Bills would improve telecommunications

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers will begin debating a package of bills this week designed to upgrade the state’s telecommunications laws and bring broadband to rural parts of the state.

A bipartisan group of legislators, including Montrose Republican Don Coram, introduced five measures last week related to the issue, including the creation a special fund to pay for broadband projects in hard-to-serve areas of the state, and offering tax credits for telecommunications companies that invest in expanding their networks.

The lawmakers say the time has long passed to modernize the state’s telecommunications laws, saying they haven’t been updated in more than two decades, when the Internet and cell phone services were in their infancy.

“This legislation will create more opportunity for private investment in Colorado by modernizing regulations and repealing a 1995 telecommunications law that was passed well before widespread adoption of the Internet and wireless communications,” said Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, who’s a prime cosponsor on all five bills. “It will also create a broadband fund that will allow high-cost and underserved areas of our state to receive the benefits of today’s technological advances.”

The measures include:

■ HB1327: Provides sales and use tax exemptions for carriers that build the needed infrastructure to bring broadband services to rural parts of the state.

■ HB1328: Creates a broadband fund out of an existing high-cost support mechanism fee that all phone users pay to help finance some of that infrastructure.

■ HB1329: Deregulates some aspects of voice-over-Internet protocols for such services as Skype and Google Voice.

■ HB1330: Updates telecommunications definitions that reflect modern terminology.

■ HB1331: Deregulates some existing laws dealing with land lines, and matches terms used by the Federal Communications Commission.

Several sponsors of the measures said lawmakers spent months — in some cases, years — working with the telecommunications industry to encourage them to help bring Internet services to hard-to-reach areas of the state as a way to boost their economies, improve public education and bring tele-medicine to the elderly.

“We know there’s some parts of Colorado where small businesses have wanted to make their living and have been unable to go to those small communities,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk. “They’ve had to turn down the opportunity to have their business in places like Montrose because they didn’t have adequate high-speed Internet services in that area.”

The first of the measures will be heard in the House Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday.


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