City officials are recommending that the City of Boulder partner with a private internet company to help deliver fiber-based broadband internet, according to a city staff memo.

Such a decision would be a major step in a near-decade-long effort to bring high-speed internet to the city’s residents and businesses, and it would put to rest the possibility of creating a city-owned internet utility.

Later this year, the city is planning to complete the construction of about 65 miles of fiber optic cables, creating a “fiber backbone” that could be used for providing internet and a wide range of city services, such as controlling traffic signals.

How to connect this infrastructure to customers, however, has long remained unclear.

Councilmembers and city officials have considered creating a city-owned internet utility that would finish building out the infrastructure and operate as a new service provider. Doing so would bring more competition to the marketplace and potentially drive down costs, as city residents often have to choose between either Comcast (Xfinity) or Lumen (CenturyLink). About 64% of residents don’t even have a choice, according to city officials.

But officials are now arguing that this option would be costly to the city’s taxpayers. To provide the connection, an additional 325 miles of underground conduit must be built, costing approximately $295 million, according to an Aug. 11, 2023 report by CTC Technology & Energy, a telecommunications consulting firm based in Maryland.

“The amount of revenue that could reasonably be generated by a municipal internet utility in Boulder is not enough to cover all the operational costs and the entire debt service,” the city staff memo states.

“Thus, Boulder taxpayers would bear the burden of nearly $10M to $22M a year subsidy (depending on annual broadband cashflows) in addition to paying market-rate prices for a municipal internet service.”  (These cost estimates are based on charging $70 per month plus a $50 connection fee. At that price point, there would still be a shortfall requiring subsidy from taxpayers in some form.)

Given these financial calculations, city officials are proposing to lease its fiber-optic backbone to a private company. This company would then own the infrastructure connecting the backbone to customers and would operate the internet service.

The Boulder City Council will give its feedback to city officials during a study session on Thursday, Aug. 24. The council is planning to hold a public hearing later this year before making a final decision.

Join the Conversation


  1. Two questions:
    How much will the city have spent on the 65 miles of fiber optic cables when it is finished?
    If the city doesn’t feel that it is financially viable to start its own internet service(which I think Longmont has) why would a private company do any better?

    1. Longmont has it’s own city owned internet service called NextLight. I’ve had it in my townhome now since 2018, I get almost 1 gb/second coming into the house and pay $49.99 (grandfathered in forever) a month. NextLight has been rated in the top internet services with fastest speed in the country for years. I’ve never had it go out or any problem at all. Love it.

  2. Longmont’s NextLight costs $70/month now and I believe early adopters locked in a $50/month fee, so what’s stopping Boulder from giving residents what they are willing to pay for? Avoid the privatization and ensure we have a solid necessary utility base for the future.

Leave a comment
Boulder Reporting Lab comments policy
All comments require an editor's review. BRL reserves the right to delete or turn off comments at any time. Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *