Montezuma County has allocated $65,000 towards a feasibility study on improving Internet service.
Officials contracted with the company Optimum Fiber Solutions to study infrastructure needs and Internet demands in the county, including on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation.
“They will give us a preliminary design and tell us how many potential customers are in need of broadband service,” said Jim McClain, information technology manager for the county.
Montezuma County is only exploring the possibilities of improving Internet service as a way to boost the local business economy into the future.
But if officials decide to make the investment, there is a legal hurdle they must overcome first.
SB 152, a Colorado law passed in 2005, prohibits governments from building Internet infrastructure to serve beyond their local government network. It is intended to prevent governments from competing with private industry.
But communities across the state, including Durango and La Plata County, have voted to opt out of SB 152 so they can upgrade the critical infrastructure, then provide companies a competitive, open-access network to deliver improved Internet services.
Montezuma County plans to do the same, and will ask voters for permission to opt out of SB 152.
The county would not be providing Internet service to the public, McClain said.
“Opting out unties our hands to improve infrastructure, if that is what we decide is needed,” he said. “It’s like we build the road, and allow trucks to take goods down the road. Private companies would be responsible for providing the broadband and Internet services.”