rural issues

Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC

The Federal Communications Commission starts dismantling net neutrality regulations on April 23, 2018. That could mean when you’re watching that next episode of ‘The Crown” it could buffer endlessly or not. No one really knows yet.  

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind. It suggested a list of broad ideas in January to spark growth and carved out rural interests in an infrastructure plan.

Since the George W. Bush administration, the federal government has doled out millions of dollars with the promise to expedite access to broadband service in remote parts of the country.

President Donald Trump is no exception, having signed an executive order earlier this month directing the government to use “all viable tools” to speed up the process to locate wireless technology on federal buildings in rural areas. Plus, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai just proposed putting a $500 million toward rural broadband.

While all political persuasions agree with the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Task Force report that broadband is critical for the economic health of a large swath of the country, experts say the devil is in the details — or lack thereof. They also say Pai’s infusion of money does little more than restore funding that previously had been cut.

Many rural parts of Colorado don’t have access to high speed internet. Governor John Hickenlooper says correcting that must be a priority for lawmakers, if the state wants to recruit and grow economies outside of the Denver metro area. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to take up that challenge with Senate Bill 2.

Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland spoke with Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal and Marianne Goodland with Colorado Politics about the broadband debate.

It’s a common story: Ambitious kids move from small towns to larger cities, never to look back. When their parents die, the family wealth that’s been built over generations through farming, ranching or agriculture-related businesses often follows the kids, draining the economic lifeblood from those rural communities.

The largest generational transfer of wealth in modern times is expected to happen in the next 10 years and rural foundations in states like Iowa and Nebraska are working hard to retain at least a bit of those hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The social and health effects of isolation on some rural Kansas residents spurred three Catholic nuns to convert a storefront in Concordia, Kansas, into a drop-in center where women can find support and resources. 

Seven years after the center opened, two dozen women on average come through each day in the town of about 5,000 to socialize, do laundry, get a cooking lesson, or simply connect with others.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

If lawmakers won't address the issue of transportation, several groups say they will, through a ballot initiative asking Colorado voters to raise taxes to improve roads, bridges and transit projects.

One of the most important advocates of the plan to increase taxes in the legislature was an unlikely ally, the Senate's top Republican. But he couldn't prevent members of his own party from defeating House Bill 1242 at the end of April.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Access to quality healthcare – and a doctor – can be difficult in the more rural parts of Colorado, especially along the eastern plains. That's why the state is embarking on a new training program to recruit and train more family practice physicians.

Monday Newscast, 3/21/16, 7:04 AM

Mar 21, 2016

Newscast for Monday, March 21, 2016, 7:04 AM:
 


Wednesday Newscast, 12/2/15, 5:32 PM

Dec 2, 2015

Newscast for Wednesday, December 2, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 


Tuesday Newscast, 9/8/15, 5:32 PM

Sep 8, 2015

Newscast for Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 5:32 PM:

  • The focus on a toxic mine spill that fouled rivers in three Western states is shifting to Congress, where lawmakers this week begin a series of hearings into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accident.
     
  • A $1.2 million dollar grant will help low-income Coloradans in rural areas get access solar power.

Trinidad is the first of nine communities announced as a beneficiary of a new state-run rural artist program.
 

The $50 million program called Space to Create, Colorado is an effort of Colorado Creative Industries and other foundations to provide affordable housing for artists.

CCI Director Margaret Hunt says areas with strong art communities are magnets for economic development. Hunt adds they're purposely selecting small towns.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

As a result of Colorado's booming oil production, energy companies are paying more in severance taxes – money they pay the state for taking minerals out of the ground. Half of it is supposed to go to back to local communities, both directly and through grants. But thanks to market forces and political conditions in Denver, it's not always a stable source of funding.

Chris Woodka / Pueblo Chieftain

The projected growth of Colorado’s Front Range has water planners looking ahead to meet the demands of the population influx.  One way to meet the growing need is for utility companies to buy water rights from farmers and ranchers and then divert that water to cover the city’s needs, commonly called “Buy & Dry.”

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s commission to look at preserving Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line is gearing up to start its meetings. 

The commission’s been tasked with coordinating efforts to try and save the line, which faces possible rerouting out of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico if necessary infrastructure upgrades aren’t completed.

Jim Souby is the President of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, and was appointed to the commission to represent the tourism industry.

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a long-distance passenger train that travels daily from Chicago to Los Angeles along the Mountain Route of the historic Santa Fe Trail.  Along the way, it knits together rural communities, like La Junta, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico and connects them to larger cities, like Albuquerque and Kansas City.  The route is at risk though.

People living in many parts of rural Colorado still don’t have access to high speed Internet. It’s a problem for schools and businesses, and in eastern Colorado it is making it harder for farmers to take full advantage of the latest technology even as state lawmakers passed legislation to try and even the playing field.

County Groups Conduct Transportation Survey

Apr 8, 2014
Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

As the state examines how best to allocate transportation funding across Colorado, county-based regional advocacy groups, including southern Colorado’s Action 22,  are conducting a transportation survey. KRCC’s Elaina Formby reports.
 

The rise of hybrid and eco-boost vehicles has led to fewer gas station fill-ups and a marked decrease in gas tax revenue. Action 22 President and CEO Cathy Garcia says this decrease contributes to a growing divide between urban and rural parts of the state.