What is Colorado Senate Bill 152?
Colorado Senate Bill 152 (SB 152) is a measure passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2005. Among other requirements, it requires local governments to secure voter approval before entering into any type of public/private partnerships for the provision of telecommunications services.
The current law limits the ability of Colorado cities to provide a broad spectrum of telecommunication services, including:
- free Internet service in city libraries, parks and community centers;
- partnering with private businesses and leveraging government infrastructure to provide affordable and high-speed Internet service throughout the entire community; and
- direct provision of broadband services by municipal governments.
What is the actual ballot language?
Without increasing taxes unless through future voter approval, Shall the City of Alamosa have the legal ability to provide any and all services currently restricted by Title 29, Article 27, Part 1, of the Colorado Revised Statutes, specifically described as “advanced services” (high speed internet), “telecommunication services,” and “cable television services,” as defined by statute (specifically including new and improved bandwidth services based on current or future technologies), including the ability to utilize existing fiber optic or other infrastructure and the ability to construct new fiber optic or other infrastructure, either directly by the City of Alamosa alone, or indirectly through contract or partnership with other governmental, private, or corporate, including nonprofit, entities, to potential subscribers that may include telecommunications service providers and residential or commercial users within the City of Alamosa?
What does a “YES” vote do?
A “Yes” vote would “opt out” of SB 152 allowing the city to form partnerships with local Internet Providers in order to speed up the deployment of high speed internet services in the Alamosa area. A yes vote would also allow the City to apply for grants that would help fund future broadband infrastructure needed for economic development.
What does a “NO” vote do?
A “No” vote would leave the existing SB 152 restrictions in place including restrictions on grant funding.
How is the exemption from SB-152 expected to benefit the Alamosa community?
Voters’ approval of ballot measure ___, an exemption from SB-152, would restore to Alamosa the autonomy that all Colorado cities had prior to 2005, especially local authority to facilitate the provision of community broadband services by leveraging the city’s physical assets and leasing, selling capacity, or granting similar rights to one or more private providers.
Alamosa’s citizens use the Internet for activities ranging from world-class unmanned Aircraft research, online learning and collaboration, to home entertainment and shopping. Alamosa is the ideal place to install high-speed broadband because of its large student population and relative geographic isolation. Teleworking and home-based businesses are common in Alamosa, and would significantly benefit from increased broadband speed.
The Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) is in support of opting out of SB-152 in order to allow the City to work with private providers to speed up the deployment of high-speed broadband to support current and future business needs.
What are some of the expected benefits of high-speed broadband services in Alamosa?
- Intensified Innovation by local businesses. Better access to high-speed broadband will increase the city’s ability to retain companies that need and demand this level of service.
- A More Connected Community with new avenues for citizen engagement in local decision-making, new frontiers for digital governance, and new opportunities for wired social spaces and creative networking.
- Enhanced Efficiency and Improved Quality of Life, as Alamosa residents and businesses are able to do more, more quickly, with less frustration.
- Inclusive Internet Access as the City of Alamosa works with partners to ensure that everyone in the community is wired, connected, and empowered to participate, innovate, and succeed, eliminating the digital divide.
- Access to TelaHealth. TelaHealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services.
Is the City of Alamosa planning to create a public broadband utility?
Not at this time.
Voters’ passage of the ballot measure would allow the city to begin exploring options to make its assets available to serve the broadband needs of Alamosa residents, students and businesses, most likely through a public-private partnership, but conceivably through providing direct services. Even if the city eventually made plans to create a broadband utility, it would not prevent existing companies from continuing to provide broadband services.
So what is the city doing?
As Alamosa explores its options, the city is moving forward with some of the less complicated enhancements, such as exploring Public/Private Partnerships that will allow local providers access to City owned fiber and infrastructure assets, and public WiFi access in outdoor public spaces. One of the first such initiatives would be in the Cole Park area. Such a service would allow anyone with a smartphone, WiFi enabled computer or tablet to access the Internet without incurring data usage charges. Vendors at events would be able to utilize WiFi based credit card services without incurring data usage charges.
Would there be any filters on the city’s WiFi network?
The city believes in the value of a free and open exchange of ideas, information and perspectives. You may, however, encounter a “splash screen” that includes information about responsible use, including a prohibition against accessing the network to conduct criminal activity.
Has the city considered possible health risks associated with WiFi and associated transmitters?
The City of Alamosa takes public health very seriously. Based on federal guidelines, however, we are confident that our efforts to increase the community’s access to the Internet do not pose a substantial health risk. The FCC has a certification process that ensures that devices like those, that would be used in this project do not exceed guidelines for human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields. The access points that would be deployed in the Cole Park Area, a location that already has WiFi access inside most buildings, would have a power output of close to 1 watt. This is far less power than what you might find at a typical radio broadcast site and is well within the acceptable range.
How will other possibilities be evaluated?
The city will be working with consultants, the SLV Local Technology Planning Team (SLV LTPT), the Colorado Government Association of Information Technology (CGAIT), and local IT professionals to evaluate options that could benefit our community. In addition, large-scale projects may require the approval of City Council.
Do existing cable and Internet companies provide high-speed Internet in Alamosa?
As in many other Colorado communities, Alamosa residents and businesses have a limited choice of broadband providers. Existing providers have few incentives to provide the more affordable and higher-speed services that might otherwise exist in a more competitive environment.
Voters’ approval of an exemption of SB-152 would not prohibit either existing or new broadband providers from competing in the Alamosa broadband market.
What is broadband fiber?
Broadband fiber is fiber-optic cable, typically run underground. Fiber carries passive, symmetrical signals via modulated light. Fiber-optic connections are very reliable and can quickly carry large amounts of data over long distances. Fiber-optic speeds range from 10 megabits to 10 gigabits per second, compared to 20 to 100 megabits per second for a typical cable Internet connection.
Fiber-optic cable provides a symmetrical connection, allowing data to flow in both directions simultaneously with no reduction in speed. Unlike cable Internet, fiber-optic cable is a dedicated Internet connection and is not shared with cable services.
Does the city own existing broadband fiber in Alamosa?
The city currently has ownership or rights to more than 3 miles of conduit and some dark fiber (fiber-optics not connected to broadband equipment) that could be used to benefit the community.
Why does Alamosa need faster Internet service?
Access to broadband service is no longer a luxury, but increasingly a fundamental need for Colorado residents, students and businesses. Broadband service has become similar to other basic services such as clean water, safe roads, and public schools.
Broadband technology has advanced significantly since 2005, particularly the technology that enables what Alamosa residents and businesses regard as “high-speed” broadband service. Broadband fiber increases Internet connection and browsing speeds, allowing users to more quickly access online information and resources.
Are other Colorado cities exempt from SB-152?
Voters in nearly 100 Colorado cities and counties have exempted themselves from SB-152, passing measures affirming their communities’ rights to provide certain broadband services.
What are the arguments against opting out of the restrictions of SB-152?
Research has indicated that any opposition related to these elections is mostly driven by competition concerns from providers.