In almost every election for the last 13 years, Colorado towns and counties have been chipping away at a state law that prohibits city-run internet. On Tuesday, 18 more local governments (a mix of towns and counties) voted on whether to exempt their district from the Comcast-backed law, opening to door for municipal broadband projects, and every single referendum passed with flying colors.
Municipal broadband is when cities or counties build or lease internet infrastructure and deliver the service to the community at a cost, kind of like a utility. It can also be a public-private partnership, with the town working with private businesses to help expensive infrastructure get built out to reach more of the community.
But in 2005, Colorado passed a law that prohibits municipalities in the state from providing city-run broadband services. Fortunately, it has a loophole: if a community in Colorado wants to pursue municipal broadband, it has to bring forward a ballot measure asking voters to exempt the area from the state law. Only if this ballot measure passes can they start to consider municipal broadband.
After Tuesday's wins, 40 of Colorado's 64 counties have voted on whether to exempt themselves from the bill, and all 40 voted yes. These tend to be popular measures, since it’s not even guaranteeing that a municipal broadband program will go into effect—it’s just giving the community options.
In Salida, a small city in the center of the state, a ballot initiative to exempt the city from SB 152 passed with 85 percent of the vote in September this year, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance. Likewise, Tuesday's votes saw the measures pass with as high as 90 percent of voters in favor, as was the case in the town of Blue River, Colorado.