
The full House agreed, voting 49-16 to send the amended SB17-306 back to the Senate, which has time to repass the bill before the General Assembly adjourns on Wednesday.