Voters in Fort Collins, Colo. will decide if they want broadband service operated by the city on November 7th. The service would be a public utility, one that the Colorado Cable and Telecom Association is fighting. Critics argue that the infrastructure could become obsolete in 10 years, however Fort Collins says they are future-proofing the service to handle broadband demand required for cloud services and the Internet of Things usage. Fort Collins wants to issue $150M in bonds to pay for building the network.
The City’s Digital Economy
Fort Collins says that local businesses cannot purchase, or cannot afford, the high Internet speeds they need to remain competitive. High speed Internet is also one of the factors that companies look at when they are considering whether to relocate to Fort Collins.
Instead of being a monopolistic utility, the city will compete for customers against major corporations. Comcast and CenturyLink are Fort Collins’ two main Internet service providers; the city believes that residents and businesses would support a lower-priced option. The initial goal is to serve 30 percent of the homes that already have Internet, eventually reaching up to 50 percent.
Fort Collins plans to differentiate its service from the competition by offering better customer service and a commitment to net neutrality by not blocking or slowing down access.
The Priorities of Fort Collins (PFC) is the primary group speaking against the measure. Funding for PFC comes from three sources, the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association, Citizens for a Sustainable Economy and the Colorado Telecommunications Association. PFC claims that if run improperly, the Internet service would add $17 to each citizen’s electric bill to pay off the debt. Additionally, they say the city should have other priorities, mainly fixing the roads.
Longmont, just 30 miles from Fort Collins, is already providing citizens with Internet service; many expect the vote to be close in Fort Collins.