New fiber optic ‘backbone’ links 5 Steamboat institutions
Construction of a new $2.22 million high-speed, open access fiber optic line, which spans the length of the city of Steamboat Springs from the airport on the west side to the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices on the south side of the city, is largely complete, according to the local governments and community institutions participating in the Northwest Colorado Broadband project.
The fiber optic link will act as a high-speed backbone within Steamboat that is planned to eventually realize the bigger goals of the Routt County Strategic Broadband Plan, which calls for building a high-speed network throughout Routt County.
“This project will provide enhanced internet speeds and reliability to Routt County residents and businesses and has the capability to eventually extend these services out of Steamboat Springs into the rest of the county,” County Manager Tom Sullivan said in a news release. “Our work is not done on connecting residents and businesses to high speed broadband, but this first step lays a foundation to extend from.”
Joining the county in building the new backbone were the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs School District, Yampa Valley Electric Association and Yampa Valley Medical Center. A grant of $748,195 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Energy’s Mineral Impact Assistance Fund made the $2.22 million project possible, with the partners matching the DOLA grant.
The fiber optic network will help expand the availability of ample, affordable and redundant broadband service to NCB partners.
The collaboration came together in 2012 to address increasing frustration with internet service outages and a lack of competition in the market that was driving service cost five to 10 times higher than bandwidth costs on the Front Range.
Downloading the future
However, it’s not clear just how the new fiber optic backbone will attract growth shoots that will reach into the hard-to-serve corners of the rural county, like Hahn’s Peak Village in North Routt where it takes 20 minutes to download a web page.
Jon Quinn, chief operating officer of Northwest Data Services, said while he gives the partnership “huge credit” for making broadband a high priority, he’s skeptical it will lead to improved service beyond the city limits.
“It was a worthwhile endeavor, no question, for the benefit of those entities, it will greatly reduce ongoing expenses for the city county, school district, YVEA and the hospital,” Quinn said. “But I find it less than forthright to say this is really the foundation on which future broadband growth is going to occur … It doesn’t make an ISP’s job any easier to get (broadband) to North Routt, just because fiber optic has been expanded to the airport.”
The partners on the new backbone are counting on splice points, designed into the new fiber optic cable, to provide the adaptability to allow private broadband providers to deliver competitive and redundant services to residential and business customers here.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There is a chill in the air, and snow covers the ground outside a farmhouse west of Hayden as Noah Price and Sydney Ellbogen talk about the operations of Mountain Bluebird Farm.