How could a small start-up business in rural Colorado compete globally? A big part of the answer is through high-speed internet access, which is generally assumed to be fiber-optic cable. However, because the economics of providing high-speed internet access to rural communities is dicey for investor-owned companies, there is little reason to hope that privately owned companies will provide that service anytime soon. Asking for government support for broadband in rural areas is not unprecedented. It is not unlike the Rural Electrification Act that brought electricity to rural communities across the country. That was considered a national priority by the president of the United States, and it completely changed how rural areas could operate in the modern world. I submit that now is the time when our government needs to stand up for rural economies and allow local entities to compete with the big dogs in the internet service provider world to provide us with the ability to compete on something approaching a level playing field.
Our rural economies have been hard hit by forces beyond our control. This one should be within our control. Yet, you will perhaps be saddened to know that a bill in the Colorado State Legislature to make broadband more available to rural Colorado, Senate Bill 81, was killed in committee on Feb. 21. When, I ask the legislature, will we have a level playing field, if we do not have access to broadband internet? If private companies do not want to take us on as customers, does that mean we will always be handicapped in the competition for new markets and customers in the rapidly changing economy? When will our students have access to the types of information that their urban peers have? Rural Coloradans need your support on this issue.