These are all of the telecommunications and IT bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

House

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MEGA

MAJOR

MEDIUM

MINOR+

HB21-1109 Broadband Board Changes To Expand Broadband Service

MINOR

TECHNICAL

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

MAJOR

MEDIUM

MINOR+

MINOR

TECHNICAL

HB21-1109 Broadband Board Changes To Expand Broadband Service [Titone (D), Soper (R)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require the state’s broadband deployment board to use at least 75% of its grants on critically underserved areas for at the next four years and loosens the 25% private funding rule for these areas and require stronger metric data from its grant applications and grantees. Also require the board to give additional consideration to projects that would serve low-income households
  • Restructure the board, reducing its size from 16 to 11 by reducing members representing various state government agencies and representing the broadband industry

Description:

The broadband deployment board has been around since 2014 and gets its funding through what is called the high cost support mechanism, which is surcharges on telecom companies (you may see this on your own telecom bill). It awards grants to help bring broadband internet access to communities that do not have it. Currently all grants are required to have at least 25% private funding of the project. But the bill would allow the board to waive that rule for critically underserved areas so long as the board is selecting the grant with the highest amount of private funding for the area.

Critically underserved communities are defined as those that lie outside of a city and lack access to at least one non-satellite provider of broadband service delivered at speeds of at least 10 Mbs download and 1 Mbs upload.

For all applicants, the bill now requires submission of a speed test performed on an existing network and conducted in accordance with federal protocols. Applicants must also submit granular coverage data, which is mapped data in polygon shape reflecting maximum speeds in each area of the map, the technology used to provide the service, and differentiation between residential only, business only, and mixed services. This granular data is exempted from public records law by the bill.

Bill also requires annual reporting from grantees on number of homes and businesses served; number of additional homes and businesses expected to be served within the next year; and speed tiers, advertised rates and services offered through the grant supported network, including those offered to low-income households. After a grant is concluded the grantee must provide third-party certification that the project meets the original design and speeds set forth in the original application.

Additional Information:

The board composition is to change in September. The government members who are being dropped are someone from the office of economic development and international trade, the department of local affairs, and from the public utilities commission. The industry members being dropped collapses a requirement for three different rural providers (two different local exchange carriers and a cable provider) into just a rural provider of any sort. Bill also requires that no more than 5 members of the board can belong to the same political party. Board members are granted a $75 per diem plus expense reimbursement.


Auto-Repeal: September 2025 for 75% underserved requirement

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • It has never been more clear how essential broadband internet access is to life and business in Colorado
  • We still have 13% of the state without access to reliable broadband internet
  • This grant mechanism to build the infrastructure required has been extremely successful in its goal—once the infrastructure is built companies are then happy to provide the service but many are unwilling to build the infrastructure when the potential returns are so low. The bill realigns this program for one last big push to get the rest of the state running

In Further Detail: The pandemic has driven home the fact that broadband internet access is a requirement for full participation in modern life. This would be true without COVID, telehealth, for instance, is critical to rural areas even in normal times but cannot function with broadband internet access. Businesses cannot function with broadband. And it does matter that so much of our life has moved online that just being able to happily experience life in 2021 is pretty hard to do without broadband, with or without the pandemic. 13% of the state remains without this critical service, but in fact we’ve made great progress in part through the exact program this bill is amending. In 2015, it was 41% of the state. The gap the program fills is that by law the infrastructure to build broadband services can only be done by private providers and these providers don’t want to do it for valid businesses reasons. It is not an attractive proposition to build out all of the costly infrastructure for the more meager service returns. But if we can help get that infrastructure built, then the company can happily service it. So why the changes? We have hit a bit of a barrier in progress, with almost none being made in the last year. The 75/25 rule on public/private funds is a barrier in critically underserved areas and we need to make sure the board’s focus is squarely on those areas rather than on areas where broadband access is marginal but exists (there are multitudes of access levels within the 87% that has broadband). Finally, there’s a lot of good practice accountability the bill adds into the system.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The work we are doing is steady progress, COVID may be to blame for some of the lack of progress in the last year, no reason to change anything

Bottom Line:

  • The anti-competitive law that only allows private companies to manage this infrastructure is the root of the issue. If broadband is essential, then we need to have more government control here to ensure everyone gets it—like the mail

Bottom Line:

  • Where you live is a choice. People chose to live in rural areas for various reasons and with that choice comes some downsides, just like living anywhere. We should not be subsidizing that choice to mitigate the downsides with government tax dollars

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1109