Seven Colorado cities get green light to build municipal broadband networks

Colorado may give hope to other states that are looking to build municipal broadband networks as seven of the state's communities voted earlier this week to let their local government entities offer broadband services.

This is a big blow to the state's largest telcos and cable MSOs like CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), two of the largest opponents to the municipal broadband movement. Both of these service providers have been instrumental in helping craft laws to curb the expansion of municipal broadband in Colorado and other states where they provide service.

An estimated two dozen states have laws in place that limit the ability of a local government to build out a broadband network.

According to a report in The Washington Post, one of the interesting elements of Colorado's version of its 2005 law is that it allows municipalities to provide high-speed broadband Internet if "an election shall be called" and a majority of voters support the idea. 

Among the various towns that are going to move ahead with a municipal network is Boulder. In that town, which owns miles of unused fiber, 84 percent of the voting public approved the new measure.

Joining Boulder were Yuma, Wray, Cherry Hills Village and Red Cliff, as well as measures in Rio Blanco and Yuma counties, reported northern Colorado local radio station KUNC.

Municipal broadband has become a hot topic lately as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been calling to look at laws governing municipal networks.

Wheeler has maintained that Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act gives the FCC the ability to drive competition in local markets by eliminating investment barriers and can "preempt laws that prevent cities and towns from creating their own broadband networks that compete against private companies."

Besides Colorado, Chattanooga, Tenn.'s Electric Power Board (EPB) and the city of Wilson, N.C.--neither of which can expand a broadband network because of current state laws--filed petitions asking the commission to give them more freedom to operate their networks.

For more:
- Washington Post has this article

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