As FCC Finds Access to Rural Broadband Falling Short, Bennet Urges Administration to Help Colorado Bridge Digital Divide

Report Finds 100,500 Individuals and 38,100 Households in Colorado Do Not Have Access to Broadband that Meets Minimum FCC Standards

Washington, DC – With a report issued today by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finding 14 to 24 million Americans still lack reliable access to broadband, particularly in rural areas, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, urged the Administration to help deliver broadband to rural Coloradans and help the state bridge the digital divide. 

Recognizing the need to accelerate broadband access in Colorado, Bennet recently telephoned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in support of Colorado’s applications for Recovery Act funding to support rural broadband projects across the state.

“The FCC’s report simply reaffirmed what Coloradans in rural areas already know: broadband deployment needs to happen more quickly to help Colorado bridge the digital divide,” said Bennet.  “Expanding access to broadband will connect small businesses with new markets, workers with new skills, and students with new opportunities to learn.”

According to the FCC report Colorado has 19 unserved areas with 100,500 individuals and 38,100 households without access to broadband that meets minimum FCC standards.  Eighty-eight percent of these individuals and households live in rural parts of the state. The Colorado counties that the FCC designates as unserved are Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Dolores, Gilpin, Hinsdale, Jackson, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Mineral, Otero, Phillips, Prowers, Saguache, and Washington.

According to a separate report, Colorado ranks 42nd out of 50 states in broadband connectivity.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorized over $7 billion—$4.5 billion to the Department of Commerce and $2.5 billion to the Department of Agriculture—for grants to support the development and expansion of broadband programs across the country.  The grant application and award process was divided into two separate rounds. 

In the first round of funding awards, two Colorado projects received funding.  Peetz Cooperative Telephone Company, in Peetz, Colo., received a $1.5 million grant to help with the expansion of existing infrastructure utilizing a combination of technologies.  Wiggins Telephone Association received a $2,168,544 loan and $2,159,887 grant to provide broadband through fiber optic cables in the Weldona-Goodrich-Orchard area of northeastern Colorado.

All the applications for the second round of funding have been received and the awards will be announced by Sept. 30.  Bennet has also written letters in support of several applicants from Colorado.