Colorado aims to use pandemic to expand funding for broadband access
Colorado and federal lawmakers want to put big money into more efforts to expand high-speed internet access.
Why it matters: The big lesson from the pandemic is that broadband service is no longer a nice-to-have amenity — it's critical for virtual school, remote work and telemedicine, Axios' Kim Hart and Margaret Harding McGill write.
- In Colorado, about 90,000 rural residents and 65,000 students across the state do not have access or adequate access, according to a recent Colorado Broadband Office report.
Driving the news: A state-level stimulus measure unveiled this week proposes spending $50 million to $75 million to extend broadband to more parts of the state — the third-largest item in the package.
- The money would essentially double what the state spends on the initiative now and help replace diminishing revenue from a 2018 law that fell well short of its goal.
- Congress also set aside $7 billion in funding for broadband in the December COVID-19 relief package.
- And now Democrats want to allocate another $94 billion and offer a $50 monthly discount on internet service for low-income Americans.
The big picture: Such steps to close the digital divide are long in the making in Colorado and nationally, but sustained funding is difficult to find.
- "We can use one-time money to build out final pieces of infrastructure to make sure that no part of our state finds itself unable to connect to robust broadband," said Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), a leading advocate on the issue, in a recent opinion piece.
Yes, but: Broadband is defined in Colorado as 25 mbps download and 3 mbps unload — not enough for a pandemic world.
- The 25/3 model doesn't support more than one high-quality video conferencing application at a time.
This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.
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