Broadband Takes Center Stage as the Legislative Session Kicks Off
The Colorado General Assembly was gaveled into session last Wednesday for its 2018 legislative session. The opening week speeches tackled a slate of issues, where much of the tech discussion centered on broadband.
Delivering his final State of the State address, Gov. Hickenlooper said, “We need legislation and funds to ensure full broadband buildout in rural areas.”
Senate President Kevin Grantham also highlighted the importance of broadband: “We have an opportunity to advance the education, economic growth and healthcare systems of Colorado by ensuring that every corner of our state is effectively connected to the internet. We have a duty to ensure that internet service providers can provide fast internet connections to every household in Colorado. Where our state has neglected to invest previously, we must prioritize, and where our state government has gotten in the way, we need to reign it in.”
Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman joined this call to expand broadband saying, “Let’s make sure every Coloradan has access to high-speed broadband internet — an absolute necessity for modern life and business. Far too many rural and mountain communities across Colorado remain isolated from the growing opportunities offered by broadband services. Many students in schools across Colorado are falling behind because of the lack of access to reliable internet. Doctors and nurses and physician assistants cannot serve people who live far from their offices through telemedicine without high-speed internet. Ranchers, farmers and exciting startup programs throughout rural Colorado remain at a disadvantage.” House Speaker Duran also joined her fellow leaders in calling for expanded broadband across the state.
The governor touched on programs to reinvigorate small and rural communities including the ten-million-dollar Rural Venture Fund to focus equity investment and access to capital in rural parts of the state, and Startup Colorado, which is a five-year initiative to organize and convene startups around the state, supported by Brad Feld and other top entrepreneurial leaders. He also proclaimed, “We’re expanding our Blueprint and Rural Jumpstart economic development programs. Maybe we need to expand the Jumpstart incentive to seven years? We’re backstopping loans for rural markets that allow businesses and startups to get more access to capital. Maybe we should do more?”
The Governor also focused on education saying, “We re-convened the Education Leadership Council to build a long-term vision and path forward. It’s nonpartisan and comprehensive, with a focus on the building blocks of a child’s success from early childhood to workforce and beyond.” Part of that vision will need to include 21st Century skills, where the Governor also mentioned, “…we’re working with the state board of education to expose more students to coding in middle and high school. Why not give those schools with a foreign language requirement the choice to offer coding as an alternative language?” Another education component mentioned was training and apprenticeships, including CareerWise Colorado and the need to connect companies, talent, K-12 schools, community colleges and training centers.
On transportation, the Governor stated the need for more funding and highlighted innovative solutions and partnerships the state has made including, “…with Panasonic to see how we can link vehicles with smart highways and save lives. Futuristic transportation companies like Arrivo, Otto, and Hyperloop One are making Colorado a testing ground.”
In the months ahead, we will see many bills touching on tech issues important to you and the tech community. We will be following these and bringing them to your attention so that you know what is happening and allow you to engage on issues important to you. Be sure to follow our Capitol updates and dive into our Advocacy Center to find the latest on bills we are monitoring.