CMC seeks voters’ OK to be Internet provider | PostIndependent.com

CMC seeks voters’ OK to be Internet provider

A decade ago, Colorado Senate Bill 152 allowed exclusivity for Internet providers in an effort to bring broadband to the rural parts of the state.

A provision of the bill, however, allows municipal organizations the chance to bypass the monopoly and become their own providers, and Colorado Mountain College is one such entity going to the voters for that authority this fall.

"The college has no immediate plans to become an Internet provider," CMC chief operations officer Matt Gianneschi said. "We brought this to the trustees as an opportunity to at least have the option."

If voters pass ballot initiative 4D, CMC will be exempt from SB 152, allowing it to act as its leaders see fit for future on- and off-campus Internet needs. In theory, the school could follow in Longmont's footsteps and go into competition with for-profit providers throughout its service area, but Gianneschi said that's not what leaders have in mind.

"We are not in the business of creating a profit center within the nonprofit," he said. "At this point, we're just looking ahead at the potential needs of our college."

That could mean bypassing a monopoly to save money somewhere down the road, or actually building new infrastructure to increase speed and reliability on campus.

According to Jim English, director of networks for CMC and member of the Club20 telecommunications committee, many new students bring half a dozen or more Internet-ready devices with them to college. That puts a strain on bandwidth, particularly in high-density residential halls.

Connectivity for cell phones and gaming devices aside, the school has practical reasons to worry about maintaining a good connection.

"As an educational institution, we continue to see increased demands for online learning," English said. "Where we live is also very appealing for people to move and telecommute, and without broadband that can't happen."

The initiative doesn't come with any cost to the voters, but such measures have been criticized by industry in the past.

In a statement, Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons stopped short of explicitly opposing the move.

"The vast majority of Colorado communities that have pursued an override of SB 152 are not located in Comcast's footprint," she wrote. "In communities where Comcast does provide service, we would continue to support and encourage policies that encourage broadband deployment and fair competition, and Comcast welcomes municipal partners who work with broadband providers to encourage private investment by removing barriers to investment, accelerating and streamlining local permitting processes, and avoiding onerous taxes."