Westside Pioneer Home Page

Guest column: Yes on 1A to boost county-wide broadband

By Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner, District 3

       The airwaves have been filled with initiatives during this campaign season, but little has been said about the El Paso County measure that's on the ballot as 1A.
       It requires no tax increase, so you won't see it in the state's “blue book” or in the county's informational ballot piece. But 1A is important because it

would put El Paso County on an even footing with more than 60 other Colorado counties and municipalities where voters have recognized the value of public/private partnerships as a way to extend affordable high-speed Internet and broadband services to everyone.
       A yes vote authorizes the county to provide, at no additional cost to taxpayers, any or all of the services currently restricted by Senate Bill 05-152 (in the Colorado Revised Statutes as Title 29, Article 27), which did not anticipate the future of technology when it was passed 11 years ago.
       That law limits what local government can do to make "telecommunication service" and "advanced service" (broadband) available to the general public. However, a provision in the statute allows a local government to have a public vote to remove the limitation. That is why the Board of County Commissioners unanimously referred 1A to the ballot.
       If passed, it will allow commercial providers to tap into El Paso County's existing or planned fiber, giving us local control over the future of our technology needs and resident accessibility. We will also be able to partner with Teller County and the Town of Green Mountain Falls, which have referred similar ballot questions for improved broadband services. Another benefit could be a lower wholesale cost of broadband supply to commercial Internet service providers, so they can afford to expand broadband services to more remote areas.
       County commissioners have learned that the lack of high-speed data and cellular communications were challenges during both the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. It just makes sense that if public entities are already building the "middle mile" infrastructure for public safety purposes, private companies should be able to use excess capacity to more efficiently extend their broadband services.
       During our public discussion on the question, a citizen came forward and stated that his neighborhood had been struggling for years to get service and appreciated the county's stepping up to help.
       A yes vote on 1A supports local partnership opportunities and incentives to provide high-speed Internet services for the benefit of our citizens.

       Editor's note: Sallie Clark is a resident and business owner on the Colorado Springs Westside. She is in her 12th and final year as a county commissioner for District 3, which includes the Westside.

(Posted 10/23/16; Opinion: Guest Columns)

Would you like to respond to this column? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)