It's déja vu all over again

By Ed Marston


Dear Editor:

If Yogi Berra were still with us, he would describe the Delta County and town ballot issues on Internet and cable TV service as "Déjà vu all over again."

It's "all over again" because Delta County fought and won a similar fight when it established Delta-Montrose Electric Association to provide rural parts of the two counties with electricity. Until 1938, our counties were dark outside of the towns. There wasn't enough profit to convince the investor-owned utilities to string lines to rural places. Now, 77 years later, the telecommunication companies are refusing to provide small towns and rural areas with fast, inexpensive Internet and cable TV service. Once again, there isn't enough money in the sticks.

Fortunately, units of government need fast Internet. And because we are an underserved rural area, there are various grants to help our local governments connect to fast Internet. You can't teach children, provide for public safety, or run libraries and hospitals without fast Internet. In addition, bundles of fiber optic strands are so cheap that governments lay down many more fiber optic strands than they need without additional cost.

Those extra strands then become (almost) available for renting to private Internet service providers. Those ISPs are the local businesses that will provide us with fast Internet.

I write "almost" because in 2005, the Colorado Legislature listened to Big Telecom and passed SB 152. It forbids local government from renting its spare fibers without a vote of the people. Big Telecom does not intend to serve us. But it does not want anyone else serving us either. The pokey Internet speeds it provides us with on the copper telephone lines they've owned forever are very profitable. Slow to us; profitable to them.

So Delta County residents must jump through this ballot hoop as a step toward inexpensive Internet service. If it passes, we will become eligible for grants to lay more fiber, connect to fiber that's already been strung, and so on.

On your November ballot, you will be asked to exempt the county or your town from SB152, called Ballot Question 1A, Colorado Revised Statute Title 29, article 27. The ballot measures all start: "Without increasing taxes, shall the citizens of..."

Let's vote yes, the way residents of Delta County in 1938 supported rural electricity.

Ed Marston
Paonia