A small surcharge on phone bills might get a little bigger if lawmakers pass a package of five House bills aimed at reforming Colorado's telecommunications regulations and spurring rural broadband investment. After zipping through the House, the bipartisan-backed measures were approved unanimously Wednesday by the seven-member Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee. House Bill 1328 would redirect a $54 million program that subsidizes traditional landline service in high-cost areas toward rural broadband development. A 2.6 percent surcharge on all phone bills - copper lines, wireless and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol - funds the program. Providers of VoIP services, which haven't faced regulation in Colorado, collect the surcharge voluntarily. A sister measure, HB 1329, would stamp into law that Colorado can't regulate VoIP and other Internet-based services. Some lawmakers believe VoIP providers such as Comcast would stop collecting the surcharge if HB 1329 passes, creating a $4.5 million shortfall in the high-cost program.
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