The southeast region of Colorado, which includes Otero County, is developing a strategic plan to expand and improve internet access and speed in the area, according to information provided on the La Junta Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page.

The southeast region of Colorado, which includes Otero County, is developing a strategic plan to expand and improve internet access and speed in the area, according to information provided on the La Junta Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.

High-Speed internet service, also known as broadband, is a key factor in the area’s economic development. The strategic plan will identify the region’s unmet broadband needs and propose strategies to meet them, according to local information. As part of the planning process, consulting firm Tilson Technology will be facilitating a public workshop to engage Otero County residents and businesses in broadband issues and get important community input.

A broadband strategic plan meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on May 2 at Otero Junior College. The second session will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the same date at the same location. It is hosted by La Junta Economic Development.

The community is invited to join the Otero County Commissioners, economic development staff and Tilson Technology to develop a working knowledge of broadband service attributes and technology; get an overview of the current state of broadband in Otero County; find out about existing programs to improve availability; learn how to take and interpret broadband speed test and provide insights to help shape the Southeast Regional Broadband Strategic Plan.

Otero County Economic Development Coordinator Danelle Berg is already working on a regional broadband strategic plan that will identify underserved and non-served areas in the six-county region of Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Prowers.

The idea of bringing broadband to rural Colorado is gaining statewide attention.

Wiring Colorado from corner to corner with high-speed broadband internet has been a goal of the General Assembly for years. Yet it seems session after session, politics come into play, which result in good broadband bills being voted down on a party-line vote. This year, a bipartisan measure to increase access to broadband in rural Colorado made it through both chambers, and was signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper.

Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and State Senator Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, House Bill 17-1174 expands the use of local improvement districts (LIDs) in counties with a population of 60,000 or less so broadband infrastructure can be financed and built. If voters give their approval, unserved counties in rural Colorado can now partner with broadband providers to improve and build the infrastructure needed to bring high-speed internet to their communities.

“High-speed internet isn’t a luxury -- it’s a necessity. In this new world of amazing technology, a student can take their classes on the computer, hospitals can share patient records with each other instantly, and businesses in small towns can compete through online sales. But it simply isn’t fair that many hardworking people in rural Colorado don’t have access to this utility. I am very pleased that with this bill being signed into law,, rural counties will now have one more tool at their disposal to gain access to broadband,” said Senator Guzman.

HB1174 included a number of Senate Democratic co-sponsors, including State Senators Kerry Donovan, Steve Fenberg, Rhonda Fields, Cheri Jahn, Matt Jones, John Kefalas, Mike Merrifield, and Rachel Zenzinger.