What’s blocking more broadband? The humble utility pole

High-speed internet for every home and business in this country has been a challenge for the past 20 years with businesses on both sides of the aisle struggling – until now. Thanks to the incredible work of the Biden Administration and leaders like US Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, Colorado and the rest of America have a historic opportunity to close its digital sector once and for all.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Package provides $65 billion to connect the remaining 6% of American homes without access to high-speed Internet, including some of Colorado’s most rural and remote areas. With more than 6% (approximately 350,000 residents) of Coloradans without access to broadband according to BroadbandNow, it is critical that we ensure that a portion of this historic investment is used for federal broadband funding to connect underserved Coloradans.

As a teacher and member of the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education, I have seen first-hand the effects of the pandemic on learning for students in our state. While some students are parents or guardians who can stay at home with their children, helping them navigate online and study at home, most parents need to continue to work in order to pay their rent or mortgages and leave food. on the table for their families, leaving them in a dilemma to work as distance learning assistants and providers for their families.

Also, there are many families who do not have access to broadband internet. Because of this, students are forced to go to school parking lots and connect to the school’s website in order to continue school through the virus.

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Now that we have this once-in-a-generation opportunity to level the digital playing field, we need the federal government to remove the barriers to success – our elected leaders in Colorado can confirm their hard work to do what is expected by expanding our nation’s old pole entry rules. The continued expansion of broadband will require that much-needed changes be made to access posts.

User posts play an important role in our communications industry, and this has naturally grown with our increased reliance on the internet. For underserved areas – communities without access to high-speed Internet technology – the best way to get them online is for Internet service providers to connect their technology to the existing post.

However, most broadband providers do not have the necessary posts; Small businesses, corporations, electronic companies, and other companies. Therefore, providers must obtain permission to access the posts and pay a fee to include their technology.

Those things are good if there is a system that controls the access to the posts.

Unfortunately, the approval process can be complicated and complicated. Post owners don’t have the same idea of ​​speed as Coloradans who are underserved for broadband access. Although providers have expressed their willingness to pay for the costs associated with their new posts, in some cases, disputes arise over the cost of access. These disputes can drag on for months before being heard and resolved.

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Without a system to resolve disputes or fast-track access, this process can drag out, leaving neglected communities without access to the internet and so the essential services they need, including distance learning, telehealth, and more.

African Americans are 10 times more likely to be homeless than those in the city. To put this into perspective: while 6% of the entire country lacks access to broadband systems, that number rises to more than 24 percent in rural areas. Also, more than one in six people living in poverty do not have access to the internet.

Coloradans and Americans need solutions to bring awareness and reform to a broken system, if not the millions of Americans expected to be helped by the business bill to face the challenges a bond that holds them together for generations.

Congress can build on its business appreciation work by working to speed up access to posts and resolve disputes about substitutes that we can use to now bring the fastest internet to every home and business. Many Americans rely on our leaders to stay connected. Legislature should establish clear rules for resolving disputes between owners and broadband providers so that the expansion of the broadband industry is not unnecessarily delayed.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law promises that every home and business will have access to high-speed Internet. We need leaders in Washington like Sens. Hickenlooper and Bennet will make sure we create the right conditions for this law to do what it was intended to do.

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Lori Goldstein lives in Westminster.

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