Eagle County, five towns pass broadband questions, overriding antiquated state senate bill | VailDaily.com

Eagle County, five towns pass broadband questions, overriding antiquated state senate bill

EAGLE COUNTY — Voters in Eagle County and the towns of Eagle, Gypsum, Avon, Minturn and Vail overwhelmingly approved broadband ballot questions Tuesday night, Nov. 7.

By doing so, the voters didn't approve actual broadband improvements, but rather gave the various jurisdictions the ability to pursue them in the future.

"The town does not have any immediate plans to do anything, but this gives us the flexibility," said Eagle Town Board member Matt Solomon. "This gives us a little more flexibility to work independently, regardless of what the people in Denver think is in our best interests."

Tuesday's elections were required because current state law prohibits local governments from using public money to provide or improve access to high-speed internet and other telecommunications services, either on their own or through partnerships.

"Broadband elections address antiquated language that's on the books at the Capitol," said Colorado State Sen. Kerry Donovan. Donovan represents Senate District 5, which includes Eagle, Chaffee, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.

Donovan said the intent of Senate Bill 152, which passed in 2005, was to ensure that broadband systems were compatible from one jurisdiction to the next. The law says that before a local government may provide high-speed internet, cable television and other telecommunications services — either on its own or by working with a company — it must ask voters' permission.

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"That's (compatibility concerns) just no longer an actual concern because the industry has settled on technology," Donovan said.

Even before Tuesday's election, Colorado Counties Inc., a nonprofit that assists county governments in working together on common issues, reported that 68 towns and 28 counties had placed SB152 measures on the ballot in accordance with the law. After Tuesday's results in Eagle County, that list includes at least one more county and five more towns.

What's next

According to Donovan, Tuesday's vote clears the way for the six local jurisdictions to negotiate for broadband improvements.

"This helps broaden the role that a municipality or county can play in bridging the gap in services," she said.

A publication titled "SB05-152 Opt-Out Kit: A Local Government Blueprint for Improving Broadband Service in Your Community," authored by Colorado Counties Inc. and the Colorado Municipal League, notes that in today's economy, communities across the state have become increasingly dependent on internet access, and especially high-capacity broadband access, for business development and operations.

"These measures have passed handily in virtually every jurisdiction, with the support of citizens who are frustrated and want timely action on broadband service in their communities," reads the publication. "Broadband has become so crucial that many now regard it as a basic infrastructure need, on par with roads, water systems."

Broadband preliminary Election results

Results reported as of 9:20 p.m.

Ballot Question 1B (Eagle County)

Yes: 8,558

No: 1,502

Ballot Question 2A (Minturn)

Yes: 184

No: 45

Ballot Question 2B (Avon)

Yes: 657

No: 135

Question 2C (Eagle)

Yes: 1,526

No: 264

Question 2E (Gypsum)

Yes: 938

No: 162

Town of Vail

Yes: 846

No: 99