Senate Bill 152 of 2005 restricted Counties and Municipalities from providing cable TV and telecommunication networks. But there was an opt-out provision if approved by the relevant voters. That will be the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot this year.

Question: Whether to authorize Montezuma County to provide “Advanced Service”, “Telecommunication Service” and “Cable Television Service” to opt out of Senate Bill 152?

This may seem almost innocuous at first glance, but consider the deeper ramifications if this is approved by the citizens of Montezuma County.

Before going too deep into this, it is important to know that the proposal for a fiber optic network in Montezuma County is a work in progress.

POLICY                        Two statements have been made which are very troubling. One was that a board of some fashion would have to be formed in order to CONTROL the network. The other was that this would be for the COMMON GOOD. Both ideas are straight out of socialist and communist thinking. There is also the notion that the internet over fiber optics should be a ‘necessary public utility’. WHY? If that is so, then the electricity to make it work must also come under County control.

EXAMPLE:        The example for this fiber proposal is Meeker, CO. We have been told that this is FTTH—fiber to the home. Not only did Meeker not wire ‘to the home’, they did not even wire some neighborhoods. Nor did the Montezuma County preliminary design. Comparing a town the size of Meeker to a County the size of Montezuma stretches credulity. They also required two different permanent easements and access forfeitures to be a recorded encumbrance on the property. And the preferred provider, Cimmaron, is the most expensive.

COST:              Since the policies and design are still being worked out, the public statements that this would cost $39 million cannot be counted on. And what do we know about cost estimates for such government projects? Furthermore, what do we also know about a tax being allowed to expire?

ECONOMIC IMPACT:              Any projected boon to the economic picture of the County is pure guesswork, ‘analyzed’ by the proponents of this plan. But we can make reasonable assumptions as to the negative results. It will have to be paid for some way. Current consideration is a 1% additional sales tax. The approximate median income is $40000.00. Half of us make less than that. That means any tax increase would have the most negative impact on those folks and families least able to afford it. In order to connect to the network, the average cost per household is about $1600.00. The engineer at the BOCC meeting 3 weeks ago estimated $30.00 a foot from your house to the hub. Add to this about $600.00 for the terminal equipment. The households at the lower end of our economy could not afford this. And in order to fully utilize the benefits of fiber optic transmission, the latest in computer technology would also have to be purchased. Folks using their old WIN XP will be disappointed that the promises made do not accrue. What this means in practical terms is that the folks on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder—those who can least afford the tax and expense– will be subsidizing those at the upper end who can afford the expense.

PRIVATE INDUSTRY:                Why has this not been done by ATT, Verizon, BAJA, or CenturyLink? Because it is a loser. There will not be enough connections to pay for the expense. The estimate is a 40% connection rate. Doing some math—26000+ population, divided by four, multiplied by 40% equals about 2600 potential subscribers. I think this is very high. By the way, if you are a customer of Empire Electric, you have already paid for a failed fiber optic network called FastTrack.

BOTTOM LINE:                                    Many folks like to live in the hinterlands for their own various reasons. They will pay to have water, telephone, and electricity, true necessities, extended to their property. Why should the taxpaying public subsidize their desire to have what is clearly not a necessity? So they can play games or download movies? And for the very small number that ‘needs’ it for their home-based business, there are office spaces available in the towns where high-speed internet exists. Furthermore, except for a few isolated places, access to the internet is already provided and being upgraded over the air through ATT and Verizon. Your Smartphone can be tethered to your computer and it works quite nicely.

If the ballot proposal is not agreed to, then these issues will not occur. VOTE NO on the opt-out of SB 152 and encourage all in your circle of influence to do the same.