Aurora voters pave way for municipal broadband service

Voters approve opting out of state restrictions
Posted at 11:50 AM, Nov 08, 2018

On Tuesday, Aurora became the largest city in Colorado so far to pursue the idea of a community-operated internet service. Voters overwhelmingly approved opting out of a 2005 state law prohibiting municipal governments from providing advanced telecommunications services.

There are no specific plans right now for a city-run broadband internet service, but the limitations have been removed, said a spokesperson with the city of Aurora. 

Aurora joins more than 90 other Colorado municipalities that have opted out of the state law. Only Longmont has a fully community-operated internet service provider. It's called Nextlight. And it didn’t happen overnight.

“We first started looking at doing something like this in the 1990s,” said Scott Rochat, spokesperson for Longmont Power and Communications.

The city started building the basis for a citywide fiber optic network, but the dot-com bubble and the 2005 state law put a halt to those efforts. In 2011, voters approved allowing the city to opt out of the law. In 2013 voters approved a $45.3 million dollar bond to build out the network.

Today, 54 percent of Longmont internet customers are Nextlight customers. In June, PC Magazine rated Nextlight the fastest ISP of the year. Big companies like Comcast and Century Link have noticed.

“We've certainly seen the incumbent providers step up their marketing efforts around Longmont,” Rochat said.

Nextlight costs 69.95 per month, or $59.95 after one year. Initial customers were grandfathered in at a rate of $49.95 per month.

Rochat says Longmont has received calls from all over the country for advice on setting up a municipal broadband network. As for why other Colorado cities haven’t been able to get their own services going yet, he said every city is different.

“Every community has its own advantages and challenges and conditions it has to consider,” he said.

Centennial recently launched internet service in the Willow Creek neighborhood through a partnership with Ting. Boulder and Fort Collins are also considering municipal broadband service.