Colorado - Oppose HB18-1312

April 2, 2018

Dear Legislator,

On behalf of the 36,298 members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) in Colorado, I urge you to oppose HB18-1312.  This legislation would create uncertainty for internet service providers (ISPs), curtail broadband deployment in underserved areas, and waste tax dollars while positioning Colorado for a likely loss in court.

Encouraging the deployment of new infrastructure to bring high speed communications across the state of Colorado is key to bridging the digital divide.  HB18-1312 was introduced as a response to the December 14, 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which restored the internet’s proper classification as an information service, as was intended in the bipartisan 1996 Telecommunications Act.  It was under this light-touch regulation that the internet thrived and became one of the greatest innovations in history, creating millions of high-paying jobs and revolutionizing the world of commerce.  From 2015 to 2017, unfortunately, the FCC imposed on ISPs burdensome net neutrality regulations originally meant for a landline telephone monopoly in 1934.  These regulations were particularly damaging to providers serving rural areas, including many in Colorado. 

Because it is sometimes unprofitable for ISPs to deploy broadband in rural areas, the state of Colorado maintains the high cost support mechanism, which provides funds for broadband deployment in these locations.  HB18-1312 would disqualify an ISP from receiving any funding through the high cost support mechanism or any other state source unless the provider complies with the same sort of burdensome net neutrality rules that were rejected by the FCC last year.  The legislation would also have a retroactive effect of requiring ISPs already receiving high cost funding from the state to comply with these new rules.  Not only would this legislation discourage providers from continuing and expanding broadband deployment in underserved areas if it was enacted, but it also would likely be subjected to a court challenge and be struck down as unconstitutional, since the internet is not contained within a single state’s boundaries and therefore the participants in the internet ecosystem, including ISPs, can be regulated only by the federal government under the Commerce Clause, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.  Taxpayers in Colorado would foot the bill for the state’s loss in court.

Returning to the misguided regulations of net neutrality would be bad enough, but bullying ISPs by threatening to take away funds for broadband deployment unless they complied with those regulations would add insult to injury, leave rural Coloradans out to dry, and exacerbate the digital divide.

Rather than discouraging high speed broadband deployment across the state, Colorado should develop an environment that welcomes new businesses, especially to underserved areas.  HB18-1312 does not achieve that goal.  Again, I strongly urge you to oppose HB18-1312.

Sincerely,

Thomas Schatz

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