Bipartisan infrastructure law sends $826 to Colorado for broadband

Colorado’s goal of 99% access to high-speed internet will get an $826 million boost from the federal bipartisan infrastructure law, officials announced Monday.

Colorado’s share comes from some $42.5 billion being sent to the states and territories in what officials are touting as the largest federal investment in broadband in the country’s history.

“This exciting federal support builds upon our work to make sure Coloradans can access high-speed, reliable internet,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Here in Colorado, we continue to make bold progress towards our goal of connecting 99% of Colorado households to affordable, high-speed broadband by 2027 and we welcome the needed federal support to help connect more Coloradans.”

About 90% of Colorado households already have access to high-speed internet, defined as download speeds of 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 megabits per second, according to the Colorado Broadband Office. That leaves about 191,000 households without access to the technology.

Most underserved counties are in rural, mountainous parts of the state. Fourteen of the 16 counties where less than half of the households have access to high-speed broadband have a population of less than 10,000 people, according to the most recent census. The other two, Park and Teller counties, have fewer than 25,000 residents.

Colorado’s money will be prioritized toward residents without access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet, Polis spokesperson Melissa Dworkin said. It will also go to digital literacy, workforce development, broadband deployment, digital equity initiatives, and connecting local hubs like libraries and community centers.

Polis signed an executive order in February 2022 ordering the Colorado Broadband Office to develop a plan to connect 99% of households to high-speed broadband by 2027. State officials have been planning for the influx in federal money for months.

Local governments have likewise been working to turbocharge the vital infrastructure. More than 120 municipalities have voted to opt out of a state law prohibiting local governments from providing or investing in local broadband and many rolling out fiber-optic lines that can deliver speeds 10 times greater than the usual measure of high-speed broadband.

The federal money, formally dubbed the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, followed an effort credited to Sen. Michael Bennet ahead of his successful reelection. The bipartisan infrastructure law incorporated a bipartisan bill he helped lead two years ago.

“It is unacceptable that millions of Americans — disproportionately from rural areas, low-income neighborhoods, and communities of color — still lack access to the internet,” Bennet said in a statement. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included historic broadband funding to close the digital divide and help every family participate in the 21st-century economy. There is no state more prepared than Colorado to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity and bring every family, small business, and community online.”

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