By PATRICK MALONE | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:00 am
DENVER – Communities in the slow lane of the information superhighway lined up Thursday to testify in support of a Southern Colorado lawmaker’s proposal to identify areas of the state most underserved by broadband Internet.
“We’re going to begin that process (identifying) how extensive the needs are in our rural communities,” said Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who sponsored SB129.
The bill would direct the Public Utilities Commission and the Office of Information Technology to identify areas of the state with limited – or no – access to high-speed Internet It would authorize the PUC to organize an advisory panel to assist in the process and generate recommendations about how to better serve those areas.
Representatives of the Office of Information Technology estimated the effort would cost $100,000 in its first year.
Wendell Pryor, director of the Chaffee County Economic Development Corp., testified to the impacts of limited bandwidth on businesses in that area.
Princeton Hot Springs Resort, an economic driver that generates the second-highest amount of sales tax among businesses in Chaffee County, is unable to process credit cards electronically when bandwidth traffic is high.
“The broadband is simply not sufficient to allow them to do that, so it’s done manually,” Pryor said.
He said Monarch Ski Resort, which anchors the winter tourist season in Chaffee County, asks the staff to shut off their computers in order to have adequate broadband availability for skiers and customers.
“It is a problem, and those are documented facts,” Pryor said.
Education in Chaffee County also feels the bandwidth pitch. A new high school is scheduled to open in Salida in the fall.
“They don’t have adequate bandwidth to meet the needs of the students,” Pryor said. “They barely get by with what they have, and it is expensive.”
In Buena Vista, plans to equip students with Kindle electronic reading devices were scuttled by the absence of bandwidth.
“Why should the rural areas of the state, especially in terms of economic development, be treated as less than?” Pryor said
Representatives of wireless providers Viaero Wireless and CenturyLink testified in opposition to regulatory aspects of the bill and its ties to federal telecommunications guidelines. After their testimony Schwartz revised the bill to address some of their concerns.
The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee deferred action on SB129 until a later date.