Fiber optic cable build begins in Steamboat

Tom Ross

— The construction work taking place this week along the Oak Street alley in Old Town Steamboat Springs represents the initial phase of the long-awaited $2.22 million fiber optic network, which is being constructed to establish a main trunk line and lateral connections to critical community facilities such as Steamboat Springs School District and Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The long-term hope is that the project will serve as the backbone of a network with broader reach.

“The benefits of the fiber optic project will be ample, redundant, more affordable service to community anchor institutions, open access to private providers and a foundation to serve county-wide and regional broadband needs,” in the future, Deputy Routt County Manager Dan Weinheimer said in a news release.

A $748,195 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs is helping to fund the project, which is being spearheaded by Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Colorado Mountain College, the Steamboat Springs School District and YVMC. All the partner agencies are contributing funds toward the project.

The new fiber optic cable is being counted on to realize the potential of a carrier-neutral location, which was created in 2014 in downtown Steamboat in an effort to reduce the cost of broadband services here, among other things.

A carrier-neutral location is a space owned by a third party where broadband providers can install equipment to connect to one another. In the case of the new carrier-neutral location in the school district’s building, the space allowed Northwest Colorado Broadband to connect to a middle-mile broadband provider — Mammoth Networks.

The partners in the effort contracted with an Idaho-based fiber optic construction company, Circle H, to build the project, and they got a head start on the work in the autumn of 2016, Weinheimer said. By the end of June, Circle H is expected to have installed the cable west of downtown and up Routt County Road 129 to a point opposite Bob Adams Field where it will connect to YVEA.

At the other end of town, the cable will reach to the office building at the medical center, then stretch south on U.S. Highway 40 all the way to the building across the highway from the Holiday Inn where local offices for the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Widlife are headquartered.

In some places, the cable will be buried, and in other places, strung from YVEA power poles, Weinheimer said.

In the future, splice points designed into the new fiber optic cable could provide the adaptability to allow private providers to deliver competitive and redundant services to residential and business customers here.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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