By Tim Fitzgerald
When you get to the Wheat Ridge part of your ballot you are going to find two items for you to vote on. Each item is designed to help our city move forward. I’d like to tell you a little bit about why the high-speed Internet item is there and why you should vote “yes.”
In part, it will read, “Shall the city of Wheat Ridge without increasing taxes by this measure, and to restore local authority that was denied to local governments by the Colorado General Assembly … be authorized to provide high-speed internet… ?”
In 2005, over a decade ago, the Internet was just emerging as a vital tool for a modern society. The state legislature decided that the two large Internet providers needed to be shielded from competition in order to encourage their expansion. In order to do that, the legislature passed Senate Bill 05-122.
Senate Bill 05-122 prohibited Colorado cities and counties from providing Internet, cable TV, and telecommunications by any means for citizens. That meant that no cooperation with other cities or counties, no contracting with private providers and no doing it yourself. The state had effectively taken power away from Wheat Ridge. But, there was an out: All that cities or counties had to do to take the power back was to vote to do so.
At least 92 cities or counties have overwhelmingly voted to take the authority back and give themselves the ability to deal with Internet in their own way. Many are using their competitive authority to encourage the big providers to improve services. A few others are working on contracting with alternate providers, joining with other jurisdictions or doing it themselves. Their goal is Internet with higher speed at a lower price. But for the most part, cities and counties have no intention to use the authority they now have in the near future.
That is our case. Wheat Ridge has no plans now to do anything with the authority that we hope citizens will take back. But we will be ready if an opportunity does arise. We could partner with other nearby cities or we could contract with a provider other than the big two as examples. However, first we have to give ourselves the authority to do so. Most of our neighboring cities have already voted to take the authority back. This is a necessary step to the future.
Vote “yes.” It costs nothing; it requires no action; but it removes a roadblock if a future opportunity arises.
Contact Wheat Ridge District 3 City Councilman Tim Fitzgerald at TFitzgerald@ci.wheatridge.co.us or 720-360-0870.