The Internet has become a central part of our lives, but most Boulder residents and businesses do not have access to the high speeds and full potential of broadband fiber. While some local entities, usually larger companies, have been able to construct work-arounds, the cost and level of service of these is a significant barrier for the rest of the community. The lack of competition and performance impacts home, nonprofit and business users, as well as research and educational institutions. It also contributes to the existing Digital Divide in Boulder and undermines the community’s tech-savvy reputation, as well as its ability to retain and attract next-generation businesses. At the end of 2014, the City of Boulder launched an initiative called Connect Boulder.
Public Wi-Fi Expansion
The city is working to expand free, public Wi-Fi across Boulder so that individuals can access the Internet from a variety of devices without having to utilize data plans. Three popular public areas now offer this free service.
Construction of Fiber Optic Backbone
Broadband connectivity is a critical infrastructure service for quality of modern life, as is the case with roads, water, sewer and electricity. It is exciting to report that in 2019 the fiber optic backbone design was completed. Construction of 65 miles of fiber is expected to start early this year. This asset will be used for city and select community purposes, rather than provide public services in the short term. In the long term, this infrastructure could support gigabit speed internet services to homes and various city applications.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Go to your device's wireless configuration settings.
- Select the wireless network named "ConnectBoulder."
- Review the user agreement and click "Accept."
- Browse to your heart's content.
No. The city believes in the value of a free and open exchange of ideas, information and perspectives. You will, however, encounter a "splash screen" that includes information about responsible use, including a prohibition against accessing the network to conduct criminal activity.
The City of Boulder takes public health very seriously. Based on federal guidelines, however, we are confident that our efforts to increase the community's access to the Internet do not pose a substantial risk. The FCC has a certification process that ensures that devices like those used in this project do not exceed guidelines for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. The access points that are being deployed have a power output of close to 1 watt. This is far less power than what you might find at a typical radio broadcast site and is well within the acceptable range.
Usage information for ConnectBoulder is captured in two ways: through the city’s Internet Firewall and its Wi-Fi usage and reporting system.
The city’s Internet firewall will capture all Internet traffic from this public network as it enters or leaves the city’s network and is retained in the firewall logs for up to one hour. At its base level, the logs will show originating IP and MAC address, connection date and time. If the data transmission is encrypted (i.e. via HTTPS:, SFTP, etc.), the logs will show no further decipherable information. Conversely, if the traffic is unencrypted (i.e. clear text), then the logs will show more detail related to sites visited, etc. Again, this information is automatically purged after one hour. These logs are not retained or reviewed further unless the city’s intrusion detection system warns of a potential attack, at which time the city reserves the right to retain the logs through a manual process for further forensic analysis.
ConnectBoulder usage information is also captured through the city’s wireless usage and analytics reporting system. This system captures Wi-Fi usage statistics without any specific content.
This information is all summarized, and no further detailed usage information is retained that would show sites visited or other specific browsing information. The summaries are used to produce high-level, summarized statistical usage information for trending and future infrastructure expansion planning.
Additional legal information about the use of the city’s ConnectBoulder Wi-Fi system can be found in the network disclaimer that must be accepted by users of the system.
The city currently provides the free ConnectBoulder Wi-Fi service in approximately 70 buildings throughout the city. Expansion is now focused on outdoor public spaces. The Civic Area, Boulder Reservoir, and the Scott Carpenter Park/Pool are currently being served. In determining what locations to add to this growing network, the following considerations come into play:
- City financial resources and relative budget priorities.
- The availability of facilities and utilities to serve wireless access points in conformance with city codes.
- City department feedback on sites where Wi-Fi would provide the greatest public benefit.