Letter: High-speed broadband is overdue for Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

Letter: High-speed broadband is overdue for Pitkin County

This letter is a response to “County looks to opt out of state broadband law,” by Collin Szewczyk in the May 8 Aspen Daily News.

I am happy to see our commissioners urging a more proactive approach to bringing high-speed Internet to the Roaring Fork Valley. It is a no-brainer that we should opt out of Senate Bill 152 (written by ComCast and CenturyLink to prevent municipalities from creating their own broadband networks) and start building our own. There are thousands of such networks across the U.S., and as the article states, numerous Colorado municipalities already have opted out and have created or are creating their own networks (to name a few: Yuma, Wray, Cherry Hills Village, Red Cliff, Rio Blanco and Yuma counties, Boulder, Longmont, Montrose, etc.). Why isn’t Pitkin County already on that list?

The Old Snowmass Caucus is pursuing fiber-to-the-home here in our valley. To us, the ridiculous Catch-22 of SB 152 is glaringly evident. It says, in effect, “You can only use private carriers to create your broadband network.”

OK, so we contacted each of them and were told in a variety of ways, “Are you kidding? We can’t possibly make enough money off Old Snowmass to make it worth our while. Forget it!”

So, let’s see, we’re not allowed to do it, and they refuse to do it — which is why we are going ahead and doing it ourselves, anticipating that SB 152 will be voted out by Pitkin voters before we turn on the switch.

SB 152 is a red herring, a convenient excuse for not doing anything — but the fact is, we can vote ourselves out of it tomorrow, just as with the recent vote on Referendum 1. Pitkin County voters are too savvy to be swayed by industry-funded commercials.

In the 21st-century economy, broadband isn’t a luxury, a “nice to have.” It is like water or electricity or gas. It is a utility. The Federal Communications Commission just pronounced it as such. There is high-speed Internet in Cairo, in Kazakhstan, in Latvia. Why is Pitkin County the slow child in the global family? We even have taxpayer money allocated to it. So why don’t we already have it?

In contrast, Glenwood Springs has a super-high-speed, fiber-optic network that it laid in more than 10 years ago. Are they really that much more visionary and proactive than we are? It appears so. Time for us to catch up, Pitkin County!

Kevin Ward

Old Snowmass Broadband Coalition