Golden to look at possibility of launching citywide broadband utility through public private partnership

Two companies have approached city about partnering

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/29/21

Nearly five years after Golden residents voted to opt the city out of a Colorado law that barred city governments from creating their own municipal internet service, the city council wants staff to …

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Golden to look at possibility of launching citywide broadband utility through public private partnership

Two companies have approached city about partnering

Posted

Nearly five years after Golden residents voted to opt the city out of a Colorado law that barred city governments from creating their own municipal internet service, the city council wants staff to look at what it would take for Golden to launch its own service.

During an Aug. 24 council study session, Golden's Chief Innovation and Technology Officer Jiles McCoy explained that the city has recently been approached by two companies that expressed interest in partnering with the city to provide a citywide internet utility.

One of those companies, ITC, told the city it would be interested in the city paying for about 10-15% of the cost of constructing the infrastructure needed to provide citywide internet service with the city then able to take in a corresponding portion of the revenues generated by the enterprise on the back end.

However, ITC also told the city it would be open to paying for the full cost of building the infrastructure but then would keep all the revenue. The second company, Nelnet, has not provided the city with information about the type of partnership it would be seeking.

The purpose of the study session, McCoy said, was to get the council's input on whether to continue with those discussions.

“The question we have for you today is is this something you want us to do a deep into and work out all the financials and understand what kind of options we would have to subsidize potentially broadband for less affluent individuals and that kind of thing,” he said.

The council's answer was a unanimous yes, with all members saying they wanted to learn more about how a potential partnership would work and benefit Golden.


Councilman Paul Haseman said being able to offer high-speed, affordable broadband internet could be key to ensuring Golden's longterm economic competitiveness.

“When it comes to who wants to live in Golden and what companies want to come to Golden, having a first-rate system for high speed internet would be an attractive element,” saids

Councilman Casey Brown brought up an article he had recently read that explained that cable monopolies are increasing their dominance of the broadband market, which is leading to broadband rates that are increasing faster in the US then in any other country.

“I think the need for us to do this kind of stuff is there, we all know it's really important and the pandemic has made us realize even more how important broadband is,” he said. “…But I do think the devil is in the details.”

Mayor Laura Weinberg said she was also interested in exploring such a partnership but has concerns about “having a private entity own our infrastructure.”

“I think that's where we need to know what a public private partnership would be doing,” she said. “If it's building the infrastructure and owning it I am less on that favor then I am on them just being the service provider.”

There was also some discussion of whether Golden could fund and create its own municipal broadband entity without partnering with a private partner. That would allow the city maintain full control over not only any broadband infrastructure but the entire operation, including pricing for consumers.

However, city manager Jason Slowinski said that the cost of building a full broadband network would likely cost $30 to $40 million, which would be cost prohibitive for the city.

“Notwithstanding $40 million falling from the sky, we can't afford to go out and build a broadband network,” he said.

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