Loveland, Colorado is moving ahead with its plan to build a municipal broadband network. By a vote of 6-1 the Loveland City Council approved a measure that would allow the city to issue bonds to fund the network.
With the bond issue, Loveland can now begin a three-year project that will build a municipal broadband service for local residents and businesses. The bond issue is expected to total approximately $97 million and will be underwritten by JP Morgan.
The project will be led by Brieana Reed-Harmel who has been involved with the project from the beginning. In her new role, she will be the division manager of Loveland’s newly created High-Speed Fiber Enterprise.
Nokia will be responsible for network build-out.
Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh, said that while she supported municipal broadband, she thought that the bond issue should have gone up for public vote. According to a report in the Loveland Reporter Herald, critics of the decision to fund the network argue that the debt comes with a high risk as the project will only break even if enough business and residential customers sign up.
Individuals are the largest group of investors in municipal bonds. Municipal bonds are typically part of a core investment portfolio and tend to have reliable returns. Many cities have opted to extend repayments of their debts but few have defaulted. The use of municipal bonds to fund city projects has seen a steady decline over recent years as policymakers shy away from funding critical infrastructure in favor of less debt.
Several cities in Colorado are considering investments in municipal broadband infrastructure including Breckenridge, Centennial, Cortez, Estes Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs and Longmont. As these projects move forward, new bond issues may be approved to fund networks. Colorado does have a state level preemption bill on the books that makes it harder for cities to decide to build municipal networks, but an override process is in place. Some cities can act of their own accord in completing the override process, others including Fort Collins and Longmont put their plans to a public vote based on rules outlined in their city charters.