Historic Funding to Expand High-Speed Internet Access in Colorado

Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

Click to Donate

Colorado To Receive Over $826 Million from BEAD Program, Based on Bennet’s Bipartisan BRIDGE Act 

In an op-ed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet celebrated the historic investment of over $826 million that Colorado will receive as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

“For years, Coloradans have told me that their internet is too slow or expensive to be of much use to their families, farms or small businesses,” wrote Bennet in the op-ed. “On Monday, the Biden administration announced more than $826 million for Colorado through this program. This historic investment will help ensure that every household in our state has access to the reliable, affordable internet they need to thrive.”

The BEAD program is based on the bipartisan BRIDGE Act that Bennet introduced in June 2021 to provide $40 billion in flexible broadband funding to states, Tribal governments, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to ensure all Americans have access to affordable high-speed internet.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury, but a necessity — as important to America’s competitiveness today as rural electrification was in the 1930s, or the interstate highway system was in the 1950s,” concluded Bennet. “This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our future, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve together as we seize this historic opportunity to connect Colorado.”

The full op-ed is available below:

For years, Coloradans have told me that their internet is too slow or expensive to be of much use to their families, farms or small businesses. More than 190,000 households in our state struggle to connect to the basic infrastructure of the 21st century, preventing them from taking full advantage of our modern digital economy.

The pandemic laid bare the digital divide in our state. Families struggled to support a parent at work and a child at school on a single, slow network. Doctors faced difficulty diagnosing their patients on patchy video calls. Children without adequate home internet were forced to attend school online from fast food parking lots.

As the former superintendent of Denver public schools, I know that asking a student to learn without the internet is no different than asking them to learn without textbooks. Students without internet access perform worse on standardized tests and are less likely to attend college. Nearly 1 in 20 school-aged children in Colorado lack internet at home, and this exacerbates existing disparities — of those without internet, two-thirds are Hispanic, and most are low income.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to expose the depth of these inequalities, but it made it painfully clear that we could no longer accept the status quo.

That’s why I introduced the BRIDGE Act in 2020, a bill I wrote based on my conversations across the state with the Colorado Broadband Office, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

Our goal was to write the most ambitious broadband policy possible that could still attract bipartisan support and address the challenges in Colorado. The bill essentially did two things.

First, it put states, not Washington, in the driver’s seat. We know that our communities have a better understanding of what’s needed on the ground, with the greatest incentive to spend funds effectively.

Second, we significantly raised the standards for new broadband projects. We quadrupled the minimum download speed and required states to prioritize next-generation networks that will serve our communities for years to come.

When the bipartisan infrastructure law came together, I worked with my colleagues — former Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine — to include the BRIDGE Act in the final package. This became the BEAD program — the single largest broadband investment in American history.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced more than $826 million for Colorado through this program. This historic investment will help ensure that every household in our state has access to the reliable, affordable internet they need to thrive.

High-speed internet is not a luxury, but a necessity — as important to America’s competitiveness today as rural electrification was in the 1930s, or the interstate highway system was in the 1950s.

I could not imagine what our country would be like if earlier generations hadn’t made those investments, helping Americans traverse the continent and light up their homes and businesses. The infrastructure of the 20th century laid the foundation for decades of innovation and growth, making our economy the envy of the world. The infrastructure of the 21st century can do so again.

This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our future, and I can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve together as we seize this historic opportunity to connect Colorado.