Colorado leaders are poised to connect 99 percent of households in the state to affordable, high-speed broadband Internet now that the state has received a large sum of federal funding, Governor Jared Polis said at a news conference. Thursday.
Polis, US Senator Michael Bennet, US Representative Joe Neguse of Lafayette, all Democrats and many other state leaders gathered at the Forge technology campus in Loveland, which rolled out municipal broadband in 2018, to celebrate the $827 million in federal funds the state has received as part of The Biden administration’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.
It is inexcusable that Colorado’s 190,000 residents today have little or no high-speed access, and that will be fixed with this investment. And we look forward to making sure it’s implemented efficiently and effectively to help bridge the digital divide, Polis said.
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The money will go towards ensuring that every Colorado community that now has little or no broadband Internet access gets at least adequate access.
Polis set a goal of connecting 99 percent of Colorado to adequate Internet access last year. “Adequate” means at least 100 megabits per second download and 20 Mbps upload by 2027. Currently, 90.2 percent of Colorado households have adequate access.
Polis said the goal would not have been achieved without the federal government’s investment.
This is a necessary level of investment not only in Colorado but across the country to ensure that all communities in our state are a part of our future and we will be able to deliver this in a way that provides connectivity to over 99% of Colorado homes. Polis said.
The BEAD program is a part of the larger bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Biden administration cleared $42.5 billion from the bill to allocate a minimum of $100 million to each state. The remainder of the funding was allocated based on each state’s needs, including the amount of high-cost areas needed to build infrastructure and the number of underserved homes.
Colorado finished in 22nd place in the amount of funding received. Texas has the largest amount of funding, allocated at $3.3 billion.
The wrong side of the digital divide
Leaders Thursday reflected on past legislative, state and community work that resulted in the allocation of funds for Colorado. Polis and others have noted Bennet’s advocacy in Congress for broadband investment. Bennet drove the Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act in 2021 to ensure the federal government invests in local broadband initiatives.
The act, now part of the BEAD program, provides more than $40 billion to state and tribal governments to support local initiatives that promote broadband adoption and accessibility.
Bennet said the federal government has failed in the past to actually support Internet equity because federal investments have gone to telecommunications companies, which would not expand Internet access in rural communities.
The result of that failure, the failure to invest in a way that made sense to the American people, was that many communities in our state and across the country were trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide with the internet being too slow. , the Internet that was too expensive, Bennet said.
The BRIDGE Act, he said, mandated states to expand Internet access for the first time.
Brandy Reitter, director of the Colorado Broadband Office, said it took immense efforts to realize this federal investment, including a plan implemented by Polis to figure out where in Colorado the need for adequate Internet access is not being met.
The office conducted a statewide study as part of that plan. Through surveys asking residents whether they had adequate access, state officials have been able to do so map exactly where underprivileged communities are located.
According to the map, several rural counties in southern Colorado are underserved. Hinsdale County, Custer County and Dolores County have the least entries.
We have a strong foundation for this, and more importantly, we now know who the most critics are in our state, so we can allocate this funding to support them and close the digital divide, Reitter said.
In recent years, Colorado has received nearly $1.3 billion in funding for broadband investments. In December the state received $170 million from the Capital Funds project, all for broadband infrastructure.
Doug Kinkoph, associate director of the National Telecommunications Information Association, told the press conference that the digital divide requires not only infrastructure solutions but cost-effective solutions as well.
The federal Affordable Connectivity program offers discounts of up to $30 a month for Internet service, which Kinkoph said currently more than 200,000 Colorado households have signed up for a $73 million grant to the state.
If we want Americans to benefit, engage, and be able to truly reap the benefits of a digital economy, we need services that are affordable. (Affordability) will be essential as we move forward, Kinkoph said.
He said the Colorado Broadband Office is currently working on its plan for the funds to be submitted to the NTIA for approval. Once that happens, the funds will be available for you to use.
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