Colorado's Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would expedite the construction of high-speed internet service in rural areas.
The bill passed by voice vote on Wednesday. It would take money from a state fund that has long subsidized rural telephone service to support rural broadband instead.
Rural broadband is a top priority for lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper, who acknowledge that Colorado's eastern plains, western slope and mountain towns have missed out on an economic boom that is centered in metropolitan Denver.
Despite its bipartisan sponsorship, many hurdles remain for the bill. Lawmakers are debating what companies get the broadband subsidies and whether thousands of residents whose phone bills are subsidized will end up paying more with the transfer.