What’s blocking more broadband? The humble utility pole

High-speed internet for every home and business in this country has been elusive for the past 20 years despite the efforts of organizations on both sides of the aisle – 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 divide for all.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Package allocates $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 over 6% (approximately 350,000 residents) of Coloradans without access to broadband according to BroadbandNow, it is important to ensure that a portion of this previously allocated investment is used for federal broadband funding to connect unserved Coloradans.

As an educator and Board of Education member for Adams 12 Five Stars Schools, I have seen the effects of the pandemic on learning for students across our state. While some students have parents or care providers who stay at home with their children, to help them navigate the internet and learn at home, most parents still have to work to pay. their rent, mortgage and food delivery. on the table for their families, leaving them in trouble to work as remote teaching assistants and providers for their family.

In addition, too many families do not have access to broadband internet which is contributing to the epidemic. Because of this, students were forced to walk to school parking lots and connect to the school’s internet to continue attending school during the pandemic.

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Now that we have this once-in-a-generation opportunity to level the digital playing field, federal government must remove barriers to success – and our elected officials in Colorado can make sure it happens they do as expected by renewing our. the country’s oldest entry regulations. The success and speed of broadband expansion will require the necessary changes in broadband access to be made.

Social media plays an important role in our communication infrastructure, and this has become a reality due to the increasing reliance on the internet. For disadvantaged areas – communities that do not have access to high-speed internet infrastructure – the best way to get them online is for internet service providers to connect their technology to existing poles.

However, most broadband providers do not have utility poles; Small utilities, cooperatives, energy companies, and other entities. Therefore, suppliers must obtain permission to access the terminals and pay a fee to attach their technology.

All is well if there is a working system that controls access to the posts.

Unfortunately, the submission process is complicated and opaque. It’s not as if the pole owners feel the same way as Coloradans who haven’t been offered broadband access. Although providers have shown that they are willing to pay for the costs associated with their new post additions, sometimes, disputes arise over the cost of access. These disputes can go on for many months before being heard and subsequently resolved.

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Without a system to resolve disputes or high-speed broadband access, this process will drag on, leaving vulnerable communities without access to the internet, and therefore much-needed services. , including distance learning, telehealth, and more.

Rural Americans are 10 times more likely to lack broadband access than those in urban areas. To put this into perspective: while 6% of the country has no access to broadband infrastructure, the figure rises to more than 24 percent in rural areas. In addition, more than one in six people living in poverty do not have internet access.

Coloradans and Americans need solutions that will bring clarity and reform to a broken, outdated system, or the millions of Americans who are expected to be helped by the infrastructure bill will face the interrelated challenges that keep them together for generations.

Congress can build on its incredible work on infrastructure by working to speed up access to poles and resolve disputes over pole replacements so we can have access to the Internet. fast-paced to every home and business. Many Americans are waiting for our leaders to connect. Congress should establish clear rules for resolving disputes between pole owners and providers so that delays in broadband infrastructure are not simply delayed.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act holds the promise that every home and business will have access to high-speed internet. We need leaders in Washington like Sen. Hickenlooper and Bennet to make sure that we create the right mechanisms to allow this legislation to do what it did.

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Lori Goldstein lives in Westminster.

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