Brandy Reitter, the new head of Colorado’s broadband expansion efforts, told StateScoop Tuesday that she’s excited for a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to close the state’s digital divide with $170 million in federal aid on the way.
Reitter, who started this week as the new executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office, said that her largest priority in the role will be developing public-private partnerships to effectively spend the state’s influx of federal broadband funding, which she called “unprecedented.”
Colorado is the 25th most-connected state, according to BroadbandNow, and its mountainous terrain presents unique challenges and gaps in coverage that can’t be solved by just laying fiber, Reitter said. Rather, the state’s investments in broadband technology have to be diverse and sustainable, which she said will require the state to collect more data on where internet service isn’t affordable and digital literacy rates are lagging.
Reitter, formerly a town manager for the town of Eagle, said she’s also focused on staffing up her office to “build capacity” for spending the incoming funds from last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That means hiring strategists and developers to evaluate what success for the state’s broadband plans look like and to ensure that the money is being spent with accountability.
“Part of the process for that strategy is including input from stakeholders across the state. Broadband is not a one-size-fits-all type of strategy, and it’s going to be pretty unique across different parts of the state,” she said. “Colorado is very diversified with topography, the gaps in broadband access and affordability, so we’re going to have to work on figuring out all those details so we can spend the money.”