Back in 2005, the internet was still coming of age.
It was before twitter before hashtags, before the first iPhone. Youtube was just founded, and the desire for more bandwith was increasing. In 2005, for the first time, there were more people connected by broadband than by dial-up.
That same year, Colorado also passed a law that said that municipalities can’t get into the internet game. The state law severly restricted what towns and cities could do .
"This came up as an obstacle every time we looked at options," says Virgil Turner, the Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement for Montrose, "fortunately, in the 2005 law, it allows us to hold a referendum."
They’ve been looking to speed up their internet with fiber optic, but private companies weren’t racing to provide it to Montrose.
"The things that we were hearing was 'There just not sufficient return on investment,' or 'We're providing enough broadband access for our customers in Montrose and we have no intention of expanding any time soon,' so that was a situation that couldn't stand much longer," says Virgil, "so we decided to take the matter into our own hands."
So last spring they held a referendum, and it passed by a 3 to 1 margin, exempting Montrose from the Colorado law. They were the third community in the state to buck the law.
This week, Turner along with the Mayor of Montrose and city manager, are in California, attending a conference of Next Century City, a collaboration of cities all across the nation who are trying to improve their internet.
"What this organization will do is provide a partnership, working together, understanding what other folks have gone through, learning from their mistakes and hopefully standing on their shoulders," he says.
Montrose is joined in the group by Chattanooga, Kansas City, Portland, and 27 other cities. Virgil can’t give a timeline, but hopes that this will accelerate the development of fiber optic in Montrose.