Broadband initiatives across the Yampa Valley

Patrick Kelly
Blake Mobley, IT director for Rio Blanco County, discusses broadband service at Mountain Connect's Broadband Development Conference in June.
Audrey Danner/Courtesy

With modern internet service established as a cornerstone of economic development, Northwest Colorado communities are seeking to improve speeds, provide reliability and reduce costs.

Routt and Rio Blanco counties have projects in play to improve broadband infrastructure and the city of Craig entered the ring on Tuesday evening with the approval of a planning grant.

The common goal is to consolidate internet services for the benefit of the community.

“We have to continually build the infrastructure that our communities need to move forward,” said Audrey Danner, former Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership director.

Danner has been working on broadband planning in Moffat County for several years and relates it to running electricity out to rural Colorado.

“At one point, did we need electricity out to every farm in the country? Well, now we know they want that,” she said. “The same goes for any technology.”

In Routt County local organizations frustrated by internet outages took the situation into their own hands in 2012 to ensure stability in the broadband arena.

The city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Steamboat Springs School District, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Colorado Mountain College and later on Yampa Valley Electric Association linked up to bring a carrier neutral location to Steamboat.

“Those groups decided to aggregate their broadband demand and buy wholesale,” said Jane Blackstone, economic development coordinator for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The private endeavor did not require an override of Senate Bill 152, but, like Moffat County, Routt County voted to disregard the law that prevents public-private partnerships in the November 2015 election.

With the override, both communities have contracted NEO Connect from Glenwood Springs to evaluate and plan their broadband future.

In addition to the planning grants, Routt County also applied for a capital grant with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for an infrastructure development project.

As the improvement of broadband infrastructure takes flight, the community leaders behind the initiative relay the relevance of modern internet service to the success of local business.

“Every business has an opportunity to be more efficient with technology,” said Danner. “How companies are going to use that is up to them, but this is important. We are planning of our future and our future is here.”

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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