Colorado Cuts Right-of-Way Fees for Broadband Projects

The Colorado Transportation Commission recently approved a lower fee schedule for access to roadway rights-of-way maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation to expand the ability of third parties to install fiber optic cable to further expand broadband access and service statewide.

[Above photo by Colorado DOT]

This adopted fee schedule, more than 90 percent lower than the version initially proposed, makes Colorado DOT property available for broadband development in accordance with the 2022 Executive Order of Governor Jared Polis (D) so residents can access high-speed internet in every corner of the state.

Karen Stuart, chair of the Colorado Transportation Commission, said in a statement that the fee schedule is the lowest among the surrounding states and southwestern neighbors of Colorado and comes after “months of engagement” with local governments, industry members, and community members.

“Just as our transportation system creates vital connections for all Coloradans, we all need the modern connectivity of broadband to fully access opportunities and services,” she said in a statement.

“The commission has heard the perspectives of local communities throughout the state as well as industry concerns, and the proposal that we approved today offers greater opportunities for broadband development, competes favorably with our neighboring states on costs, and meets the state’s existing legal obligations to care for the public land under our responsibility,” Stuart added.

The new fee schedule charges an annual property use surcharge as well as a one-time upfront fee to cover permitting costs, set as low as possible to only cover some administrative costs. This follows the methodology used by the United States Forest Service for access to federal lands, which means that Colorado’s structure uses a setup that is familiar to the broadband industry, noted Terry Hart, vice chair of the commission.

“Underserved communities have an urgent need for improved broadband access, and today’s access fee plan offers another option for high-speed internet development throughout Colorado,” Hart said.

“Colorado DOT’s right-of-way offers critical access to many of these communities, and so it is particularly important for this access proposal to move forward and offer these options as soon as possible,” Hart added. “The fee structure works to strike a careful balance that reduces private sector costs and preserves assets owned by taxpayers, and we are committed to supporting these objectives so that more Coloradans can access broadband.”

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