Governor Polis Discusses Strength of Colorado’s Economy from Mesa County, Signs Executive Order to Bring Reliable, Affordable, High-Speed Broadband Internet Access to Coloradans
GRAND JUNCTION - Colorado’s economy is recovering faster and stronger than many of its neighboring states and Governor Polis delivered remarks today in Mesa County about ways his administration is saving people and businesses money, investing in infrastructure, focusing on early childhood education and childcare, and improving public safety. Following his remarks, Governor Jared Polis joined state, Mesa County, Grand Junction City officials, and Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce members to sign an Executive Order directing the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) to develop a Broadband Strategic Plan to connect over 99% of Colorado households to high-speed broadband by 2027.
Today’s action will provide swift improvements to access for individuals, schools, and businesses. Governor Polis’ Executive Order cuts red tape, saves people money, and provides clear and transparent access to funding opportunities that will spur innovation through broadband access. Grand Junction Mayor Chuck McDaniel, County Commissioner Cody Davis, and Chamber CEO Diane Schwenk joined Governor Polis for the signing of the Executive Order.
“Stronger broadband access means better convenience and a stronger economy. As we forge a path forward from this pandemic, we must continue closing the digital divide, equipping our students and small businesses with access to digital tools to thrive in their chosen field or trade, and reach new markets,” said Governor Polis. “That’s why I’m excited to sign an executive order today that sets an ambitious goal to connect over 99% of Coloradans to affordable, high-speed broadband in the next five years, saving Coloradans money on education and health care, no matter where you live in our great state.”
The Executive Order accelerates initiatives included in bipartisan legislation signed last year and builds on directives in Governor Polis’ earlier Executive Order B 2020 009 by directing the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Colorado Broadband Office to coordinate and closely collaborate with state agencies and departments to ensure they prioritize broadband deployment and increase transparency. Under this order, Colorado will execute on the Governor’s vision for broadband throughout Colorado to help save people money and businesses money, utilizing key state and federal funding.
“Since the Colorado Broadband Office formed in 2016, we have seen firsthand how broadband access helps communities thrive,” said Anthony Neal-Graves, Executive Director and Chief Information Officer at the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. “Colorado’s beautiful terrain makes broadband expansion challenging, but thanks to the collaborative spirit of Coloradans, we have been able to close critical gaps and now have this game-changing goal within reach.”
Today, Gov. Polis discussed the far-reaching impacts that stronger broadband coverage will have on rural communities especially, where health care providers are more limited and traveling can add up to roughly $200 in lost time, wages, and child care costs per visit. Access to telehealth is an important way the Polis administration is working to save people money on health care.
“There’s no single answer for providing broadband access because every Colorado community has diverse needs and challenges,” said Brandy Reitter, Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office. “We want to partner with local and regional leaders across the state to craft a Broadband Strategic Plan that delivers access for all Coloradans, no matter their income or location.”
The national shift to remote work environments has highlighted the need for Colorado workers to have dependable, uninterrupted access to the internet, which is why the Polis administration has provided incentives for businesses looking to expand their pool of talent, allowing Colorado workers to remain competitive in the job market while having the flexibility to live and locate anywhere. Now, a bold strategic broadband plan will help bolster recruitment and retainment for Colorado’s small businesses and strengthen the state’s highly-skilled workforce.
Individualized plans for connecting rural broadband through the state outlined in the Executive Order include:
- K-12 distance learning;
- Improving Colorado tourism;
- Providing internet connectivity in State Parks;
- Supporting telemedicine;
- Programs in State prisons;
- Federally recognized tribes; and
- Challenges faced by rural communities.
The state will publish a Colorado Broadband Strategic Plan later this year. The plan includes a roadmap for connecting 99% of Colorado households to high-speed internet, sets a process for soliciting feedback and engaging community industry and community leaders, makes accessing funding opportunities more transparent, and develops strategies to address digital connectivity across agencies.