Legislation would ensure that broadband deployment board grants help unserved areas
DENVER, CO– With access to broadband critical for learning, commerce, health care, and so much more, the Transportation and Local Government Committee today passed important legislation by a vote of 9-2 that would expand access to high speed internet across Colorado.
“Expanding access to broadband to unserved communities will undoubtedly help Colorado recover faster from this pandemic and build back stronger,” said HB21-1109 sponsor Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada. “The pandemic has made it clear that broadband is an essential service. This bill will make a big difference to communities across the state that have long sought internet access for everyday needs.”
According to the Colorado Department of Education, approximately 85,000 to 95,000 rural residents and 65,000 students in Colorado do not have access or adequate access to broadband. The Colorado Broadband Deployment Board allocates funding each year to applicants working to expand access to broadband. The board has awarded over $34 million in grants since 2016. In 2019, the board allocated over $11 million to 16 applicants, but concerns have been raised about how to best meet the needs of unserved residents.
HB21-1109, sponsored by Representatives Brianna Titone and Matt Soper, would prioritize grant proposals that provide high speed internet access to low-income households and creates a process for encouraging proposals for critically unserved areas of the state. The bill requires applicants to submit granular mapping data to more accurately identify these unserved areas, which is critical to understanding where and how to expand broadband infrastructure. The bill makes changes to the Broadband Deployment Board to increase efficiency and ensure expertise and geographic diversity are adequately represented. The bill also holds grant applicants accountable by requiring them to report the number of people served, their rates and quality of service provided.