Colorado legislators look to map broadband availability

Colorado may soon get some insight into what communities in the state have or don't have access to broadband services.

The Colorado General Assembly has developed the Rural Broadband Jobs Act, or Senate Bill 12-129, which would mandate that the state's Public Utilities Commission and Office of Information Technology (OIT) provide information on what communities have decent broadband service coverage.

Sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, the proposed bill would create an initiative to increase broadband access in "underserved" or "unserved" areas. Lawmakers would leverage current PUC and OIT broadband data and mapping information to find what communities had sufficient or no broadband access at all.  

Schwartz believes that if the Rural Broadband Jobs Act achieves its goal of expanding broadband services it could enable businesses to be more competitive.

"I am looking for a definitive assessment of underserved and unserved areas in our state that lack broadband access," Schwartz told Government Technology, adding that when those areas are identified she'd like the state to make investment in those areas.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit economic and community development consulting group, said that while the effort is promising he hopes the efforts aren't compromised by the interests of traditional service providers.

"Unfortunately these advisory panels often end up stacked with representatives from DSL and cable companies that prefer the status quo until they can devise a scheme for the public to funnel more subsidies their way," Mitchell said in an email to Government Technology. "I hope that will not be the case in Colorado."

Colorado's effort follows the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) move to develop a National Broadband Map, which has come under criticism for its lack of accuracy.

For more:
- Government Technology
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Commentary: Where we're at with broadband stimulus and rural Internet access

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