Polis signs bill to increase broadband access in rural Colorado

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Published Thursday, July 1, 2021

Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) - Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed legislation that dedicates $75 million to expand the state's broadband infrastructure.

House Bill 21-1289 also creates the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) within the governor's Office of Information Technology. The new agency is tasked with overseeing broadband deployment projects throughout the state as well as administering a broadband stimulus grant program.

The bipartisan bill also allocates $20 million to the Ute Mountain and Southern Ute Tribes.

Colorado's Senate Democrats described the bill as "an opportunity to help bridge the digital divide exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing broadband access for our students, communities and businesses, and this bill takes a big first step."

It was sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Mark Baisley, R-Roxborough Park.

"Especially after this last year, more and more of our economy is online, and we have an obligation to make sure every Coloradan can participate in that economy," Bridges said in a statement. "Connecting unserved and underserved communities to high speed reliable internet creates more opportunity for everyone, and increases statewide equity and prosperity for all of our families."

According to CBO statistics, 96% of homes in Colorado have internet access, including 87% of rural homes. As of April 2020, there were over 90 internet service providers in the state, and nearly 1,400 schools have fiber optic cable infrastructure.

However, internet research firm BroadbandNow says only 85.9% of Colorado has internet access.

Meanwhile, only 62% of Coloradans have access to fiber-optic service and 4% of the state has access to one gigabit of broadband internet,  according to BroadbandNow. 

Overall, the firm ranks Colorado 25th among its compatriots in broadband access.

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