While many of us were celebrating the end of campaign ads after the election, voters in seven Colorado counties were instead celebrating a victory for access to what has become an essential service: broadband internet.
Colorado and 19 other states have laws in place that prevent municipalities from providing broadband internet service. In the case of Colorado and a few others, this law requires that local citizens pass a referendum to allow their municipality to offer internet service. But in many states, these laws totally restrict the ability of local governments to provide broadband to citizens.
There’s really no argument that internet access is an important part of modern life. It’s an invaluable tool for small business, health care providers, and educational institutions; and also allows people to connect with others near and far. Like electricity and water, the internet has become a part of day-to-day life that can easily be taken for granted, at least until it’s no longer available. For many many people considering moving to rural areas, having good internet access can be just as important as having reliable electricity or water.
Just like they have done with other essential services and utilities, municipalities can help fill the gap when no other service provider is available. This is especially important to rural areas that usually must rely upon cheap or slow service, or be left with no internet service at all. In states where there is no limit on who can provide internet service, local governments can step up and fill the void by providing service to underserved areas, often times providing faster and cheaper service than some private companies.
Rural communities and small towns have a proud tradition of putting their noses to the grindstone and finding solutions to problems like lack of internet access. But state laws that restrict municipalities from offering internet access remove one of the best local solutions available to rural folks. People in rural areas deserve to have high quality and affordable internet service for their homes, small businesses, and other community services.
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