Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper calls for expanded internet access in rural areas

Jan 16, 2017

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
Credit AP PHOTO

In his State of the State address Thursday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed boosting rural access to high-speed Internet.

To boost economic development in rural areas, one of the governor’s proposals is to create an office focused on expanding broadband Internet access to the 30 percent or so rural households in the state that don’t have it, with an overall goal of ensuring that 100 percent of rural houses have it by 2020.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Hickenlooper said he would seek public-private partnerships, but that he also expects several million dollars’ worth to come from the state.

“Small towns are constantly losing population left and right,” Hickenlooper said. “Well, maybe being able to put broadband across the state becomes something that is a tipping point” that could reverse that decline.

Hickenlooper also called on the Legislature to put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to approve a tax increase for road improvements and transit expansion.

Hickenlooper said the state has waited too long to address the state’s estimated $9 billion worth of transportation projects and while he didn’t offer specifics, the initial focus is to increase the sales tax to cover a bond issue potentially as high as $500 million.

Lawmakers on both side of the aisle agree that roads are a top priority in 2017, but have  differing ideas on how to make that a reality. Some Republican senators are demanding an offsetting tax cut or the money to come from existing tax revenues.

Hickenlooper urged lawmakers to come up with a concrete plan to present to voters in November.

Hickenlooper also argued against Republican efforts in Colorado  and at the national level to do away with the Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, pledging he would “fight” for a plan to protect people who are currently covered.

He also emphasized the need to address black-market marijuana sales, lackluster education spending, rising homelessness and the scarcity of affordable housing.

Click here to read Hickenlooper’s State of the State address in its entirety.