Legislators make pitch for rural broadband

It could be better to devote more money to extending broadband to the farthest reaches of Colorado, rather than directing billions of dollars to road projects that don’t actually improve roads, state Rep. Yeulin Willett said Tuesday.

Willett and Rep. Dan Thurlow, both Grand Junction Republicans, spoke to the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday about the just-ended legislative session and what the future might hold.

State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, didn’t attend.

Transportation is undergoing a revolution with the advent of driverless cars and other modes of transportation that could improve bottlenecks on the Front Range, Willett said. In the meantime, government funding intended to improve roads is going to parks and murals in those same traffic-clogged areas, Willett said.

“I’d rather see the money spent on rural broadband,” he said.

Transportation, however, is likely to dominate the next legislative session, as well as funding for higher education.

Tuition now accounts for more than half of the revenue to higher education in Colorado and while institutions have thrived, students have piled up debt, Thurlow said. The Legislature is likely to consider ways of reducing costs to students, he said.

The two split on the fate of the Economic Development Commission, with Thurlow voting to extend its life and Willett opposing it.

Economic development efforts can help statewide, Thurlow said. That same money, however, could be better used to expand broadband, Willett said.


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