DENVER (AP) — Lawmakers on Friday stopped a plan to phase out a $54 million annual payout to Colorado telecom companies, saying there wasn't enough time to settle differences over a complex bill. Republican Sen. Mark Scheffel killed his own bill, telling a panel of lawmakers he was disappointed it sat on the legislative calendar for six weeks. "It's an unfortunate commentary on the process," he said. Scheffel said it was "ludicrous" to expect lawmakers to debate the bill now with four days before they adjourn and settle big differences over how much of the subsidy should be shifted to developing broadband in rural areas.
The proposal sought to eliminate subsidies in places where 90 percent of customers have at least five telecommunications providers. Providers working in less competitive areas would still be eligible for the fund. The subsidy would be gradually eliminated by 2025 as ratepayers pay less into it. Consumers pay 2.9 percent of their phone bills toward the fund, or less than a dollar for a $30 bill.
The fund was at an estimated $54.3 million last year. CenturyLink Inc., which cover most of Colorado's rural areas, consistently received more than 90 percent of the subsidy and was one of the loudest critics of the bill.
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