Silverthorne voters to decide local internet control in November
Like so many others have already done, Silverthorne voters will soon have the option of breaking free from a state law that prevents local governments from creating their own telecommunications services, either directly or indirectly.
In explaining the resolution for a Nov. 7 ballot measure, town manager Ryan Hyland quickly walked council members through the details and noted that it’s highly unlikely Silverthorne would ever create its own standalone broadband internet or cable providers.
More likely, he said, is that the town could enter into partnerships with other providers to improve services in the area, specifically the notorious dead spots north of Silverthorne.
Passed in 2005, the state law prevents municipalities from involvement in any partnership, funding, provision or other activities related to local broadband, telecom service or infrastructure without a successful “opt out” vote from citizens.
This isn’t the first time the opt-out provision has come to a vote locally. In November 2015, Summit County overwhelmingly supported a similar ballot measure, passing it by 87 percent.
That same year, voters in 43 other Colorado counties, cities and towns went in favor of the opt-out provision, including Alma (79 percent), Fairplay (70 percent) and Clear Creek (86 percent).
The mass exodus in 2015 brought the total number of opt-out areas to 57, and every vote that fall came in as a landslide, with only one area registering less than 70 percent support for opting out.
The trend continued the following year, and 26 more counties, cities and towns followed suit — Breckenridge and Aspen among them.
One success story highlighted in a memo to Silverthorne Town Council involves Glenwood Springs, which was one of the earliest municipalities to opt out of the state telecommunications law as voters there passed the measure in 2008. Since then, the city has started delivering internet services through an aging wireless infrastructure and has embarked on deploying fire-to-the-home broadband services. Now, the city is a direct competitor to Comcast and CentryLink in some parts of town, providing faster broadband service for a lower price than the private companies.
On Wednesday, it took Silverthorne Town Council only a few minutes longer to pass the resolution than it did for Hyland to explain the details.
Seeing that so many other counties, cities and towns had already moved on similar ballot measures and framing it as a good idea for Silverthorne too, council asked few questions and offered little discussion before voting 5-0 in favor of the resolution.
Councilman Derrick Fowler was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting, as Mayor Bruce Butler said Fowler was out of town on business.
One of the biggest items of discussion regarding the November ballot measure hinged on how the town might piggyback other ballots this fall to save money.
In other business
• Council unanimously approved a request from the developer of the South Maryland Creek Ranch property to subdivide tracts into lots for 19 single-family homes and two common areas. Councilman Russ Camp said he looked the proposal over “very thoroughly” and found it to be in line with what the developer has previously done and plans to do at the ranch.
• Council honored Liz Spicer with the Citizens Commendation Medal after she rendered aid to a driver who had a seizure at the recreation center parking lot on March 2. According to Mayor Butler, Spicer rendered aid to the driver in distress and held the woman’s head until help arrived. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the great community and people we have,” Butler said. “This is another example of one of them.”
• Council recognized outgoing members of the planning commission and Economic Development Advisory Committee. Tim Nolan, Jess Nelsen and Jen Stachelski received plaques and the town’s thanks for their service on the planning commission, while Warren Buettner was honored for his service on the EDC. Mayor Bruce Butler commended the group, praised their talent and said that if they town had to pay for their services, there’s no way Silverthorne could have afforded it.
• Council passed an ordinance agreeing to various stipulations with Summit County and Dillon governments concerning water rights that were donated to Silverthorne in 2016.
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