Colorado Telecoms Rail Against Rural Broadband Bill

The Denver Post has an interesting story on Colorado Senate Bill 287, which was introduced Monday and passed out of committee on Wednesday. Apparently this "bipartisan effort" to "connect rural Colorado to broadband Internet service" scares the hell out of Colorado carriers and technology companies in the State. More than 50 companies and organizations have come together to fight against the bill, which they claim will have a "chilling effect" on innovation in Colorado.

"Rural Colorado is in desperate need of broadband," Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said Monday in announcing the bill. "Businesses and communities suffer when they can’t access what the 21st Century has to offer to the rest of the state. The time has come to make the commitment to bring broadband to our entire state."

So what is this bill all about? The bill calls for a portion of the High Cost Support Mechanism (funded by subscribers) which collects more than $50 million annually to subsidize phone services in rural areas to be put towards broadband infrastructure expansion in underserved communities.

Apparently buried within this bill, according to opponents, is a backdoor attempt to give Colorado's Public Utilities Commission regulatory authority over Voice over Internet Protocol and other IP-enabled services.

"It’s actually an expansion of the PUC authority over VoIP, wireless and other IP-enabled services," said AT&T’s Colorado president Bill Soards. "This is a regulatory reach that no state in the country has done. The vast majority of states are moving in the opposite direction by modernizing and protecting the Internet from regulation."

"Consumers suffer when cutting-edge technologies are saddled with inappropriate regulations," Michael Price, executive director of Coalition for a Connected West, said in letter opposing SB 287.

Others opposed to this bill in its present form include e Verizon Wireless, CenturyLink, ViaSat, Colorado Technology Association, TechAmerica, the Colorado Telecommunications Association and the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association.

Opponents also think that the language about unserved and underserved communities is vague and too broad.

The full Senate is scheduled to deal with the bill on Friday. Earlier in this legislative session, the telecom industry backed House Bill 1255, which would have exempted VoIP and other Internet services. The bill passed the House but is currently stalled in the Senate.

Source: Denver Post


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