Voters in Denver this November will decide whether to bridge the city’s broadband gap.
The Denver City Council voted 12-0 Monday night to refer a measure to the November 2020 ballot that will ask Denver residents to vote to exempt the city from Senate Bill 152, which prevents municipalities from directly addressing broadband.
The initiative was led by Councilman Paul Kashmann, who represents District 6 in southeast Denver.
“We have gaps in our broadband coverage, and it affects those in our underserved populations,” he told Colorado Politics in a January interview in which he outlined his policy plans for 2020.
In Denver Public Schools alone, the district estimates that up to 4,000 students lack internet access at home.
The exemption, if passed, would not devote any public dollars to broadband, but provide the possibility to examine all options to broadband service. Currently, Denver is tied to mainstream providers, such as CenturyLink and Comcast.
“I don’t want Denver to necessarily go build its own broadband infrastructure and say, ‘To heck with Comcast.’ I don’t want to do that,” Kashmann said. “But what I want to be able to do is have more flexibility.”
Comcast is the dominating internet provider in Denver and lobbied against a similar measure in Fort Collins in 2017.
Exempting Denver is "not the right solution, and won’t address this problem," Jon Lehmann, the director of government and regulatory affairs at Comcast, said earlier this month. "Denver is already one of the most connected cities in the state; people in every corner of the city have numerous choices of internet providers and options to connect with speeds and prices that meet their needs."
The way Kashmann sees it, the internet is the library of today. "We never charge for our libraries, but we charge for the Internet. Why?"