The airwaves have been filled with initiatives during this campaign season, but little has been said about an important local initiative in El Paso County on the ballot — 1A.

Since this initiative requires no tax increase, you won’t see it in the State’s Blue Book or in El Paso County’s informational ballot piece.

This important measure would put the county on even footing with more than 60 other Colorado counties and municipalities where voters have recognized the value of public-private partnerships as a way to extend affordable high-speed internet and broadband services to everyone. In fact, El Paso County is one of 22 local governments with a ballot initiative to allow these kinds of partnerships with local telecommunications providers.

A “yes” vote on initiative 1A authorizes El Paso County to provide — at no additional cost to taxpayers — any or all of the services currently restricted by Senate Bill 05-152, which limits local government from providing “telecommunication service” and “advanced service” (broadband) to the general public. Passed by the General Assembly in 2005, the law fails to take into account changes in technology.

Initiative 1A permits, by public vote, an opt-out provision that allows commercial providers to tap into El Paso County’s existing or planned fiber and create partnership opportunities which are currently unavailable due to the restrictions imposed by state government. The measure restores local control over the future of our technology needs and resident accessibility, especially evident in today’s changing cyber world.

Initiative 1A is intended to assist local communities in El Paso County with improved access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet and broadband services for the effective delivery of public safety, health care, education, personal and economic opportunities, targeted primarily at rural and underserved areas within the county which have limited or no broadband services.

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1A may also serve to lower the wholesale cost of broadband supply to commercial internet service providers, making it economically feasible for residential and commercial delivery and expansion of broadband services to more remote areas. It could make faster connections possible, improving business communications.

One of the frequent frustrations I hear from citizens within El Paso County is that service providers tell them there are not a sufficient number of users to cover the costs of expanding service in their neighborhoods. And while several broadband studies are currently in process in our county, there are significant limitations in providing access solutions. Unfortunately, this restrictive state law did not anticipate the future of technology and prohibits local government collaboration with commercial providers to improve service to the community. The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously referred this ballot initiative, and the passage of 1A will give us more opportunities to partner with Teller County and the town of Green Mountain Falls, which have referred similar ballot initiatives for improved broadband services.

Commissioners said, during the discussion on this initiative, that the lack of high speed data and cellular communications were challenges during both the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. It just makes sense that if public entities are already building the “middle mile” infrastructure for public safety purposes, private companies should be able to use excess capacity to make it more efficient to extend broadband services. If those fiber optic lines to its facilities and those lines have excess capacity, it is more efficient for private providers to tie into those lines and build out service to homes and businesses.

The ability to partner with one of the private providers in an agreement will provide what we need for emergency communications and also expands services to more citizens without any tax increase. During the public discussion, a resident came forward and stated that his neighborhood had been struggling for years to get service and appreciated the county’s stepping up to help.

A “yes” vote on 1A is a vote for local partnership opportunities and incentives to provide high-speed internet services for the benefit of our citizens.

Sallie Clark is the chairwoman of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners. She can be reached at sallie80904@yahoo.com.

24 COMMENTS

  1. The one sided view on this makes me nervous. We did not even hear about this until it showed up on the ballot.
    It sounds good but not being given the opportunity to hear both sides of this issue scares me. We have had many times in the past where something sounded good but turned out very bad and ended up costing a lot of money and being unfair to the majority of the people.

    None of this tells us who would be allowed to access these fiber optics, at what cost and to who.

    • Michael, There are no details of any sort of a deal in El Paso/Teller counties. 1A just allows the county to enter into discussions by opting out of state law that prohibit them having the public-private partnerships. If it passes, the CSBJ will report on any and all plans or discussions to make sure the public is well-informed about any potential changes. The goal, however, is to bring broadband services to underserved areas. How that’s done is yet to be determined – this is just the first step.

      • I’m wondering if the end user wil as you stated (not incur a tax increase) but perhaps might incur a significant cost increase imposed by the private provider. No info on this. And if a YES vote wins, will we at a later time have an option to revote should out costs be projected to rise due to this being enacted.

        • Dear Karen,

          As I stated in reply to Michael’s comments, there would be no increase in cost to current subscribers under the ballot question. The focus of the ballot question will be to open up the option for the County to partner with private providers. This could permit private internet companies to tap into existing or planned government fiber and increase the likelihood of serving areas which are less populated and currently without incentives to improve private provider service levels.

          • Commissioner Clark,
            As you can see, level of scepticism among the electorate verges on paranoia. As we used to say in the military, “no good deed goes unpunished “. High quality access is critical to this country,and the private sector has been unwilling to invest adequately. I applaud your efforts.

    • Michael –
      I agree – ‘nothing to be concerned about here – keep moving along’….. we’ve heard it all before……….

    • Dear Michael, There would be no increase in cost to current subscribers. The focus of the ballot question will be to open up the option for the County to partner with private provider. This could permit them to tap into existing or planned government fiber and increase the likelihood of serving areas which are less populated and currently without incentives to improve private provider service levels.

    • 1B is the Teller County ballot question and the Town of Green Mountain Falls also has a local question on the same issue.

    • So are you saying Sallie that the affirmative vote will ONLY allow exploration That’s it!? If development were to be seen as possible, will the county voters then get a full disclosure (as we definitely do not now have) and a time to vote for or against the counties proposal including expense to us via our current taxes and potential price increase for services via private provider.? Without full disclosure I find it difficult to back this 1A at this time. It’s a tricky line that nothing needs to be disclosed since you say there is no tax increase. And yet the current tax base will be used to explore this.

      • Correct, a yes vote just gets us out of jail per se, as Senate Bill 05-152, which limits local government from providing “telecommunication service” and “advanced service” (broadband) to the general public, ended up being too myopic and restrictive. Approving 1A just gets us out of that restriction, like more than 60 other cities and counties in Colorado have already done, and 22 others are trying to do this year.

        The paranoia in this town amazes me, and is the bedrock upon which we continue to fall behind as a city. But hey, if you’re happy with our 2 choices of internet in this town, then by all means, vote no. Voting yes would release the restrictions of Senate Bill 05-152, laying the ground work for other companies to potentially offer their services, adding more competition, which is great for all of us.

        • The paranoia should not amaze you. Trillions more in deficit, Obamacare and other issues have many voters say no to any new costs. Let’s face it, $188/month to watch about 20 hrs of TV a month isn’t fair. TV providers have you sign a “blank check” contract for the 2nd or 3rd year. It’s not parinoia, it’s distrust.
          For the voters: my experience has been that municipalities, given the chance, will partner with a provider; then you as the resident will have only one provider to pick from for your area. You know what one provider equals? No competition, higher costs, piss-poor customer service.

  2. So if I understand this, the county will allow “private” companies to provide services (ostensibly at some cost to us) using a tax-payer developed/funded/built backbone? So we pay for the backbone and then will be charged by the service provider? Or is this for private companies to provide a free service to the county to fight wildfires and promote the general welfare?

      • To Robert Tramaloni:
        To educate oneself and seek information about an issue on a ballot should NEVER be characterized as “paranoid”. It is our duty as voting citizen to not vote blindly!!!! No information was given in the voters guide so we are seeking it as any intelligent person should be doing. VOTE SMART AMERICA

      • To Robert Tramanoli:
        To seek information and be educated on any voting matter should NEVER be characterized as paranoid. No information was available regarding this 1A via voter pamphlet. I chose to vote smart as each and every voter has the responsibility to do so!!!

  3. This sounds like government stepping into the business arena. Socialism vs. Capitalism. Why does government have to provide a service that profitable businesses are already doing?

  4. Two comments,
    If this is so government and private can just start talking about joining together then why does it need a vote? I cant see where the statute states they can not talk with out a vote.

    Rob, if you think tax money needs to be put into the private hands as what would be a subsidiary then what happened to capitalism? If all private companies got tax money than why do we need private companies we can just all work for the government!

  5. I sure hope we can get more broadband choices in the Peyton/Falcon area. The two microwave broadband internet providers I have tried so far are spotty bad to spotty mediocre at best for $39.99-$45.99 a month. I hope to have a RELIABLE and more affordable internet provider one day…

  6. This question/concern was raised by Rich on 10/24/16.
    (I do not see a reply from the El Paso County Board of Commissioners)
    “So if I understand this, the county will allow “private” companies to provide services (ostensibly at some cost to us) using a tax-payer developed/funded/built backbone? So we pay for the backbone and then will be charged by the service provider? Or is this for private companies to provide a free service to the county to fight wildfires and promote the general welfare?”
    I see that we, taxpayers, have paid for and will pay for fiber optics, and we are permitting private enterprise to utilize our resources at no cost.
    The private companies should pay for usage. “There will be no cost to current subscribers” of what” the private companies?
    I am not a current subscriber. My current tax dollars have been used to pay for the fiber optics. I should not have to pay increased fees should I subscribe to the private company’s future services since they are not reimbursing me for the fiber optic cables that my tax dollars went into paying.

  7. The labeling of “paranoia” to voters questioning/wanting to get educated/get clarity on this issue is what amazes me…businesses don’t survive doing charitable work for rural areas, there will indeed be a cost, albeit down the road. Negotiations & planning pulls people away, that costs something. To think it’s as simple as private internet companies riding the tax-payer owned backbone is foolhardy (who pays for the maintenance?, how much control/visibility will the government have over my internet traffic?). And no offense to those out there in the rural areas, but you chose to live where you live knowing full well the compromises you have to make to enjoy the amazing benefits. 1A is a key to a locked door, choose wisely…

  8. No additional cost? Government doesn’t do anything that doesn’t eventually mean additional cost. If commercial interests are riding on county backbones then they should be charged for it… no mention of that here.

    There may not be an added cost that we will see in our internet bills but it will be paid by the county at some point from county funds… meaning they will just need more money for the general fund.

    If people want to live in outlying areas then they can’t expect to get all of the benefits of living closer. To some, that is a blessing. This is just another example of socialism in our society. Let all of us pay for their choices. Think of the bus service… self paying… never has been… so everyone pays for the few that use the buses.

    My vote is no and if I had the choice… no way.

  9. Sorry guys but since we have zero info or input about this deal other than saying yes or no I’m saying NO .You guy’s work for us and I feel this is another backroom deal that sounds good for you but bad for us ,we need TOTAL TRANSPARENCY ON EXACTLY WHAT WILL BE DONE AND WHO WILL BENEFIT AND HOW IT WILL AFFECT ALL OF THE CITIZENS OF EL PASO COUNTY WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS AND WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THIS IDEA? ALSO WHY HASN’T THERE BEEN ANY INFO TO THE PUBLIC ? IT WAS NOT IN THE BLUE BOOK AND NO TOWN HALL OR INPUT ,SORRY BUT IF THEY WANT OUR VOTE WE NEED WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WERE, AND WHY AND TRANSPARENCY.WE HAVE BEEN BURNED BY BACK DOOR DEALS WE NEED TO MAKE INFORMED VOTES.

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