AuroraHot Sheet

Aurora to ask voters about municipal broadband

Author: Kara Mason - July 31, 2018 - Updated: July 31, 2018

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(Photo by mapodile, istockphoto)

Aurora will be the latest city to ask voters whether it should opt out of a 2005 state law prohibiting municipalities from providing its own broadband services. City council members put the question on the November ballot last week.

Council members passed the question unanimously. The opt-out from SB152 would allow the city to “leverage financial resources, as well as community-owned infrastructure, to improve broadband access to its citizens,” according to a memo drafted for the city by outside legal counsel.

The memo, produced by the Kissinger & Fellman law firm, said the major benefit from opting out would be financial. Cities such as Longmont have become broadband providers. Fort Collins seems to be headed in that direction, too.

The Coloradan reported earlier this year the city has enough money to fund the venture.

While just a few of cities across the state have attempted to launch their own broadband service, local elected officials have not been shy about putting the muni-broadband question on ballots. Earlier this year voters in six towns — Firestone, Frisco, Lake City, Limon, Lyons and Severance — agreed to let the local government provide or partner with private companies to provide the service.

That brought the number of municipalities that have opted out of the law to 92.

Opting out could be good for investors, too, lawyers told elected officials. Though it’s so far unclear what that might look like in Aurora.

“Over the past few years, there has been an increasing number of companies that are looking to partner with local governments to build and operate broadband networks that will compete with the incumbent provider and/or provide new or better service in previously hard to reach areas,” the memo said.

For financial reasons, lawyers recommended the city not wait to ask voters to opt out. Some investors don’t want to wait four to six months for the outcome of an election, the memo said.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for ColoradoPolitics.com. She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.