Letter to the Editor: RBC commissioners support broadband

Dear Editor:
Modern communication, whether by radio, phone or the Internet, is a major part of our lives. In my lifetime. we have gone from writing letters confirming meeting dates weeks or even months down the road to instantly setting up face-to-face meetings a few minutes ahead of time.

In our fast-paced world, we have a hard time thinking that any discussion could possibly wait a few minutes let alone a few days. Businesses, emergency personnel, tourists and people just visiting with friends and family all need a higher degree of reliable communication than ever before.
Several times since I became a county commissioner I have been asked why I am hard to get in touch with. The answer is simple, I live in Rio Blanco County.
In some respects we are in a black hole. You will find more places without a cell signal or radio service than with and Internet is non-existent out of or in instances even in town without a satellite dish. Ranchers, well pumpers and hunters spend most of their days without a cell signal.
Emergency responders, sheriff’s deputies and game officers all too often find themselves going into areas where they cannot contact dispatch. The county and towns are also having problems encouraging new business to relocate to our area when we do not have high-speed Internet capabilities.
Perhaps most importantly, we cannot provide the tools necessary for our children’s education. We need all of the above in order to ensure our kids will have the ability to make the choice of spending their lives here.
Increasing our capabilities will bring new business options to our county. What that may be cannot be answered. It could be services related to the type of business we currently have, tourist related or even technology dependent companies would have the ability to operate here.
There are times when government should help get something started so that private business can finish. This is one of those times. It is difficult for an Internet provider to consider operating in a county that has 6,000 people spread out over 3,400 square miles. It is not a good business model. However, if we provide the basic infrastructure, they will do the rest.
The Rio Blanco Board of County Commissioners is fully committed to building the best possible countywide communication network. Working in conjunction with all of the IT personnel in the county, our IT department has developed a multifaceted plan to cover as close to 100 percent of the county as possible.
We have put together a coalition of private companies to help build the network and provide the services when it is complete.
It will be necessary to erect several large towers for cell service, public safety radios and microwave dishes. Smaller towers will be built for microwave signals to residences, well locations and other industrial applications. Miles of fiber optic cable will be run to link up the towns. We will build this project without raising taxes.
Now, we need your help.
The Colorado Legislature passed a law, SB05-152, to prevent government entities from competing with private business in the television, Internet and radio arenas. It is correct that we should not compete and the law is fine for Denver. But it is stifling progress in rural counties.
We are asking for your vote on Nov.4 to exempt us from the law. There are provisions in the law that will allow us to move forward if our ballot measure fails and we will do so. However, it will be much cleaner and will give us total local control over the project if you will vote to exempt us from the state requirements.
Please vote yes on Ballot Initiative 1A.
One good reason to vote yes is that The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) will not issue grants on this project without the exemption. DOLA does want to participate as they believe our plan is a model for the entire state, and they want see it completed.
Thank you for your help. You may contact me at: jhill@co.rio-blanco.co.us or my office phone is 970-878-9437 and cell phone is 970-216-3509.
Jon Hill
Rio Blanco County Commissioner