Broadband service infrastructure work continues west of Steamboat |

Broadband service infrastructure work continues west of Steamboat

Multiple crews are continuing infrastructure work for Luminate Broadband service that will be available in August to some neighborhoods west of Steamboat Springs, including here in Steamboat II. (Photo by Suzie Romig)

Infrastructure work in the Steamboat II, Silver Spur and Heritage Park neighborhoods west of Steamboat Springs continues as the next step toward installation of fiberoptic network lines for the Luminate Broadband service, slated to be available by August.

Luminate Vice President of Operations Chris MacIntyre said the broadband service, which kicked off in fall 2019 as a startup subsidiary of Yampa Valley Electric Association, so far has completed installation and activation for new customers in the areas of Craig, Hayden and Clark. The business has provided service to customers in Craig since December 2019, in Hayden since July 2020 and in Clark since October 2020.

The service offers up to a 1 gigabit internet connection at its highest tier of service as well as VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service for residential and commercial locations. The service is symmetrical, meaning uploads and downloads of data have the same speed.

MacIntyre said the Luminate customer base is about 80% residential and 20% commercial, with customer numbers “increasing at rates of about 40% growth month-over-month.”

The key market sector for Luminate is areas of the community that cannot currently receive reliable fast internet and phone service, including pockets of unserved or underserved areas in north Routt County, Hayden, Craig and near Stagecoach Reservoir, MacIntyre said.

“We are grateful and proud to have the ability to serve our most rural, unserved locations in our territory who have been in a broadband desert for many years,” said MacIntyre, who started in his position in May 2020.

Brandon LaChance, executive director of North Routt Community Charter School, said Luminate Broadband service at the rural school is a big positive. The school previously used combined services from Zirkel Wireless and Century Link but still needed to plan ahead to stagger video-based lessons, online testing and internet use. Luminate Broadband service is 10 times faster and half the cost of the previous combined services, LaChance said.

LaChance, a North Routt resident for nine years, said Luminate phone service is also a plus for the community that often experienced dropped cellphone calls during last summer’s busy tourist season. He noted residential service to his home in a subdivision south of Clark now allows his family to stream Netflix for the first time.

“Luminate Broadband use of the internet is one of the most transformational changes in our community for the better. It’s done a lot for our school and our community,” LaChance said.

The installation logistics in some areas include a long-distance connection of the fiberoptic line hung underneath the YVEA electric service lines until the line reaches a neighborhood; then the service conduit is run underground in existing utility easement areas. The majority of customers receive service through a fiber-optic line to a box on the outside wall of the location, and the line goes through the wall to a rented Luminate modem.

Luminate officials tout the service as faster and more reliable; however, the prices compared to other legacy technologies available to urban residences may be more expensive. The Luminate VoIP phone service has a base price of $33.95 per month, and the fiber-optic connection has four base price levels ranging from $54.95 to $99.95 per month, plus a $8.95 monthly modem rental, limited taxes and fees, required deposit and $50 one-time installation fee.

The tiers of connection speeds offered range from 100 megabits per second to 1,000 megabits per second, also known as 1 gigabit per second. Company marketing information said the highest level of speed would translate to multiple members of a household being able to watch 4K video or play multi-player online games at the same time.

MacIntyre said consumer demands for faster connection speeds continue to grow, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, for everything from online learning to Zoom meetings. He said the build-out plan for Luminate would make the broadband service available to all YVEA members within the next 10 years.

The long road toward the development of Luminate Broadband, which has offices in the YVEA buildings in both Steamboat and Craig, started seven years ago with YVEA supporting community partner efforts toward broadband in the area.

A key step to boost Luminate occurred in October 2020 through a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to a media release last fall, Luminate Fiber LLC received the grant to expand broadband service in northwest Colorado from the rural development USDA ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. The service improvements are intended to expand broadband to primarily unserved rural areas for assistance with everything from emergency services to health care.

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