Longmont’s community-owned internet service is celebrating a new law that removes barriers to providing municipal broadband.
The new law, Senate Bill 23-183, was signed into law on Monday by Gov. Jared Polis with strong bipartisan support. It allows Colorado communities to start a local broadband service without having to go to voters first, repealing a limit that had been in place since 2005.
“We’re excited to see the legislature take this long-overdue step, freeing Colorado’s communities to make the broadband choices that will serve the needs of their homes and residents,” NextLight Executive Director Valerie Dodd said. “Longmont has repeatedly shown its support for the local, high-quality internet solutions that NextLight provides, and we look forward to seeing the increased opportunities that will now be open to all Coloradans.”
The 2005 state law restricted local governments from creating a municipal network — either on their own or as part of a public-private partnership — unless voters passed a local ballot issue first. About 160 Colorado cities, counties and towns voted to repeal those restrictions, which were removed statewide with this new law.
In Longmont, voters repealed the state limits in 2011. This led to the 2014 launch of NextLight, the state’s first municipally-owned internet service, which has been recognized as one of the fastest internet providers in the nation.
“It’s been heartening to see Colorado and the nation realize what Longmont has known for so long — that high-quality broadband is an essential part of how we work, learn and live,” Dodd said.
Polis has set a goal of connecting 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027, and a press release from his office celebrated this bill as removing a major barrier.
“Each local government is in a unique position or different phase of connecting residents to high-speed internet, and this bill allows them to establish broadband plans that meet the needs of their communities,” Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter said.
Colorado expects to receive a significant amount of federal broadband funding over the next five years for infrastructure expansion and improvement, as well as digital equity programs to address the state’s digital gap.