Colorado Governor Jared Polis has set a lofty goal to connect 99 percent of households to high-speed broadband services by 2027.

That plan – cemented in the form of an executive order (EO) signed earlier this month – directs the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) to develop a Broadband Strategic Plan to get Colorado households connected to high-speed broadband.

In a press release, Gov. Polis’ office said the EO will “provide swift improvements to access for individuals, schools, and businesses.” The governor stressed that the order “cuts red tape, saves people money, and provides clear and transparent access to funding opportunities that will spur innovation through broadband access.”

“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 percent 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.”

According to the governor’s office, the EO accelerates initiatives that were included in bipartisan legislation signed last year. It also builds on directives in an earlier EO from the governor by directing the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Colorado Broadband Office to coordinate with state agencies and departments to ensure they prioritize broadband deployment and increase transparency. Under the EO, Colorado will use state and Federal funding to connect households.

“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.”

Of particular interest for the governor’s office is getting households in rural parts of the state connected to high-speed broadband – a goal that has long proved challenging nationwide. Specific plans for connecting rural broadband through the state outlined in the Executive Order include:

  • K-12 distance learning;
  • Libraries;
  • Improving Colorado tourism;
  • Providing internet connectivity in State Parks;
  • Supporting telemedicine;
  • Programs in State prisons;
  • Federally recognized tribes; and
  • Challenges faced by rural communities.

“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 state will publish a Colorado Broadband Strategic Plan later this year. The plan will include a roadmap for connecting 99 percent of Colorado households, set a process for soliciting feedback and engaging community industry and community leaders, make accessing funding opportunities more transparent, and develop strategies to address digital connectivity across agencies.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs