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

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

MEGA

HB21-1289 Funding For Broadband Deployment PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

MEDIUM

MINOR+

HB21-1109 Broadband Board Changes To Expand Broadband Service PASSED AMENDED
HB21-1230 Create User-friendly State Internet Rules Portal PASSED AMENDED

MINOR

HB21-1225 Electronic Recording Technology Board PASSED
HB21-1236 State Information Technology SIGNED INTO LAW AMENDED

TECHNICAL

Senate

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

MEGA

MAJOR

MEDIUM

SB21-159 Prohibit Electronic Transfer Of Records KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE AMENDED

MINOR+

SB21-060 Expand Broadband Service PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)

MINOR

SB21-287 Technology Risk Prevention & Response Fund PASSED

TECHNICAL

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

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Require the state’s broadband deployment board to use at least 75% 60% 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 or 1 Mbs upload or speeds at least equal to half of minimum measureable speed that qualifies as broadband according to the FCC.

For all applicants, the bill now requires that if an applicant submits submission of a statistically representative number of speed test performed on an existing network and it must be 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.

State is to develop maps identifying critically underserved areas in the state and the state is to solicit bids in those areas.

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 does require the wireline provider to now be a rural wireline provider. Bill also requires that no more than 5 members of the board can belong to the same political party and that at least three members belong to each major political party and at least three be unaffiliated. Board members are granted a $75 per diem plus expense reimbursement.


Auto-Repeal: September 2025 for 60% 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

HB21-1225 Electronic Recording Technology Board (Bridges (D), Kirkmeyer (R)) [Bird, (D), Will (R)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None, as the program is just continuing

Goal:

The bill wants to extend an enterprise (so TABOR exempt) program that collects $2 on every filing with a county clerk in the state and puts that money toward helping counties digitize their records. It also wants to expand the mission of that program to include cybersecurity.

Description:

Extends the Electronic Recording Technology Board, which was set to expire in 2022, to September 2026 with sunset review. Also extends the surcharge collected by county clerks on all filing documents that funds the work of the enterprise the technology board oversees through May 2026. This was set to expire at the end of this year. The enterprise uses that surcharge to fund grants to counties to digitize their records.

Bill also expands the use of the grant money to include cybersecurity for those digitized records. Also clarifies that grants for digitization can be used in part to get the public access to the records.

Extends the requirement for the board to report to the legislature each year on the grant program through September 2025 and requires a report on the success of the program by 2026.

Program brings in about $2.6 million a year.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2026 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This program was created in 2016 as a way to help counties that in no way shape or form would have been able to do this on their own. It has been incredibly successful, giving out over $8.9 million in grants to 49 counties. But the work is not done, some counties still need help. And having put these records online, we owe it to the public to make sure they are secure. So the work needs to continue, but since the surcharge expires at the end of this year, that would be impossible without extending it now, in this session, rather that waiting for sunset review next year. And the purpose of sunset review is to examine a program, determine if it still needs to exist, and make any needed changes. Check, check, and check. We don’t necessarily need a report from the department of regulatory agencies.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1225

HB21-1230 Create User-friendly State Internet Rules Portal (Zenzinger (D), Woodward (R)) [Baisley (R), Titone (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $476,912
Fiscal Impact: About $870,000 in year 1, $490,000 in year 2

Goal:

  • Requires the state to create a single online portal search interface for access to all agency rule-making information across all departments of the state that includes a standardized public comment form for feedback on any proposed rule; an interactive, searchable, and downloadable integrated and subscribable hearings calendar; easily comprehensible comparison of common industry terms and corresponding regulatory terms; and more (see Description). Must be running by July 2022 unless unforeseen technical problems occur

Description:

Portal must also: be prominently displayed on the state website; have navigation that is intuitive with improved access to notification subscriptions; leverage search engine optimization to improve its visibility online; ensure searches on the portal yield accurate and quick results and include the forms, templates, and documents required to comply with rules included in the results; leverage machine learning to enable continuous improvement in ease and frequency of searches (algorithm must be transparent and configurable); responsive design compatible with tablets and mobile devices; an API that enables quantifiable research on state rules (this is basically like portals for other programmers to plug-into the website and pull data out); and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Office of information technology is to work with the secretary of state, statewide internet portal authority, department of regulatory agencies, and someone appointed by the governor with experience with digital transformation to create the new portal.

If unforeseen technical problems arise, state is to identify proposed solutions within existing funds (so no new funds), notify the legislature it will not meet the deadline with an explanation of the problem and the solution as well as a revised estimated completion date, and appear before the legislature at its first opportunity after July 2022 to discuss project status.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Rule-making is incredibly important in how our state operates but right now it is extremely hard to navigate the maze of state agency websites for concerned citizens that aren’t lobbyists
  • Creating a centralized and easy to use platform will help bring transparency to this process and increase citizen involvement in our government

In Further Detail: Rule-making is to some extent the secret sauce in our laws. Legislators frequently delegate to appropriate state agencies the authority to make specific rules to carry out the intent of statutes and the latitude to add additional rules not directly conceived in the law to make the law work. But the maze of state websites with varying degrees of information and usability can make it very difficult for interested parties to lend their voice to the process who are not in the business of lobbying the government 24/7. Creating a single, centralized platform that is easy to use and understand can go a long way to increasing concerned citizen involvement in our government.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It might be more cost effective to just mandate public disclosure of rule making hearings (right now it is optional) on the state website with the relevant information included in the notification. Building this new website without requiring disclosure of hearings and without putting some sort of timing requirements on the notice may not bring the transparency we want

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1230

HB21-1236 State Information Technology (Bridges (D), Priola (R)) [Titone (D), Baisley (R)]

From the Joint Technology Committee

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Changes include:

  • Redo the law dealing with interagency data sharing. Requires each state agency to conduct an inventory of its data assets, including sensitivity and classification and provide that inventory to the office of information technology. Agencies must develop a process for monitoring new data and set data retention policies. Each agency must have a plan to implement interagency data sharing protocols for the purpose of minimizing duplication, enhancing security, and increasing the ability of the state to monitor and audit data sharing transactions
  • Changes the section on rules for sharing to focus more on privacy and ensuring minimization of risk of exposure of data when sharing outside the government. Changes the composition of the data advisory board by removing required governor appointees. Board duties are changed to focus more on best practices, templates for data sharing, collecting feedback from state agencies, and creating clear expectations and common language for sharing
  • Allows the chief information officer to delegate a function of the office of information technology to a state agency by agreement if the agency requests it, the agency has the resources and skills to do it, and the function is unique or mission-critical to the agency. This can only be done if it nets cost-savings or improved service delivery. Delegation must be in writing and contain precise definition of what is delegated, standards that must be met, allow for periodic audits by the office of information technology, and a termination date by which it must be renewed or end. Office can terminate agreements it finds are not being executed properly
  • And more in Description

Description:

  • Remove risk assessment requirements from office of information technology for state projects and reorganize and update other roles for the office, placing it as the center point for purchasing technology for other state agencies and overseeing digital applications for state agencies. Risk assessment is moved, in slightly altered form, into state agencies themselves
  • Gives additional tasks to the already existing cybersecurity council, including developing a whole-of-state cybersecurity approach for the state and local governments, which includes coordination and setting of strategic statewide goals, roadmaps, and best practices; and reviewing need for risk assessment for local government systems, providing services to local governments, and proposing necessary changes in laws or rules in this area. Bill requires council to also make recommendations to governor and legislature on the state chief information security officer’s authority and activities with local governments by July 2022. Bill also requires council to ensure coordination of cyber threat information sharing among state bureau of investigation, office of prevention and security, office of information technology, and the FBI’s cybersecurity task force
  • And more in Additional Information

Additional Information:

  • Updates statutory definitions used by the joint technology committee to be consistent with those used by the office of information technology
  • Specify that the joint technology committee oversees any state agency that has been delegated IT functions by the office of information technology. Allows the committee to request information and presentations on data privacy and data security
  • Changes the composition of the cybersecurity council by removing multiple government members, including the executive director of the department of revenue, director of office of economic development, aerospace and defense industry champion in that office, director of the governor’s office of state planning and budgeting, the state controller, and the state auditor, as well as removing representatives of institutions of higher education appointed by the governor. The director of the division of homeland security stays, the secretary of state is added, as well a representative of an organization that represents city governments, and two representatives of county governments (one must be from rural county). Governor maintains ability to appoint anyone else they deem necessary
  • Moves sections that apply to office of information technology into one place and updates some definitions to align with best practices and industry standards
  • Reorganizes and simplifies the statutory duties of the chief information officer
  • Changes reporting requirements for institutions of higher education to submit information security plans from every year to every three years


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Much of this is housecleaning and reorganizing but there are two critical components. The first is moving some responsibilities out of the office of information technology into state agencies while at the same time making that office the state’s point for all IT matters, but allowing that office to delegate IT authority to agencies when appropriate. This gives us a more centralized IT presence in state law as the baseline, which should bring efficiency, cost-savings, and better technology and coordination. The second key point is slightly reorienting our data sharing laws around privacy

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1236

HB21-1289 Funding For Broadband Deployment (Bridges (D), Priola (R)) [Kennedy (D), Baisley (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $75 million in federal stimulus money
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Spend $75 million of state federal stimulus funds on broadband deployment through the state. $35 million through a stimulus grant program to be run by the existing broadband deployment board through their existing grant requirements, $35 million to go to Native American tribes and telehealth needs and be run by the new Colorado Broadband Office the bill creates, and $5 million to local communities for regional interconnectivity. The new broadband office is to serve as the state’s central hub for broadband deployment.

Description:

Creates the Colorado Broadband Office in the office of information technology. The office is to serve as the state’s central broadband deployment coordinating entity and create and implement a plan to encourage cost-effective broadband and increase broadband use in the state. This plan must be submitted to the legislature and the governor and publicly posted online. The office must also provide technical assistance to broadband service government grantees, collect broadband data to create and update service maps throughout the state, encourage public-private partnerships, and seek gifts, grants (including federal grants), and donations.

The bill creates the broadband stimulus grant program which in essence provides extra money to the existing broadband deployment board, which 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 a different bill in this session 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. The bill appropriates $35 million in federal stimulus money to this stimulus grant program which the board is encouraged to prioritize for applicants in the previous five years who were denied a grant due to lack of available money but still qualify for the grant. Any previous grant applicants must include information that any easements needed for the project are in place (so that construction can commence immediately upon grant approval) and proof that the project would provide broadband access to low-income customers at a reduced cost. Grants must conform to the requirements of the federal stimulus act (which has specific broadband infrastructure requirements) which include reliably meeting or exceeding 100 mbs upload and download speeds. In places where this is not practicable due to excessive cost or geography, must have 100 mbs download speed and 20 mbs upload speed and be scalable in the future to the 100 up and down requirement. State must report to the legislature by January 2022 and then every six months after until all of the $35 million is spent. This grant program expires in September 2023.

The bill creates another grant program for the broadband deployment board to consult on (but is run by the department of local affairs), called the interconnectivity grant program. This program awards grants to local governments for projects that: engage in regional planning among multiple local governments to identify needs, determine optimal infrastructure configurations, and identify public-private partnerships; or provide or enhance the network connection between communities. This includes connections between what the bill calls community anchor institutions, which are schools, libraries, hospitals, law enforcement and other public safety organizations, and support organizations that facilitate greater broadband use in the community. Any non-Native American tribe grantee cannot use the funds for last mile infrastructure (hooking up end users). Grants must conform to the requirements of the federal stimulus act (which has specific broadband infrastructure requirements) which include reliably meeting or exceeding 100 mbs upload and download speeds. In places where this is not practicable due to excessive cost or geography, must have 100 mbs download speed and 20 mbs upload speed and be scalable in the future to the 100 up and down requirement.The bill appropriates $5 million in federal stimulus money for this program. State must report to the legislature by January 2022 and then every six months thereafter so long as the program has awarded a grant in that timeframe. This program does not expire.

The bill also creates the digital inclusion grant program which although it is given broader directives of increasing broadband usage, speed, reliability, and affordability throughout the state, is appropriated $20 million specifically for use by Native American tribes only for both deploying broadband infrastructure on tribal lands and providing devices, and $15 million to one or more providers of telehealth services. All money must be spent in the next year. All $35 million is federal stimulus money. The broadband office is to run this program and is encouraged to consult with the state’s office of economic development, departments of local affairs, regulatory agencies, and transportation, and any other relevant agencies, organizations, or individuals with broadband expertise. Grants that go to non-Native American tribes cannot be used for last mile infrastructure (hooking up end users). Grants must conform to the requirements of the federal stimulus act (which has specific broadband infrastructure requirements) which include reliably meeting or exceeding 100 mbs upload and download speeds. In places where this is not practicable due to excessive cost or geography, must have 100 mbs download speed and 20 mbs upload speed and be scalable in the future to the 100 up and down requirement. State must report to legislature by January 2022 and then every six months after if they distribute any other grants after January 2022. The program does not expire.

The plan created by the broadband office must consider partnerships between communities, local governments, Native American tribes, non-profits, electric utilities (including coops), rural telecommunications providers, and public and private entities; funding opportunities that allow for coordination of public funding (including federal funding) with private funding; barriers to deployment, adoption, and utilization of broadband including affordability; and statewide goals for broadband, including if service definitions (like how fast the connection is) need to be updated to keep up with evolving technology.

The office’s director is appointed by the state’s chief information officer and the director may hire staff as needed.

The office of information technology (which houses the new broadband office) must also enter into an enterprise agreement with a third-party vendor to develop and implement a strategic plan to expand and improve digital access to government services through broadband. Vendor must consult with government agencies, state residents, groups representing marginalized communities, statewide Internet portal authority, and local government officials. Report due to legislature by July 2022 on plan and implementation.

Additional Information:

For each of the three grant programs, the reporting requirements are very similar. A description of each grant award, including progress made and estimated completion time, map of the area to be served, percentage of customers who activated broadband through the project and the speeds available to them, type of technology used for the project, and number of households, community anchor institutions, municipalities, and counties served by the project; number of applicants to the grant program, amount request by each applicant, number of grants awarded, and amount of each grant; and amount of money expended from the fund and the amount left.


Auto-Repeal: September 2023 for stimulus grant program

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
  • Nationwide barely 60% of people on tribal lands even have access to broadband and even fewer can use it: more than 30% of Native households rely on cellphones for all Internet access
  • Telehealth has become a critical aspect of health care in the state, particularly in rural areas
  • We cannot build out most of this infrastructure without private partners but they don’t want to do it for valid business reasons (but they are happy to serve homes if the infrastructure is there). That’s where all of these grant programs come in
  • We need the centralized hub this bill creates rather than essentially volunteer boards for this essential service and in the future we may need to upgrade infrastructure to keep up with technology

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 provides the stimulus grant fund to. 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. But we also recognize that there are two critical areas of additional need here. The first is Native American tribal lands. Nationwide, barely 60% of people on tribal lands have access to broadband (compare that to our 87% statewide figure), and that overstates the case because access doesn’t mean affordable access or even having the computers to use the Internet. More than 30% of Native households rely on cellphones for all of their Internet access, according to a 2019 survey. So the bill sets aside a large amount of money to improve infrastructure and end user ability to actually access that infrastructure without the funding requirements of the existing broadband grant program (or need to compete with other areas of the state). And then there is telehealth, which of course has become a necessity in the pandemic but is here to stay, particularly in rural areas of the state. Finally, the bill recognizes that we can gain some efficiencies through interconnectivity of local areas together, and awards a smaller amount of grants to that purpose. As for the creation of the broadband office and accumulation of resources there, a critical need like this needs a central hub and we frankly don’t have that right now. The broadband deployment board serves its function, but its function is narrow and in essence volunteer work. That doesn’t cut it for a critical service need, in particular because we have likely already swept up the low-hanging fruit when it comes to connecting the state. The remaining 13% is likely to be the hardest. And then we have to consider the future. What is considered acceptable service right now may be obsolete in 10 years and then we have to upgrade all of this infrastructure. So in all, spending this large amount of state federal stimulus money is a great investment in the future of our state.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have an existing fund stream for grants for the broadband board for basically the exact purpose of this bill, which awards around $8 million a year. We’ve seen steady progress from this work to get up to that 87% mark and lack of progress in the last year may be more due to COVID than anything else
  • So we may be able to just leave things alone and get near our 100% goal without this massive funding injection and focus more on Native American tribal needs for end users with a smaller amount of money
  • This is important because $75 million is a big chunk of the state stimulus to spend and many other critical areas aren’t getting this much: our state water plan, relief programs for the unemployed and businesses, and mental and behavioral health needs. Spending more like $30 million here (which is still a huge number) and spreading the other $45 million around in other places may be a better use of our state stimulus money

In Further Detail: The broadband board we are giving $35 million to here has an existing fund stream (it’s the high cost support mechanism surcharge on your phone bill). Since 2016 it has awarded $41 million in grants thanks to that funding mechanism, around $8 million a year. The work we are doing has seen steady progress, COVID may be to blame for some of the lack of progress in the last year. So it is premature to think we are anywhere near stuck at the 87% mark and that simply leaving the program to keep working as it is (with perhaps a few tweaks as another bill in this session does) would not bring us near that 100% goal within a year or two simply if we just leave things alone. That means no new state office (and its associated expenses), no new requirement to create new broadband plans, and perhaps not needing to spend quite this much on Native American tribal needs and instead focus on the end user computing needs. Telehealth is much the same, if we build the infrastructure in the area, then we don’t need to worry specifically about telehealth. The reason this is important is that we are spending a massive amount of our state stimulus funds in this one bill, 9%. One of the highest numbers of any single area except perhaps for transportation. And we’ve seen in many of the other state stimulus bills the idea that this is great, but really we could use some extra money here. The state water plan, relief programs for unemployed and businesses, mental and behavioral health capacity, all of these areas are getting state stimulus funds and for pretty much each one of these bills if you go look at the Arguments Against section you will see a complaint that not enough money is being spent. So instead of spending $75 million on broadband deployment, what if we spent $30 million, targeted quite a bit still at Native American tribes, and took the other $45 and spread it around a bit more?


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 HB21-1289

SB21-060 Expand Broadband Service (Donovan (D)) [Roberts (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $298,000
Fiscal Impact: About $300,000 a year to run the program, none for the reimbursement in the sense that the board was going to spend this money one way or another on broadband

Goal:

  • Create a reimbursement program for up to $600 per year for eligible Coloradans to pay for ½ of their broadband access. To be eligible, people must have at least one child enrolled in K-12 eligible for free or reduced lunches or have an income that is not higher than either 200% of the federal poverty line or 30% 80% of the area’s median income (whichever is highest) or be located in a critically underserved area of the state and only have broadband access through satellite. State is to run program out of existing broadband development board by contracting with a third-party non-profit that has an existing platform or service for administering grant money and experience in income-qualified utility grant programs and fund it through the existing high cost support mechanism fee. Program only runs if the state can find a non-profit. State is allowed, in consultation with the non-profit, to use alternative mechanisms for payment if it finds reimbursement is not cost-effective. Maximum of $250,000 $5 million a year spent on the program, with up to $500,000 to be used for adminstrative costs. This reduces the overall broadband grant fund from $15 million to $10 million (but of course lots of stimulus money is being pumped into broadband in other bills)
  • Board is to reserve at least 50% of the high cost support mechanism fee for grants for critically undeserved communities. State is to create maps to identify these areas, including areas that could get federal funding and any existing broadband infrastructure or excess capacity the state could use. Board must strive for geographic diversity in awarding grants Makes the broadband board the receiving point and distribution point for any federal stimulus money related to broadband, which the board can distribute without having to stay within the state requirements so long as it meets federal requirements
  • Bill changes the composition of the board by reducing its size from 16 to 9, one of whom is now a non-voting member, by dropping representatives of the broadband industry and all of the representatives from state agencies. The non-voting member is to be from the office of information technology

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.

Critically underserved is defined as: a household or area that lacks access to at least one non-satellite provider of broadband service delivered at measurable speeds of at least 10 mbs downstream and 1 mbs upstream. Bill also changes the definition of broadband network from at least 10 mbs downstream and 1 mbs upstream to 25 and 3, respectively.

Requires public utilities commission to set rule speed testing protocols in consultation with the board, to guide the grant program. Every two years, starting in September 2023, the commission must consult with the board and decide if it needs to change upstream or downstream speed definitions, the definition of critically undeserved areas, or the reimbursement program for individuals this bill creates, including eligibility and maximum amount of reimbursement.

Additional Information:

Bill requires the department of local affairs, which has its own grant program that covers similar territory, to submit any of its grants requests to the broadband board to avoid duplication of effort.

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 number of representatives of the broadband industry drops from seven to three and loses a lot of the specificity of current requirements. New requirement is just that they are selected in a manner that ensures geographic, political, and industry diversity. The bill keeps the same number of local government appointees but again loses the specificity of current requirements and just requires they are from geographically diverse areas. The board also used to have members appointed by the legislature, under the bill all would be appointed by governor.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

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
  • It’s time to start thinking about subsidizing this critical service, especially in times of COVID, for the poorest Coloradans

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. 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). The reimbursement part of this bill is a simple acknowledgement of the necessity for broadband in life today, especially someone with a kid in school right now, and that it can be expensive for the poorest Coloradans. The bill does not create any new funding streams, so we will only be dealing with the funds that exist already in this program. The sticker shock number of the full eligible population will not happen.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This directly conflicts with HB1109 which is already moving through the House, which directs more spending on grants, also restructures board, and contains no reimbursement program
  • The reimbursement program itself either won’t help too many people, so the lack of prioritization will be strongly felt, or could cost around $156 million a year to implement

In Further Detail:

This and HB1109 are directly in conflict, both require certain amounts of money to go to critically underserved areas but HB1109 requires 60%, not 50% as in this bill, and both restructure the board. But this bill has the vaguely defined reimbursement plan, which contains no prioritization and no requirement for the state to publicize its existence to Coloradans. That may be for the best, since the fiscal note estimates 260,000 households may be eligible, which adds up to $156 million to fund reimbursement for everyone. Let’s be generous and say half those folks won’t need the full $600, so the average need per person would come in more around $450. Still $117 million.


Bottom Line:

  • We are making steady progress already, COVID may be to blame for some of the lack of progress last year, so no need to make any changes to this program

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 SB21-060

SB21-159 Prohibit Electronic Transfer Of Records (Sonnenberg (R)) [Pelton (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet complete enough to say but definitely negative

Goal:

  • Bar the state from selling information in driver’s license and vehicle registration applications to users and vendors who then resell the information. State must instead provide access to individuals records as required.

Description:

Current fees for individual record access are $9 for driver records and $2.20 for title and registration. Authorized users for accessing these records include: any government agency or private person acting on a government agency’s behalf in carrying out official functions, private businesses verifying the accuracy of personal information or seeking to obtain correct information to prevent fraud or pursue legal remedies, for statistical research, in connection with insurance claims, to provide notice of towed vehicles, maintaining a federal organ tissue donor registry, and more. On average 77 million records are inspected each year.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Enough of our personal data is out there as it is, we don’t need the state trying to make an extra buck or two reselling our data to private companies and we certainly don’t need those companies making money themselves off of this information

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We already have strict regulation in place to govern selling information out of this database and the database is used for quite a bit of interagency work, including child support delinquency, reuniting with lost property, in civil court claims, and much more. Even as amended it is not clear that it would allow that work to continue

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-159

SB21-287 Technology Risk Prevention & Response Fund (Moreno (D), Rankin (R)) [McCluskie (D), Titone (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: $2 million
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Create a fund that can be used for information technology emergencies or otherwise potentially unforeseen events occurring outside the regular budget cycle. Also double the amount of money departments can pass to each other outside the budgetary process from $5 to $10 million.

Description:

Creates the Technology Risk Prevention and Response fund, which can be used for one-time costs associated with ensuring compliance with state technology standards and policies, to prevent risk from technology that is near failure or no longer supported or maintained or part of an outstanding state audit recommendation or a security risk, or in an emergency. Emergencies are defined as an immediate need to protect health and safety, the immediate functioning of essential state services, or the security or integrity of the state’s data. The state can only spend ½ of what is in the fund each year.

State must report to the legislature every three months on how the fund is being used, including a description of how money meets the criteria in the bill for spending and a financial analysis of the fund’s solvency. The bill appropriates $2 million to the fund. It also increases the amount of money departments can transfer to each other from $5 million to $10 million.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The budgeting process is a slow one that is not really made for emergency or unexpected situations. Unfortunately life in information technology is full of those, so it makes sense to have some reserve money we can tap for just these situations. It also makes sense to raise the cap on money departments can pass to each other outside the budgeting process, for pretty much the same reasons. $10 million is a tiny amount of our $30+ billion state budget and it in no way evades the legislature’s role as the creator of the budget in any meaningful way

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The definitions for uses of this fund are actually pretty broad—the state standards and audit provisions in particular aren’t really so much about emergencies as they are about potential poor planning. So if we are going to have a reserve fund, we have to ensure it doesn’t get used as a slush fund to fund projects that go over budget or don’t plan properly. The same pretty much goes for passing money among departments outside the budgetary process. Poor administration shouldn’t receive get out of jail free cards

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-287