Looking for better Wi-Fi solutions
The City of Castle Pines is exploring a ballot initiative that would ask voters this fall whether they want to opt out of a state law that prohibits municipalities and counties from forming a partnership with internet broadband providers.
If the City ends up approving the addition of an initiative to the November ballot and the initiative passes, Castle Pines could then explore a potential public-private partnership with providers of high-speed broadband internet service that could improve Wi-Fi coverage while creating competition and potentially driving down costs for residents, said Camden Bender, communications manager for the City.
Council members are meeting with HOAs and residents to answer questions and informally gather feedback.
There are existing conduits that run along the Lagae Road corridor and a portion of Castle Pines Parkway that would accommodate the broadband backbone. Developers in The Canyons, which is still taking shape east of I-25, have also added conduits.
The Town of Parker has already opted out of the law – created in 2005 by Senate Bill 05-152 – and Douglas County and Lone Tree are considering putting the issue to voters this fall, too.
Michael Penny, city manager for Castle Pines, said there is public support for competition with service providers like Comcast and CenturyLink, but cities and counties are obligated to abide by state law until voters provide permission to opt out.
“It makes a strong statement, and from the standpoint of a community that voted in favor of home rule in 2018, it puts control back into the hands of City Council,” Penny said, referring to the charter that gives the City more capability and flexibility to address local issues.
If approved, public entities could apply for federal funding to cover the costs of adding broadband. In previous cases, opponents have said cities effectively become a business if they offer a commercial service, but Penny said City Council has “zero interest in becoming a broadband company,” and prefers bringing in a third party to run operations if an initiative is approved.
Penny added that the City has heard from people in Castle Pines who work from home and manage large files, and slower internet speeds can affect their ability to do their job. Improved service could also attract new employers and economic development opportunities, according to the City’s website.
If the City does form a public-private partnership in the future, free
Wi-Fi will be added to City parks.
According to the Douglas County website, the removal of funding regulations could provide benefits to the county: “Projects previously considered too costly for implementation can be investigated for feasibility when leveraging grant awards and partnerships.”
For more information on the City’s efforts, visit www.castlepinesco.gov/sb152/.
By Chris Michlewicz