Western Slope Communities Consider Broadband On The Ballot

Oct 21, 2015

Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Governments and organizations across the Western Slope say slow and unreliable broadband is hindering economic development. That’s why communities across the region want voter support this fall on measures that would allow them to try and address the issue. 

Senate Bill 152 is a decade old state law that prevents local governments and municipalities from providing internet service to residents unless voters overturn it. 

In the KVNF listening, Delta, Gunnison and Ouray Counties have SB 152 opt-out measures on the ballot.

"I think it’s essential that we opt-out," said Delta County Commissioner Bruce Hovde. "Senate Bill 152 was written by the industry…and shall I say, they are somewhat self-serving.

Hovde said Delta County doesn’t want to get into the provider business, but rather wants the ability to collaborate on projects to improve the area’s internet.

"It is an avenue," he said. "It gives us the flexibility, all of us, the municipalities as well as the county, to be able to possibly...go into partnerships."

Region 10, an organization that represents six counties on the Western Slope, is spearheading a regional effort to expand broadband access.

"We see broadband as one of the key factors and one of the key issues currently to economic development in our region," said Michelle Haynes, the executive director of Region 10. 

Trish Thibodo, the executive director of Delta County Economic Development, said poor quality internet is keeping businesses from moving to the area and in some cases causing others to leave.

"It is critical for businesses that want to keep their business here in Delta County to have [quality] broadband as they as they grow and their need for [adequate] broadband increases," said Thibodo.

Voters in Delta, Cedaredge, Crawford, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Ouray, Ridgway and Telluride will also decide on SB 152 opt-out questions this fall.

Ballots were mailed  last week. Election Day is Nov. 3.