Colorado Voters Continue To Opt Out Of State's Protectionist, ISP-Written Broadband Law

from the build-it-and-they-will-come dept

For years we've discussed how ISPs like Comcast have spent millions of dollars quite literally buying shitty, protectionist laws in 21 states. Said laws either ban or significantly hamstring towns and cities from building their own broadband networks, or in some cases from even engaging in public/private partnerships. It's a scenario where ISPs get to have their cake and eat it too; they often refuse to upgrade their networks in under-served areas (particularly true among telcos offering DSL), but also get to write shitty laws preventing these under-served towns from doing anything about it.

This dance of dysfunction has been particularly interesting in Colorado, however. While lobbyists for Comcast and CenturyLink managed to convince state leaders to pass such a law (SB 152) in 2005, the legislation contains a provision that lets individual Colorado towns and cities ignore the measure with a simple referendum, something telecom lobbyists have certainly come to regret. Not surprisingly, with frustration mounting over sub-standard broadband and awful customer service, more than a hundred Colorado cities have voted to exempt themselves from the state law over the last few years.

That happened again during the recent midterm elections, when eighteen additional communities voted to opt out of the restrictive, protectionist law. According to the Institute For Local Self Reliance (which helps communities help themselves to improve local connectivity) the votes weren't even close in most of these towns and cities, with voter approval rates like 73%, 80%, and 90%. With this week's votes, the group notes that more than 60% of Colorado communities have taken back their rights to make their own decisions on infrastructure for themselves:

"Within Colorado’s 64 counties, a total of 40 have brought the opt out question to their voters; all referendums passed. Now, 62.5 percent of counties in the state are free of SB 152, leaving only 37.5 percent or 24 counties subject to the harmful law."

The stark voter approval again highlights how issues like better broadband and net neutrality aren't actually partisan in the real world. ISP policy folks just like to pretend otherwise to sow division, hamstring consent, and stall meaningful reform. In reality, most everybody wants cheaper, better broadband. And some basic oversight preventing telecom monopolies from abusing their power to harm consumers and competitors. And the right to declare, via democratic vote, that you'd like your town or city to explore alternative options when the private market fails.

People are constantly looking for a place to begin when addressing the nation's broadband dysfunction, and the 21 states ISPs conned into eroding local citizen rights are a wonderful place to start. The ISLR maintains a handy map that highlights precisely which states have passed such laws at ISP lobbyist behest. While municipal broadband shouldn't be seen as a panacea, letting communities explore public or public/private networks as alternatives to a broken status quo is an organic way to apply a lit bit of pressure on an industry that all-too-frequently finds real competition to be an entirely alien affair.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 12:38pm

    Well, only one thing to do really...

    Pass an 'amendment' to the original law, 'clarifying' that communities are not in fact allowed to opt out of the state-wide protectionist law. I mean really, companies like Comcast clearly know what's best for those communities, and as such they're only trying to save them from themselves with laws ensuring that only the major companies are allowed to offer service(theoretically, at some point in the future).

    As more and more communities opt out I expect that the major ISP's will get more and more desperate to shut the process down, as if one state does it then it would be all too easy for other states to follow suit, and we just can't have that now can we?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 1:08pm

      Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

      "...as if one state does it then it would be all too easy for other states to follow suit, and we just can't have that now can we?"

      While I understand your post was tongue in cheek I think we must most emphatically emphasize that we can, they can't, with they being the ISP monopolies and we being everybody else who isn't an investor in those ISP monopolies (or someone the ISP monopolies invest in, like politicians).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 2:46pm

      Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

      Over the many years Iv watched the states DO THINGS..
      They have 1 corner stone..
      "If we F'ed up, we can always change it back", Which is REALLY a bad way to think/do things..
      We would get punished if we Messed up this way..
      "I can do this until I get Caught." is not a great idea for those not in control..

      Oops I got caught...is not a solution..We need to look and solve the problems BEFORE they happen. not change our minds after the fact.(esp when we already have the Facts)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2018 @ 3:06pm

        Re: Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

        The logic usually goes "if we mess this up we can always change it back" later to be followed by "we can't change back! We've already got other agreements that depend on that and we NEED those agreements!"

        An interesting one happened in Canada a few years back where the Federal government wanted to move to a federal sales tax; some areas said "over my dead body" -- then a politician got elected on the "over my dead body" platform and it turned out they'd been secretly working in the background to implement the tax. The province got a MASSIVE number of signatures required to kill the legislation, and it got dropped, despite politicians doing the "but we CAN'T change it back now!"

        Just leave that as a reminder that there is no such thing as "too big/intertwined to fail." The people in a democracy can always call a vote of non confidence and rescind a law or politician, if they want to badly enough.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 7:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

          The people in a democracy can always call a vote of non confidence and rescind a law or politician, if they want to badly enough.

          Only if there's a mechanism to do so. I think that's a feature of the parliamentary system. In the US, at the federal level there is no provision to recall officials. Some states have such laws and some do not, and there is a lack of clarity on whether a state can pass a law allowing its citizens to recall their members of Congress.

          https://ballotpedia.org/Laws_governing_recall

          Similarly, there is no national ballot initiative system. Some states have them for state issues and some do not.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JohnnyRotten (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 8:29pm

      Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

      Colorado is a home rule state as per its constitution, so municipalities designated as "home rule municipality" (about 100 of em) has wide local powers delegated to it.

      Also, our state assembly bill process is designed to slow roll changes in such a way that it can't be "slipped" it under the table or quickly.

      TL;DNR - State assembly can't pass a law overriding this for the home rule cities, and our assembly system is built to avoid allowing crap bills through (at least quickly).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 15 Nov 2018 @ 4:17am

      Re: Well, only one thing to do really...

      No, we can't have that. Laws like this are just just...downright un-American!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2018 @ 2:05pm

    The got two things right

    They had the common sense to legalize weed, any coincidence that they are now voting out the broadband monopolies?

    I meant that in a snarky kind of way, but really if you think about it, they are really one and the same. The State is forward/progressive/liberal enough (BYOL, bring your own label) to allow individuals the ability to choose what they feel is best for themselves. That is the kind of politics I like; when the government gets out of way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 2:19pm

      Re: The got two things right

      That is the kind of politics I like; when the government gets out of way.

      Ah yes, it's great when the government gets out of the way and allows...[checks notes] the government to build and run its own ISPs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2018 @ 2:48pm

        Re: Re: The got two things right

        The Colorado government needs to step up and provide cellular communications as well. Made even worse by the hilly terrain, most of the state has no cellphone service.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2018 @ 3:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: The got two things right

          Whoa ... one thing at a time there big fella.

          Not sure the two are similar as they have different problems.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 14 Nov 2018 @ 7:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: The got two things right

          The Colorado government needs to step up and provide cellular communications as well. Made even worse by the hilly terrain, most of the state has no cellphone service.

          Perhaps by land area, but the vast majority of people living in the state have cell service. Personally I don't think that would be a good use of public funds. If you want cellular service, then live somewhere where there's cellular service. If you want to live somewhere remote and mountainous, understand that that decision has consequences. Ensuring everyone or nearly everyone has access to landline phone and broadband is great, but I don't think a statewide cellular initiative is necessary or warranted.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2018 @ 3:12pm

      Re: The got two things right

      Colorado has always been a very strange state when it comes to thier government. They have this magnificent streak of individuality that only works for them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 15 Nov 2018 @ 12:38pm

        Re: Re: The got two things right

        Its the idea of Anyone can be an idiot..
        You dont have to persecute or prosecute them for it..
        As long as you dont bother/hurt other persons, FINE..

        In Idaho, it depends on the Country you are in, and Which cop is on duty..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 15 Nov 2018 @ 12:41pm

      Re: The got two things right

      AC..
      go have fun with this..
      http://keepidaho.org/#

      Its going all over ROKU, and idaho..
      I love Percentages without a BASE NUMBER...
      And some of the locations they use, are silly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Probitas, 15 Nov 2018 @ 1:03pm

    Free Market is not We Say So

    No one is obligated to do business with a company, and if the public votes to seek an alternative the company has no recourse but to either address common complaints or watch as their 'trapped' customers free themselves.

    The way I see it, no company should legally be allowed to force anyone into having no alternatives to doing business with them, that is not how the free market is meant to function. That is how a feudal economy works. And Comcast et. al. are not kings, and neither is Trump, no matter how much they bluster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2018 @ 3:26pm

      Re: Free Market is not We Say So

      There is no such thing as the free market and never will be.
      Business does what business gets away with, you can whine all you want but it does not affect them at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SysOp, 15 Nov 2018 @ 4:13pm

      Re: Free Market is not We Say So

      "No one is obligated to do business with a company, and if the public votes to seek an alternative the company has no recourse but to either address common complaints or watch as their 'trapped' customers free themselves.

      The way I see it, no company should legally be allowed to force anyone into having no alternatives to doing business with them, that is not how the free market is meant to function. That is how a feudal economy works. And Comcast et. al. are not kings, and neither is Trump, no matter how much they bluster."

      Exactly how I feel about allowing the government to force me to pay for municipal ISP.

      Do not take away my rights to choose, DO NOT force me to pay for municipal ISP!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Close
Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.